Cultural Analysis

Cover Letter

My cultural analysis is, in general, about renewable energy but more specifically how prominent it already is and its availability on a household level. I can see this being posted on an online source (like an environmental blog) for people to just check out and see what other people think about the topic. Readers of this piece could range from very well informed to not informed very well at all, so I tried to make this suitable for readers less educated on the topic. Readers who are really into renewable energy would still hopefully be able to relate though and see that people like me support the idea. It was a challenge to find articles that talked specifically about renewable energy on a home level, so I found for a couple articles that I had to use other articles just supporting renewable energy and relate them to my topic. A potential weakness of this piece could be generalizations I make or my case might seem to just support alternative energy on a general level. I believe a strength of my paper would be some points that I was able to get from articles that did provide examples of household renewable energy. Another part that I would like to call a strength is the experience that I have observing and talking to my dad about renewable energy.  It is part of what he does and how he tried to build our house, and I find renewable energy to be pretty interesting because of him.

Sources:

Brown, Lester K. “Exciting News About RENEWABLE ENERGY.” Mother Earth News 254 (Oct/Nov 2012): 44-48,51.

Gulland, John; Milne, Wendy “CHOOSING RENEWABLE ENERGY.” Mother Earth News 227 (Apr/May 2008): 89,91,93,95-96,98,100,102.

Gulland, John. “Clean, Renewable, Efficient WHEN TO CHOOSE WOOD HEAT.” Mother Earth News 256 (Feb/Mar 2013): 57-61.

“MICHIGAN ALTERNATIVE AND RENEWABLE ENERGY CENTER PROJECT TO REVOLUTIONIZE WIND POWER.” US Fed News Service, Including US State News [Washington, D.C] 19 June 2008.

Perry, Hugh. “Building or Buying Your Sustainable Home” Natural Life (May/Jun 2009): 14-15.

Possibilities and Payoffs of Renewable Energy

As most people know, much of the energy we use today is being depleted rapidly. We may not see a global energy crisis in our lifetime, but a generation many years down the road from now undoubtedly will at some point. With most houses and cars using all types of gas, it is necessary to figure out ways of using different forms of alternative, renewable energy before a crisis level is reached. Two of the main forms of alternate energy that could be used to power homes are solar and wind energy. These two are the most commonly used and the best known. Solar panels and wind generators can be seen all across the United States, but are people really ready to invest in the task of switching to new alternative energy sources?

There is already much investment in large-scale action taken to start the sustainable energy revolution. Solar energy farms can be found in the desert areas of the Southwest such as northern New Mexico. Wind turbines that easily number in the thousands can be found in Midwest regions such as North or South Dakota and Iowa, but I have also seen them in California and even in Michigan where I live. Large scale, plant-like operations such as these have the potential to power hundreds of thousands of homes nation wide. Efforts are being made to link places like these to households, but it is quite a task to get power produced in New Mexico to a state such as Montana that is many states away. As effective as places like these are in statewide or proximal situations, we need to examine the possibilities of producing alternative, renewable energy on a local or household level for people who are unable to get the benefits of large operations.

One option is to harness wind energy on a smaller scale than the massive wind turbines that many people think of when talking about wind energy. Many schools and institutions have looked into ways to use wind energy on a local level. Grand Valley State University provides us with a good example. A student created a small wind turbine- approximately 36 inches in diameter-which was intended for use in a small household setting. This is a relatively affordable piece of technology, only costing about $2,000 retail, which is definitely affordable to most middle to upper class families. This little wind turbine alone will produce around twenty percent of a home’s electricity. This larger model is supposed to target residential and commercial markets, and a smaller, more affordable version coming out soon is supposed to support third world markets (cite source).

The use of solar power as alternative energy is exploding. Solar power actually began with small household panels and then grew into larger solar panel farm projects. With household solar panels now, it is actually cheaper to power your home with individual solar panels opposed to building a central power plant and a grid. With facts like this out there, it is a wonder why solar energy isn’t even more prevalent than it already is. I have seen solar energy also be used for other small tasks such as powering any kind of outdoor light or streetlight or parking meter. If people had more knowledge of how doable it is to power their houses with solar energy, it could become a national phenomenon.

My dad is really into energy efficiency and environmental problems. I have talked with him before about the possibility of getting solar panels or a wind turbine for our home. He said that he has actually considered the possibility of getting solar panels. I believe that he actually would have acted on that thought had he known that it was a very realistic possibility. People know that the resources we are using for power now are being depleted. Therefore, I believe that if people are presented with affordable options to install solar power to their homes they would.

