In 1979, after hearing Dr. Jack Geiger speak on the medical response to nuclear war, Joel Shapiro joined PSR. He was a student of family medicine and pediatrics at Tufts University in Boston at the time and was deeply inspired by Geiger’s talk. Soon he was studying the same presentation and delivering it to high school students and church groups. The experience left an impression on his audiences and on the young doctor, who has dedicated his life to healing individuals and the environment.
In addition to his life in medicine, Dr. Shapiro is a performer and actor with over fourteen years of stage experience. He weaves together his passions for healing, artistic expression and environmental sustainability by attending to patients at Malibu Urgent Care and as well as to the needs of artists and audiences at the Electric Lodge. This vibrant performance and art space in the heart of Venice has the added distinction of being the only solar powered theatre in California, and Dr. Shapiro made it happen.
After acquiring the building, he renovated the old Masonic Lodge on Electric Avenue with an eye toward sustainability. He purchased the photovoltaic system when recent changes in state law allowed for the splitting of the cost of the solar panels between Dr. Shapiro and the City of Los Angeles. (All other costs were paid by Dr. Shapiro.) “We produce 50% more energy than is necessary for staging four shows per week, fifty-two weeks a year,” he says. Excess energy flows back to the City of Los Angeles power grid, for which the city pays the Lodge per watt for the energy generated. With a limited calendar of shows, at present, this translates to a substantial amount of energy flowing to the grid, making the Electric Lodge a bona fide generating station.
Dr. Shapiro encourages PSR and other environmental activists to take advantage of the Lodge’s capacity, including an industrial kitchen, dance studio, theatre, lobby and on-site parking.
In 2002, twenty-two years after his first experience with PSR, Dr. Shapiro is once again reading up on materials developed by PSR-LA about the medical response to nuclear terrorism. His interest was rekindled by attending Dr. Helen Caldicott’s rousing speech in January. He says of PSR, “We should be out front on nuclear issues. This is huge. And [the work] is not done.”