4A - Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
4A - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
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Ann Arbor, MI 48109
E-MAIL SIMON AT SIMKAL@UMICH.EDU
EDITOR IN CHIEF
and EMILY ORLEY
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS
Make TED ideas a reality
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
FROM THE DAIY
Drive technology forward
Toyota's success shows need for green innovation
With global climate change arguments still raging in poli-
tics and the general public, environmentalism in the
United States is in many ways far behind other nations.
In the U.S., the question continues to be "does global climate change
exist?" instead of "how can the process be slowed or undone?" Our
nation lags behind progressive European countries, which have been
placing strict energy mandates and lofty, impressive future goals.
One fact that liberals and conservatives agree upon, primarily from a
financial perspective, is that petroleum is not a viable energy source
for the future. It's a limited natural resource that cannot forever fuel
the nation's industrial, transportation and personal energy needs.
T here are moments that
remind me I want to pursue
my own crazyideas, my own
the voices inside
my head that
It becomes clear
tant and what
actions aren't. It
ment I value and
American and foreign automakers have
begun to embrace alternative energy sources.
Hybrid and electric vehicles continue to take
larger market shares, threatening to eventu-
ally overtake their conventional gas-powered
counterparts. According to a company press
release, Toyota sold its one-millionth Prius
hybrid in the U.S. on April 5. Prius vehicles
have accounted for almost 60 percent of pas-
senger hybrid sales. This sales benchmark
clearly demonstrates that hybrid cars and
other alternatively powered vehicles have an
established market in the U.S. The public's
demand for hybrid vehicles like the Prius and
its forthcoming variants is an indicator that
environmental consciousness is catching on -
or people are anxious about the rising cost of
gasoline and looking for an alternative. As con-
sumers continue to support the hybrid market,
automakers can invest more in the research
and development of more efficient, next-gener-
Several times a year, automakers show off
their latest designs and technologies in the
form of concept cars at auto shows, including
the successful North American International
Auto Show in Detroit. Concept cars are gener-
ally not intended for production - they draw
publicity for a company. In recent years, it has
become fashionable for automakers to out-
fit concept cars with the latest - and usually
unrealistic - hybrid, electric or fuel cell under-
pinnings. These innovative technologies rarely
become production vehicles. Automakers need
to go beyond paying lip service to alternatively
powered vehicles. They need to work on get-
ting inexpensive and more readily available
technologies on the road, and invest profits in
research and development, instead of spend-
ing money on concepts that are unrealistic to
implement. As several failed projects demon-
strate, this progressive attitude is risky. Auto-
makers, however, must take this risk in order
to stay on the path toward a sustainable future.
The European Union is moving to ban gas-
oline-powered vehicles by 2050. While the
political climate in America may not be con-
ducive to a similar policy, consumer demand
can put automakers on that path. As Prius and
other fuel-efficient vehicle sales demonstrate,
a growing demographic of the population is
ready to embrace environmentally friendly
technology. Hybrid and electric cars, such as
the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, cannot
remain as mere novelties. The public must fully
embrace more efficient transportation options.
Consumer habits will reward companies that
are environmentally conscious and produce
innovative, green products that are affordable
for the average American family.
whose judgment I don't. I can sepa-
rate what I really want from what
others want for me or what I think
others expect from me. Whether I
act on this clarity depends on how
frequent these moments occur and
how strongly I hold on to them.
Human rights lawyer Jared Ger-
sner reminded me what real cour-
age is. So did blogger Donia Jarrar.
Author Chis van Allsberg reminded
me that I want to create something.
So did the three students who wrote
a musical. TEDx was a whole day
dedicated to these precious, elusive
For those who don't know, TEDx-
UofM inspired more than 1,700
people on Friday. I spent more than
12 hours listening and talking to
incredibly impressive individuals, all
of whom encouraged audience mem-
bers to pursue our own projects. I
brought my notebook and furiously
scribbled ideas down. Reading lists
were written. Dreams were etched.
What was so great about TEDx
was that it reminded me to stand
out when other influences pressure
me to fit in. There's a precedent for
advocating against the herd men-
tality. Philosopher John Stuart Mill
encouraged society to value eccen-
tricity because he believed there isn't
only one truth. There are multiple
truths, and the more we experiment
in lifestyle, the more we can learn
from each other. TEDx reminded
us - through examples of success -
that we, too, can and should pursue
our crazy ideas, even if the only ben-
efit, as van Allsberg said in his talk,
is to say that we did.
