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May 09, 2011 - Image 5

Resource type:
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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-05-09

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Monday, May 9, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

5

BRIDGET HENLEY I
Off the grid
Throughout my education and ships, wine bottles have become an
life outside of college, I've realized integral part of the beauty. These
how overwhelming environmental homes feature Reynolds' signature
issues are. People don't even know domed rooms lined with concen-
where to begin: from protesting tric circles of wine bottles built
plastic water bottles, to driving into the walls that span from floor
hybrid vehicles or even trying to to ceiling, resembling a stained
live without producing any waste glass cave - now that's recycling.
- the possibilities for involvement In 2007, "The Garbage War-
seem endless. Yet many people rior" was released, a documentary
allow themselves to believe they following the building projects
are doing their part just by putting and struggles that Reynolds has
their recycling on the curbside faced. The steadfast opposition
every week for pickup. that Reynolds received from the
Have you ever heard of Michael state of New Mexico for his build-
Reynolds? No, probably not. Well, ing practices is embarrassing to
he is making a difference, or at the state's legislative system. The
least trying to. Using materials most appalling was the revoking
that would otherwise be headed to of his architecture license in 1990,
a landfill, Reynolds builds archi- for not meeting standard build-
tecturally brilliant homes that are ing regulations (which he did not
spacious and aesthetic while being regain until 2007). The sustain-
completely off the grid - meaning able homes that he created did not
the homes are not connected to fit standard building regulations.
any electricity or water services, But that is exactly what he was
nor do they need sewage lines to challenging with his sustainable
dispose of their waste. homes. How can we make prog-
Earthships, as Reynolds calls his ress if experimentation is pun-
projects, are uniquely designed to ished and we constrain ourselves
function without a heating system. to age-old methods?
Using sunlight and angled win- Rigid laws created decades ago
dows, the houses can maintain a should not continue to regulate
year-round temperature of approx- how we build our homes today.
imately 70 degrees. The homes We have far greater knowledge of
consist of walls built with cans environmental implications, and
cemented together on top of a foun- with our ever improving technol-
dation of tires pounded full of dirt, ogy, we are fully capable of doing
providing necessary insulation. something. If one man has been
Comfortable temperatures are able to make such great strides in
maintained even in the wide- the right direction, shouldn't we
ranging climate of New Mexico, all feel a little inspired to practice
the location of the majority of more sustainable lifestyles?
Earthships, where summer days Reynolds took his passion for
can exceed 100 degrees and frigid architecture and applied it to his
winters can dip below freezing and concern for the environment. He
even drop to subzero temperatures. demonstrates that whether or
This sounds like a place where you not you have directly studied the
would want a reliable heating and environment, you can incorporate
cooling system and that is just other interests and hobbies into
what Earthships offer - for free. contributing to the health of our
Reynolds demonstrates that planet. Don't be content with sim-
garbage doesn't have to be ugly. In ply taking small actions - there is
many areas, wine bottles cannot always more that can be done.
be recycled because they are made
of colored glass. But for Earth- Bridget Henley is a
University alum.
- the Andrew's News: Andrew Weiner has
some words of wisdom on the recent
death of Osama bin Laden. Go to
pod U ~1 michigandaily.com/blogs/The Podium.

DOUG GALANTE

E -MAIL DoUG AT IDGAI.ANTE@UMICII.EDU

5,fi,,

Beth inking activism

When I walk under the West
Hall corridor, jostled by people
on either side, endangered by
weaving bik-_
ers, 5 know
what's to
come ina few
more steps.
The Diag
guarantees
a barrage of -
flyers, post- BLAKE
ers, causes OBI
and fundrais-_
ers. Everyone
is trying to sell you something,
cure cancer or save Darfur. They
want your change, your time and
your conviction.
The idea behind it all is valid
and the participants' hearts are
probably in the right places - but
at some point we all need to step
back and ask, what is all of this
really doing? How is a flyer going
to benefit anything when there is
a good chance it will end up in the
garbage two feet away? It's wast-
ed paper and a wasted attempt to
solicit compassion. Don't get me
wrong, my heart hurts for Darfur
too, but I'm not going to waste a
bunch of trees to inform educat-
ed, liberal college students about
shit they already know. Convinc-
ing a student at the University of
Michigan that horrible things are
happening in Northern Africa
and Tibet and Darfur is like going
down to the Westboro Baptist
Church and persuading the con-
gregation that being gay is a sin.
You're not going to be breaking
any new ground.
Day upon day, flyers are shoved
in my face - "Please come to our
show"; "Animal cruelty is com-
promising ethical values"; "Give
to the Japan relief fund." I don't

mean to pick on people trying to
make a difference, but don't call
yourself an activist for sitting at a
booth in the lobby of Angell Hall
raising pennies for countries that
need more than pocket change.
We live in a world of information
technology which is following
an exponential growth curve -
enlightening an educated portion
of the public of the tragedies and
travesties of mankind isn't goingto
do anything or offer anythingnew.
These menial efforts are hurting
and belittling the causes they are
trying to support. The market of
humanitarianism is so over-sat-
urated; a cause that actually has
merit is diminished to "just anoth-
er." This is the tragedy of incessant
"flyering" and the spawn for my
criticism. I do care aboutorganiza-
tions that are making a difference,
we just need to assess our involve-
ment and its impact.
We need to start being kinder
to the people around us. If we
can't build a community and sup-
port our neighbors in need, how
are we going to unite the world?
Activism starts small and gets
big. If you want to go to Japan
and volunteer in the earthquake
relief forces, my hat is off to you
because that's making a differ-
ence. But if that's not on your
agenda at the moment, quit try-
ing to raise degrading pennies
for people suffering and dying
from nuclear radiation. A mother
of one of the Japanese workers
in charge of removing radiation
from citizens spoke about her son
on a Fox News interview, saying,
"He told me (the workers) have
accepted that they will all prob-
ably die from radiation sickness
in the short term or cancer in the
longterm." These people are will-

ing to die in order to carry their
neighbors in times of crisis. Japan
is a stable nation that's more than
capable, both physically and fis-
cally, to conduct a proper rehabil-
itation from this disaster. Natural
disasters of this scale are hor-
rific and it tears at our hearts and
emotions - but quick emotional
responses and knee-jerk reac-
tions to donate a few dollars are
not going to help Japan.
Those in need
need more than
pocket change.
I am no authority on humani-
tarianism and activism, and I don't
have a solution or a "better way"
for you to get involved, but I feel
that our focus could be used more
effectively. Maybe start by reduc-
ingyour personal carbonfootprint,
picking up trash outside or feeding
someone who is hungry. These are
direct actions that give results and
make an impact. How much ener-
gy is wasted printing those flyers
and posters that are so liberally
distributed to the masses? How
much paper is consumed? It seems
a little backwards to me - we want
to help people in need, but in doing
so we consume epic amounts of
resources and leave those in need
only superficially aided. So next
time someone shoves a flyer in
your face on the Diag - just keep
walking.
Blake Obi can be reached
at blakeobi(aumich.edu.

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