Tag Archives: sustainability

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

boy who harnessed the windThe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (William Morrow, September 29, 2009), 288 pages

William Kamkwamba, growing up in Malawi, tells us his story. He tells us about his family, his friends. A brief history of Malawi. When a severe drought (followed by famine) hits, this country of largely subsistence corn growers is starving. William can’t go to secondary school, although his parents try everything, because all the money that would have covered the fees were spent keeping them alive. Instead, William goes to the new library at the local primary school. He’s surprised by the wide selection of books and is drawn to the science texts, particularly physics.

Taken in rural central Nebraska. Windmills are common sites on Midwestern farmland.

Taken in rural central Nebraska. Windmills are common sites on Midwestern farmland.


He decides to build a windmill, to give his family electricity and later a water pump so they can irrigate crops. He doesn’t have any money, though, so finding the parts he needs is challenging. He heads to the scrapyard and little by little collects all the pieces he needs.

I’m not generally a lover of nonfiction, and certainly not nonfiction about scientific achievements. But this book is amazing.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is inspiring, hopeful, authentic. While I’ve never visited Malawi, some of the aspects of how it’s depicted reminded me strongly of my time in Cameroon. The writing is lovely. I was transported.

A great story, a great book. Besides that, it’s a quick read. I wish everyone would read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (and this is something I say only very rarely).

Kamkwamba gave a brief TED talk earlier this year:

Kamkwamba’s blog and Mealer’s website.

Other reviews:
Bibliophile by the Sea
Bookworm’s Dinner
Starting Fresh
Ramya’s Bookshelf
Sophisticated Dorkiness
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

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Corporate identity crisis

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Bass Pro Shops’ Outdoor World in Omaha, Nebraska

What do you expect of a place that calls itself Outdoor World? Does the name carry with it any inherent expectations of the company that uses it? It does for me. I feel assaulted by that huge ocean of parking lot in front of a mammoth building bearing the name Outdoor World.

It’s one thing for Wal-Mart or some other corporate retail giant to have a massive parking lot and a gargantuan building; for a place labeling itself as one who cares about the outdoors, though, it’s unpalatable. Hunters and fishermen are often cheerleaders of environmental protection — they use the outdoors a bunch, so they have a vested interest in seeing that it’s maintained and improved and not destroyed. Ducks Unlimited, anyone?

Want to hazard a guess on the carbon footprint of just one of Bass Pro Shops’ 45 buildings? (Another 19 or 20 are planned to open soon, according to the company’s map.

I found a tiny link on the bottom of the webpage, to Our Commitment, but it goes nowhere. A phrase appears briefly when I click the link, telling me to click here if the page doesn’t appear, but that only took me to customer service. Nah. I do wish I could read about the company’s commitment, though. The site does have a page of links to conservation organizations.

It would behoove Bass Pro Shops to play up its conservation/offset measures, if it has any. Otherwise, this identity crisis is a real turnoff.