A completely student run event is
a crazy idea. Their phenomenal per-
formances show what can happen
when you put talented students from
diverse backgrounds together for a
common goal. There are more peo-
ple who would like to make amaz-
ing things happen. Some were in the
audience, some weren't.
At the reception following the
lectures, I realized I wasn't the only
one who was inspired. Some friends
and I talked about exciting things
we could do within our organiza-
tions and on our own. We kept build-
ing off each other's ideas, offering
enthusiastic support and feedback.
The energy was palpable.
But what will happen next week
when exams and papers consume
our minds? What will happen when
people tell us to be practical, and
playit safe? Will this rekindledbelief
in our abilities to make something
great happen fade?
My friends and I spoke about
this with some of the speakers and
organizers of the event for more
than an hour. How can we maintain
this community of students, profes-
sors and alumni who want to make
a big difference? Should it be orga-
nized formallyor should it continue
organically? How will we look back
at TEDx in a few months? Will we
see it as a genuine, perhaps revolu-
tionary, call to action? Or merely a
TED is an institution that brought
all these people together so organic
thinking and innovation can be
illuminated. It didn't force creativ-
ity; it incentivized it. In his call to
action, Thomas Zurbuchen, noticed
the power of incentives. He asked,
"What idea will you pursue, right
now, that will lead you to speak at
next year's conference?"
to take action.
other nudges can help. TEDx
acknowledged this by forcing appli-
cants to write down their crazy
ideas. This allowed them to select
the type of people they wanted and
encouraged students to have at least
one ambitious project in their head.
My friends and I spoke to the head
of TEDx San Diego who told us that
the audience organized follow-up
meetings so people could present
the projects they started after the
conference. People may be more
motivated to pursue something
when they know they will present
it to their peers, or they know other
people will work on something too.
These opportunities can, but don't
have to be, organized through the
TED name. other organizations can
also create spaces that offer these
moments and incentives.
The TEDxUofM team set up
nothing short of a spectacular show.
It gave us the moments. It's now our
turn totake advantage of them.
-Erik Torenberg can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali Will Butler, Ellie Chessen, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer, Melanie Kruvelis,
Patrick Maillet, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga,
Teddy Papes, Timothy Rabb, Asa Smith, Seth Soderborg, Andrew Weiner
ASHLEY GRIESSHAMMER I
Use your summer wisely -
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
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ANDREW WEINER |
Shaping our automotive future
Every summer, students at universities
across the nation search for the perfect sum-
mer internship. They use it as a way to break
into their desired industry and gain career
experience. A summer internship can add a
lot of value to a student's resume, which helps
when applying for jobs their senior year. But
many students aren't lucky enough to snag
an internship in Chicago or New York, and
they're left wondering what to do with their
summer. So, how important is an internship?
The point of an internship is to gain expe-
rience in your desired field of work, but there
are other ways to do that aside from a summer
internship. There are many community ser-
vice jobs or programs held during the sum-
mer that can add value to your resume. When
employers look at a resume, they want to see
that a potential employee used their downtime
in the summer in an effective manner. Wheth-
er that includes a summer internship, a mis-
sion trip or another creative way to improve
your skills, that's what employers are looking
for. If you can talk about it in an interview and
make yourself stand out from the rest of the
crowd, then you've spent your time wisely.
But ifyour heart is set on interning at the top
fashion magazine or the biggest investment
bank on Wall Street, that's a very real possibil-
ity. There are a lucky few every year who land
paid internships at these companies and are
able to turn them into full-time job offers. But
these companies are increasingly using stu-
dents' desire to work for them as a way to gain
free labor. Many more internships are becom-
ing unpaid, yet students are still willing to take
them, even if it means going into debt to pay
for housing and food while interning.
Is this fair to the students who just want to
better themselves and learn more? Not neces-
sarily. We have a minimum wage in this coun-
try for a reason, but large corporations have
found a way around that. College interns are
being used as free labor. An April 2 article in
The New York Times states that 75 percent of
students enrolled in four-year colleges or uni-
versities in the U.S. willwork as interns at least
once before graduating. And of that 75 percent,
between 33 and 50 percent will go unpaid.
It's clear that many students are willing to
work for free, but this also means they lose
some governmental protection from laws
that prohibit racial discrimination and sexual
So, are unpaid internships worth it? Many
students don't even have the option to work
in an internship for free. They wouldn't be
able to afford the expenses they would incur
over the summer. But many others can afford
to freely spend money while gaining valuable
work experience. These students are lucky.
