Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Water, Wind, and tomato sauce

Sacha Yaku, the organization my mom and I founded to support the community water system in Ecuador, has been invited to speak at the Boston opening of the film "Flow." As a bit of reciprocity for them helping us get the word out, I figured I would post a link to the film's trailer on youtube. While the film is overstated in saying that the world is "running out of clean water," it is definitely true that access to clean water is a huge problem in the world, and one that is predicted to increase with climate change. And, as always, it is the people with least access to money and resources who are, and will be, hit hardest. The fear of corporate control of water may also be a bit extreme, but it is based on hard examples, such as this one: CocaCola pumping so much water for their Coke manufacturing plants in India that nearby village wells dry up. That fear is an unfortunate reality for many communities.

And back here on Pine Reservation, at Oglala Lakota College (see sign above), today was another good example of how often our role as "fellows" in underserved communities often consists more of putting pre-existing pieces together than in creating new ones. The other students that I am working with have been focusing on developing the wind resources on Pine Ridge Reservation. They had been asked to look into ways to get 50 meter meteorological towers (met tower) set up on the reservation with anemometers (instruments that measure wind speed) to investigate the wind resource at several locations predicted to be "hot spots" based on regional models. Today, during Al's tour of Oglala Lakota College, we got to get up close to this met tower, which was installed by OLC in 2004.

From a distance we all thought the tower was one of the short ones -- only 20 or 30 meters tall. That would be useful, but not nearly so useful as a 50 meter tower. The wind always gets stronger the higher up you go, so you can extrapolate from a 20 meter tower but it is much much better to get real data from up there. When we got to the base, we discovered a sign explaining that there were anemometers at 10 meters, 30 meters, and 50 meters on the tower!

[Photo: Allison, Al, and Stephan at the base of the tower]. Unfortunately the professor who initiated the project has since left OLC and Al doesn't think anyone else has taken up the mantle. Stephan suggests we look into whether it would be possible to move the tower to another site--now that they have a few years of data here there is not much point in keeping it in the same place. And boy do they have data: an average wind speed of 7 m/s = 16 mph makes it a class 4 wind site.

This is the view of Oglala Lakota College from the base of the tower. It is actually a really neat place -- today we saw the TV production department, the library, the war memorial, and the historical center, which was amazing.

And to close, some fun pictures...

In our inventory of lab equipment, we ran across some amusing items. My favorite were the "CapSeal Bullet Ferrules" -- apparently they are used to seal off capillary tubes or some such thing.

Here is Allison attempting to come up with a good name for the glassware she has unearthed -- it looks more like a cow udder than anything else.

And, to keep this blog a bit more well rounded, I figured I would include an embarrassing Kendra-moment shot as well -- the time I opened a can of tomato sauce and flung half of it onto my MIT shirt. That poor shirt has been through a lot in Ecuador, but this might top all of that mud and rain. Still, the chili I was concocting turned out rather tasty so I figure it was worthwhile in the end.

No comments: