Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Apr 22, 2022 in Stuff You Should Know

Winds of Change

Depending on where you live or travel in the United States, you’ve probably seen tall, windmill-like structures dotting the horizon. These wind turbines use the wind’s renewable energy to generate electricity. But how much energy do they actually produce? In general, natural gas is still the number-one source of electricity generation in the U.S., followed by coal and nuclear. But every so often, wind turbines are able to produce as much electricity as these non-renewable forms. On March 29, 2022, for the first time ever, wind turbines produced more energy than any of these other forms. This made wind the second-largest source of daily electricity in the U.S. on that day. And then the same thing happened again just two weeks later, on April 12, 2022. 

Why now? According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in the spring and fall, nuclear and coal generators tend to reduce their output because demand decreases in milder temperatures. At the same time, wind gusts tend to be strongest in spring. These combined factors may have been why wind was able to best nuclear and coal on the same day. This was an unusual event, which the EIA says will likely not happen again in 2022 or 2023. Still, wind and solar output have nearly doubled since March 2019. The U.S. also installed a record number of wind turbines in 2020. That means we may see many more days like this in the future. 

Dig Deeper There are more than 57,000 wind turbines in the United States. Visit this Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy website to find out how your state ranks. How many wind turbines does your state currently have?

Protests in Sri Lanka

The flag of Sri Lanka--a gold background. The left third contains two vertical stripes of color. The right two thirds shows a lion-like creature holding a sword on a green background.
Sri Lanka’s flag

In Sri Lanka, April 14 is the first day of the new year and is usually a time of great celebration for the native Sinhalese and Tamil people. But this year, celebrations were put on hold as protestors continue to rally outside the president’s office. These protestors are calling for his resignation because Sri Lanka is on the brink of economic collapse. The country owes $51 billion in foreign debt, $25 billion of which is due to be paid back over the next five years. The government is working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to restructure the loan. But this process may take months to complete. In the meantime, the people are facing critical shortages as imports of food, medicine, and fuel from other nations have stalled. This has led to soaring prices and power cuts. Food prices have risen thirty percent in the past year alone. 

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa refuses to step down, despite widespread accusations of corruption and of mishandling the economic crisis. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Parliament is deeply divided and at a stalemate. Many ministers have resigned. The Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has offered to meet with the protestors.  

How did Sri Lanka’s financial situation get so bad? Experts say that governmental mismanagement of finances plays a role. Also, the government instituted widespread tax cuts just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The pandemic was especially hard for Sri Lanka, whose economy depends largely on tourism. And the tax cuts meant that the government had less money to buy the things it needed from other countries.  

Dig Deeper To gain a deeper understanding of the current situation in Sri Lanka, visit this website to learn more about the island nation. Make a list of at least five new facts you’ve learned about Sri Lanka from the article. Then pair up with a classmate to compare lists.

Women Break Baseball Barriers

Earlier this month, btw brought you the story of the NFL making changes to its organization by hiring more women and minority coaches. On April 12, 2022, Major League Baseball (MLB) followed suit when the first woman in history coached on the field during a regular season game. Alyssa Nakken of the San Francisco Giants coached first base in a game against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park in San Francisco. She took over when regular first base coach Antoan Richardson was ejected from the game. The Giants won, 13-2. 

Nakken once played first base for Sacramento State University’s softball team. She started her career with the Giants in the team’s front office. In 2020, she was promoted to assistant coach, making her MLB’s first full-time female coach. That same year, she helped coach an exhibition game for the Giants. But last Tuesday was the first time she (or any other woman) had ever coached on the field during a regular season game. 

Like the NFL, the MLB has been trying in recent years to diversify its organization. The MLB Diversity Pipeline is a program that seeks to grow the pool of female and minority applicants for both on-field and operations positions. At the same time, the Diversity Fellowship Program works to recruit young, diverse applicants at the start of their careers to front office positions. It seems to be working. Just three months ago, the New York Yankees hired the minor leagues’ first female manager, Rachel Balkovec.  

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to learn more about another groundbreaking female in the MLB, such as Bianca Smith or Kim Ng. Then write a paragraph describing that woman’s accomplishments.