They have the flexibility to take an unpaid job
and not worry about their personal finances.
But not everyone is in that situation.
It's unrealistic for me to ask every corpo-
ration to change its unpaid internships to
paid positions. However, companies need to
realize the work students are doing is valu-
able, and they're doing it in an effort to better
To students, it's always valuable to gain
real-world experience, but it shouldn't be at
the price of putting yourself in debt. Students
should look at their own situation to decide
if they can take on an unpaid internship. But
they should also realize there are other expe-
riences out there that are just as valuable on
a resume, and they should explore alternative
Ashley Griesshammer is a
senior editorial page editor.
Several weeks ago, my jaw dropped. It wasn't because
University President Mary Sue Coleman finally returned
my calls - she still hasn't. It wasn't because I walked
into my dorm room to find its dankness hadsubsided - it
still smells like sweat, feet and sweaty feet (girls are into
that, right?). And it wasn't because I inexplicably lost
control of my jaw muscles - that was yesterday.
No, it was because of a post on an automotive blog.
Mid-March, Autoblog posted pictures of a BMW M3
pickup lapping the Ntrburgring, the infamous German
track. For auto industry junkies, this was nothing less
than epic. It's not every day that you see a 414-horsepow-
er mini-pickup. General Motors nearly got there with
the Pontiac G8 ST and an inevitable high-powered GXP
variant. Unfortunately for the six Americans who would
have purchased such an awesome - and awesomely
pointless - toy, Pontiac couldn't make the case for the
niche model in the face of bankruptcy and restructuring.
In my nerdy excited state, I didn't see the M3 pickup
for what it was: a weirdly early and expensive April Fools
prank pulled by the apparently jolly Bavarians at BMW.
At first I was embarrassed I fell for it, but then I ratio-
nalized my gullibility and decided to write a viewpoint
The automotive landscape is changing, even apart
from alternative power sources and fuels. Automakers
are increasingly taking design risks and exploring new
shapes that defy categorization. So even though it dif-
fered greatly from anything BMW has produced, an M3
pickup - or any new model for that matter - isn't off
the table, just like Ross and Rachel hooking up in that
one episode in which they realize it's never off the table.
BMW and Audi, especially, have had a recent pen-
chant for filling every niche possible, so much so that
they're running out of nomenclature. Along with sedans
and crossovers in every market segment, BMW attempt-
ed to create a new segment with the 5 Series Gran Tur-
ismo, an innovative sedan/crossover hybrid. Though it's
uglier, more expensive and less spacious than a 5 Series
station wagon, it demonstrates BMW's awareness that
consumers have diverse needs and aren't tied to stan-
dards. It appears to be working. While BMW works on
smaller variations of the Gran Turismo, other German
automakers are readying their rivals.
BMW also recently announced a new environmental-
ly friendly sub-brand, i. The company is already receiv-
ing criticism for it's decidedly "un-BMW" designs. A
break from the norm, however, is exactly what BMW
needs to adapt to an increasingly changing consumer
base. It's exploring, and even if it fails, isn't an effort to
innovate better than standingstill?
A surprising leader in the unconventional auto trend
is Nissan, which appears to be taking cues from Renault,
its radical French partner. This is most apparent in the
Murano CrossCabriolet, which recently went on sale.
Nissan took its Murano CUV, got rid of two doors and
chopped off the roof. The result: the first-ever produc-
tion convertible crossover. The CrossCabriolet is too
heavy, underpowered and expensive and certainly can't
be described as beautiful - but it's nonetheless awesome.
These Nissans and BMWs are not models that are
intended to fly out of dealerships at record pace. They
are successful attempts to humanize automakers. They
demonstrate that there is still a sense of whim in the auto
industry - after all, cars are supposed to be fun. BMW
made the M3 pickup to prove it had a sense of humor.
In the 80s and 90s, automotive designs became boring.
With new machinery to produce and revenue to invest,
automakers are starting to manufacture cars that excite
people and change their perception of what a car is. So
far, it's mostly foreign automakers challenging conven-
tions - Honda, Kia and even Ferrari come to mind. The
Big Three, especially Chrysler, must begin to take more
Most importantly, this newfound exploratory attitude
is a signthat automakers aren't settling to build machines
that take us from point A to point B. They are reasserting
that cars are sculptures that we live our lives in, and art
is never finished. They're keeping me glued to my com-
puter, anxiously watching to see what's coming next.
Andrew Weiner is an assistant editorial page editor.