Alli’s Media Analysis: Haiti Going Green?

by Alli Jarvinen

In light of Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, I chose to seek out blogs and articles that discuss environmental sustainability. I was impressed by the New York Times Green blog. The blog, while naming itself “a blog about energy and the environment,” recognizes the wide reach of green stories.

The “green” beat easily ties into many other beats including politics, science, business, technology, health, environment, food, etc. Each article on the first page of NYT Green blog is marked with an icon showing what other area of interest it most overlaps.  I find myself drawn to complex, overlapping beats.  The term “going green” while overused, particularly interests me in the area overlapping individual lives and DIY sustainable living.

An April 9th post drew my attention with its headline: Solar-Powered Products in Haiti. “Haiti,” a recent disaster area and hot reporting topic, was the key word. The lede furthered my interest, letting me know that this story would somehow be uplifting.

“Although poverty in Haiti has been amplified by the recent earthquake, the country still has plenty of one thing, and it’s free: sunshine. In this, solar companies have seen both a chance to show goodwill and an opportunity to give their businesses a boost.”

Having read so many headlines about Haiti that make me cringe, this beginning practically promised me that that I could finish without feeling entirely hopeless about the world.

The article, while albeit short, was well planned. It gave me the information I wanted effectively, answering who, what, where, why, and certainly how (not one of our beloved five w’s). The “how” question, while implied in some stories, was the question I most wanted answered and the one I think it best answered. “How is solar power making its way onto the devastated island?” I asked myself.   My most important question was answered more as I read.

Sun ovens, solar-powered streetlights and flashlights have been donated to aid in earthquake relief efforts.

The only question left unanswered was exactly when, or how quickly, solar-power companies offered assistance to Haiti after the earthquake. This, in my opinion, was okay to leave out because the other questions were answered. Only now, reflecting on the article, do I wonder about “when” question.

The last paragraph framed the story as more substantial than just feel-good publicity for the companies mentioned. (Although I find it hard not too feel good about a company that has donated 100 solar-powered streetlights that retail at $2,000 a piece to a hurting, impoverished country.)

“The United States recently pledged $1.15 billion to rebuild Haiti, with a special focus on infrastructure development through clean-energy sources.”

This ending left me curious and wanting to hear more good news, but feeling momentarily satisfied with an uncharacteristic dose of hope from Haiti.  Although considered a business or international environmental beat story, the efforts being made can be brought back and applied to individual green living projects.  Perhaps solar-power projects would not be the best bet for rainy Eugene, but there is enough solar energy in other communities to put solar-power on the map in a major way.

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