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The Green Life: WATCH: Stoveman's Uplifting Video to End Open-Fire Cooking

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June 28, 2011

WATCH: Stoveman's Uplifting Video to End Open-Fire Cooking


What’s a woodwalk? It’s the first step to making a meal in Kenya, which involves cooking over open fire. It’s also the title of the first episode, launched today, of the Paradigm Project’s web miniseries, Stove Man. The four-week long installments of short, energetic videos capture the experiences of Americans Greg Spencer and Austin Mann as they toil alongside people who live without stoves, including the Gabbra women of the Kenyan desert.

Lower respiratory infections, often caused by exposure to open-fire cooking, account for 6% of world deaths, and are the most common single cause of death in low-income countries. The Paradigm Project hopes to give 5 million families $40 stoves, the idea being to save people, trees, and money.

But this webisode isn’t about disease or technology — it just wants to share a few hours of these women’s lives with an audience. "Stove Man" Greg Spencer, spiffy in wayfarers and a plaid, collared shirt, plays his softness against their strength; the women chop, gather, and bear wood with efficiency, and in the case of the Spencer’s friend Gumato, joy. They have to work for five hours to get two days’ worth of fuel. Spencer’s enthusiasm and hubris keep the seven-minute clip funny and moving, though its skilled editing doesn’t hurt. He admits his inability to keep up with the Gabbras and bear the wood: “The best way I can describe it is having someone stand on your back with butter knives on their feet,” he says.

But it’s the stark grace of the Kenyan desert that makes this video worth your coffee break. The dun earth, the trees' sharp silhouettes against a clear sky, and the women's saturated skin and clothes make for a visual feast — no fire required.

--Juliana Hanle


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