The Bike! A Reflection on Last Week + Some Additional Maundering

It fell to me this week to be a manager of the Energy Challenge’s Energy Bike. The Bike was donated by a science teacher, and when pedaled enough, it produces enough power to light up four CFL bulbs. While I wouldn’t say the bike is the easiest prop the Challenge uses, the effort is all is worth it when people’s faces light up (see what I did there? Puns, friends) when they realize that their energies were translated into electricity, just by pedaling a bike.  Some common questions I received this weekend were whether we were selling it, could it be hooked up to a TV or video games, and other suggestions along this line. Although the power generated by the bike is honestly quite menial, the idea brings solutions in an age where people (myself included) struggle to get exercise and use tons of electricity.

Let me pan out. In the age of convenience, I think it is rare for people to actually consider what energy is used to create their electricity, and where it’s from. Is it an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico? Is it a product of mountaintop removal in Appalachia?  Maybe it’s a solar farm based on the top of a closed landfill. I often think of this mindset when contemplating the Not In My Backyard attitude. NIMBites (or NIMBans) are generally against wind farms because, stereotypically, they do not like the way a surfeit of wind turbines look on their horizon, or otherwise scenic views. In response to this, I would comment on two sentiments.

The first: I believe that money should not be able to buy the privilege of not caring about where energy comes from, because energy is something that everyone on the planet needs and uses. One shouldn’t be able to purchase a view that everyone shares, an unpopular sentiment in my coastal town. The beach is fantastic, and I love appreciating the raw beauty of nature, but until technology is developed that allows the same amount of clean energy output, everyone must pitch in, rich or poor, whether your house borders a landfill or Nantucket Sound. The second point expands on the previous thought. My step-father says that he feels more American when he passes the wind turbines that power my town’s wastewater treatment plant and dump. At first, I thought this comment was ridiculous. Similarly to my friends, I’m not crazy about uber-patriotism. Quite honestly, I feel awkward sometimes about facing the flag and putting my hand on my heart during the National Anthem, and I find Stephen Colbert’s nationalism-on-steroids attitude hilarious. However, I thought about what my stepfather said, and it is really more, dare I say it, profound, than upon first hearing.  I’m thinking he feels American because wind turbines, and by extension renewable energy, is the way of the future. The wind turbine is an example of innovation: a technique that’s been in use for ages (remember Don Quixote?) with a twist of modernity.  What I think the United States is all about, and what makes this country truly great, is the ability of the people within it to come together for the common good. Our democracy may be dysfunctional, but I trust it. As a result of this tradition of collaboration and connection, it’s American to all do our part in the battle against climate change, a dependance on foreign energy sources, and our instinctive nature to desire “more”.

A TV show I’ve been watching posits that America is no longer the greatest country in the world, and I believe that’s true. However, I do know that we have the potential to be. I want to be part of the change. I would love to hear your thoughts about what I’ve written about this week.

Until next week!

Gabi

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