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Power On: Electric Waste & Human Potential This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

When I was in 8th grade Algebra, I was in the back of the classroom. There were no windows and the walls were a pasty brown. At the top of wall fit a rectangular poster strip numbering 52 digits of pi. The teacher’s desk harbored an enormous computer. Every morning when he booted it up, the monitor roared like an airplane. Tiny blue and white lights blinked madly out of the prism of machinery. One day, the start-up took longer than usual. In this particular class, I didn’t have many friends, so when this occurred, I memorized the 52 digits of pi on the wall or doodled with pencils until the ruckus ceased. However, today I watched my teacher. It was quite a hefty computer with hundreds of tangled cords. The monitor wheezed so sickeningly that I cringed, inhaling the stench of heated computer plastic. Until then, I never really thought about electricity.

An average sized computer uses around 200 plus watts of energy in about an hour. If you used your computer 2 hours a day continuously for a year, it would use 145,600 watts of electricity, need almost 120 kilograms of coal, and release 291 pounds of carbon dioxide. My school is the middle of an urban, industrialized, highly populated neighborhood. Not to mention, near a delivery truck outpost and a metropolitan train station.

Every time I went back to class and listened to that monitor choke, I watched coal from a far away factory, clingy as pencil dust, exhaling opaque clouds of pure grit. It was like watching a robust white cloud, in the perfect shape of a divine animal, helplessly dissipating. The damage appeared right before our own eyes, yet no one was doing anything. Why were we so weak? All 30 of us, packed in this hideous room with no windows and blazing overhead lights.

Out of boredom one morning during the usual wait, I drew again. I wasn’t really in the mood for my usual penciled peripherals and mood-depicting hands. Tracing the outlines of the graph paper, I formed with a perfect rectangle. Somehow it reminded me of a car, so I rounded the edges. I resulted with a blimp sort of thing.

I ended up imagining a recycled steel flying machine, powered with methane natural gas. Soaring above polluted metropolitan cities, filtration compartments suck in mass amounts of smoky carbon dioxide.

After all gas completely compacted with air pressure, the machine returns to an enormous terrarium of the most efficient oxygen-producing vegetation. Gas chambers flow directly to a glass terrarium.

In the terrarium, photosynthesis occurs at an accelerated rate and produces oxygen. This newly created oxygen is released back into the atmosphere by way of the blimp. The burning of methane gas also releases water, contributing to the rain cycle by promoting a clearer atmosphere.

“Guys, GUYS,” my teacher yelled, done with the monitor now. Slowly, the rowdy class quieted down. I twirled my pencil a half rotation. “Take out the stamp sheet and your completed chapter 9.5 packets …”

Sitting in the back, I was last to be stamped. While I waited, I thought what I’d sketched.

Life doesn’t go on forever, you know. We can technically pollute the Earth forever; there are no obstacles in the face of destructive technology. But sooner or later, it will be realistically impossible to continue living in such a filthy ecosystem. We have to do something quick, because the world doesn’t get redeemed opportunities. I saw a kid in the corner of the room whining to our teacher. “But I worked so hard! I left it at home! I know exactly where it is.” The teacher shook his head and said “Sorry but you’ll lose your 10 points.”

I kept working on the sketch, waiting for the teacher to come around to me. Face it. As people together we’ve undeniably made some horrible and irreversible mistakes towards our planet. However if we can’t remove the problem entirely, we can certainly try to mend the damage. Even the most insignificant things can be something helpful. Thus, I stared down at my tiny drawing. Should I say, I stared at the potential in my tiny drawing.

Completely erasing worldwide atmospheric pollution is slightly impossible. But we have the capability within ourselves to achieve a cleaner environment, just one idea at the time. We must be optimistic, yet realistic. It’s like the 52 digits of pi on the wall; it’s still a large amount to memorize, and besides, the other infinity digits couldn’t fit.



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