Harnessing the Big House’s energy
Several Saturdays ago, a friend and I were cheering on the Michigan Wolverines in the Big House when an idea occurred to us. Cognizant of the shift toward all things “green” and sustainable, my friend and I wondered how the energy of 107,501 roaring fans could be harnessed. We tried to figure out a way for the University to pioneer a sustainable stadium, but couldn’t come up with a viable strategy at the time.
Just a few weeks later, The New York Times published an interesting article about a Dutch nightclub that installed a revolutionary dance floor that uses the power of piezoelectricity to harness the movement energy and power the lights in the club. Piezoelectricity is defined as the ability of some materials to generate an electric potential in response to applied mechanical stress.
Though this is a relatively new technology, it is based upon an old concept known by many, Newton’s Third Law of Motion that stated, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Every movement by people exerts energy. That energy isn’t lost, but rather is transferred elsewhere. Piezoelectricity is a means of harnessing that transfer of energy, which is both abundant and renewable.
The piezoelectric Dutch dance floor cost the club owner $257,000, money the owner projects won’t be recouped by energy savings due to inefficiency of the new technology. However, as is the case with most technological process, piezoelectric capacities will most likely progress at an exponential rate described by Moore’s Law.
So let us think back to our own Big House. According to the University’s website devoted to the Michigan Stadium renovation, the expected cost of renovation is $226 million, funded primarily through private donations and the Athletic Department. It is all well and good to have the largest and loudest stadium in the whole country, but if it isn’t sustainable or “green,” then has there really been any improvement? We ought to take the steps necessary to harness both the energy and investment of our fans to create the world’s first ever self-sustaining stadium.
Just because Darfur is complex doesn’t mean we should ignore it
I want to comment on Ibrahim Kakwan’s column yesterday criticizing activism related to Darfur (Saving Darfur? , 11/13/2008). As an activist, it’s frustrating to read articles that basically tell people it’s not worth it to fight for the rights of people all over the world. Though it is true that the conflict in Darfur is more complicated than it seems on the surface, that doesn’t change the fact that a specific group of people is being targeted for harm based on characteristics out of its control — that’s genocide. That also does not change the fact that the Sudanese government backs the Janjaweed militias, who are responsible for killing more than 400,000 people and displacing more than 2 million.
Yes, the conflict in Darfur is incredibly complicated. But how can you tell students here not to act just because it’s too complicated or because it’s difficult? If you need an example of success look at the divestment movement against apartheid in South Africa, which Desmond Tutu commended in his speech at Hill Auditorium last month.
Please don’t let the fact that situations are difficult stop you from being a voice for innocent people in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other places where atrocities like this are occurring.
The unseen victim of our financial crisis: microfinance institutions
We are now undergoing the one of the worst financial crises in history, causing both the public and private sectors to shrink and significantly cut their expenditures. Though many people may not be aware of it, another victim in the current financial calamity is the microfinance institutions that empower millions of people who are living under the so-called “poverty line” around the world to start businesses and lift themselves out of poverty. The lack of liquidity in global financial markets has caused many formal banks to decrease the availability of capital for MFIs. This change has forced a lot of MFIs around the world to scale back loans to their poor clients. Many MFIs are now curtailing their outreach to the poorest areas and even considering raising interest rates.
“Main Street” in many South African countries is an unpaved, unmarked trail through small villages and slums. Those living or “Main Street” are suffering even more from their lack of financial support, which further prevents them from providing their families with the basic necessities of life.
We should help them and empower them to sustain their lives by helping microfinance institutions. Please write or call your local legislators and ask them not to give up on funding microcredit loans that go directly to the poor. During financial crises like this, the poor suffer the most. We must not make us forget even in these tough times that there are people who are dying because they don’t have enough money to buy food.