Heat is one of the biggest things in a household that energy is used on. An effective way of heating a house in a winter is using wood energy. That’s right, good old wood fires, not the gas fires in many modern houses. Using wood energy clearly needs a fireplace and a system that gets the warm air circulating throughout the house. I have a fireplace like this in my house, and I can attest to its effectiveness. Some houses clearly do not have a fireplace. They could, however, invest in a wood-burning stove, but this could be expensive and require a chimney installation, which many people would not want to do. Houses that do have them though should be encouraged to utilize them. Despite the hardships of drying, stacking, and hauling wood, the use of wood as an alternate form of energy can be very effective. Plus a certain amount of ambiance comes with burning a nice wood fire behind the glass doors of a fireplace in a family room.

The decision to adopt alternate forms of energy to a home is a bold one. Small changes may be very doable, but adopting a whole lifestyle of using renewable energy comes with some trials and tribulations. Users of renewable energy need to be conscious of energy use. Adding renewable energy can mean changing old habits, which is not often easy. Another factor to consider when thinking about installing renewable energy sources is the natural area. Is the state or region the house is located in going to be able to attract enough sunlight or wind power to run whole house or at least most of it? If the answer to these questions is no, then one should reconsider these two forms of alternate energy and maybe try to find some other source of power that would be more effective.

My house to is an excellent example of energy efficiency and some renewable energy sources. As I said, we considered the possibility of wind or solar power in our home, but even without those right now, we have a large fireplace that is capable of heating most of our house. Yes, hauling all the wood and stacking it is a hassle, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Many times, we will not even have to turn our heat on because we have a fire going, but on occasion, when we do have to turn the heat on, it’s very easy because we’re on a grid for all of our other power. Little things like using a fire for heat (in certain areas) and watching your energy uses are an effective way to fight the energy crisis, but switching nation-wide to some forms of alternate energy would be ideal for the future of our planet.

People are ready to make the switch to alternative energy. Through my research I have concluded that there is significant interest and people just need a big push to start the renewable energy revolution. As people build new houses and remodel old ones, they need to consider the idea of using renewable, alternative energy sources because they are definitely available. Although it make take some, time, effort, and searching for what the best option is, there is definitely a payoff both economically and consciously for using alternative energy. Homes are already doing it and need to lead the charge into the future by doing what they can to influence others to use renewable energy also.

Jake Presto

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Assignment 1- The Letter

Letter of Complaint

To: Rob Jackson, Head of Michigan Housing FIXIT,

 My name is Jake Presto, and I am a freshman living in 5428 Mary Markley Hall. The purpose of this letter is to address issues with the hand dryer, showers, and stalls in the bathroom on the fifth floor of the Van Tyne house. It is my hope that your department will recognize these issues and act on them as soon as possible as many of the students on our floor are highly irritated.

First I would like to call your attention that the hand dryer is not working at all. Every student that has used our bathroom can attest to the inconvenience of having a hand dryer that consistently does not fulfill its purpose. There are already no paper towels because Michigan is a school that respects the environment and goes green whenever possible. With this being the case though, the alternative for paper towel, which in our case is the hand dryer, should be functioning to encourage students to support green notions and remain content.

Another point I would like to call to your attention is that many of the shower heads do not work, making them unusable and causing backups at times when multiple students want to take showers. This time is often before morning classes and can mean that students could possibly be late for class or stress about getting to a certain place on time. Lack of shower space could also potentially drive some students to not want to shower in the essence of time. Showering can impact peoples moods and behaviors, and we want to make sure at Michigan we have a happy student body.

Lastly, I would like to call attention toilet area of the restroom. Janitorial service is excellent and makes sure bathrooms are clean and up kept; however, the locks on many of the bathroom doors are faulty. This is a small detail that can be fixed with ease yet would make the overall quality of the restroom area better.

These little details build off each other, and students in our hall have talked and sought to take action. I can see how minuscule details such as the ones I have stated would be blown off with such a large student body, but isn’t addressing residential maintenance issues the premise of FIXIT?

I would like to thank you for reading this. I would hope that this letter serves as appropriate reasoning for you to come out and make a few small fixes. Little things can go a long way, and I know that I, as well as all of fifth Van Tyne in Mary Markley, appreciate your service.

Sincerely,

Jake Presto

Great Talk

Since we’re on the topic of talks with the TED talks this week, I thought I would post this speech. I had to memorize part of it in high school, and it is one of my favorites. It’s Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005. Jobs’ is great at telling this story, and he makes some cool points. It’s like 15 minutes, but some of my favorite parts are in the third story he tells. I hope you guys like it.