On A Ride to Redemption.


Last summer, July 12, 2012, a story went on-line unnoticed about an interesting initiative currently under way in Brazilian prisons.

A programme put in place to inspire convicted criminals to give back to society in a meaningful way.

Courtesy of U.S.News ‘Stationary bikes get Brazilian Prisoners closer to Freedom’.

Climate change confronts the world with a set of challenges and is a very real and dangerous reality with worsening ecological effects. But rest assured there are men and women all over the world working very hard to make a difference and mitigate its effect. However we all have an ethical responsibility to contribute to solving the climate change problem.

Brazil has gone a step further Through an innovative and eco-friendly program, prisoners can cut down their sentences by putting in some time on stationary bikes hooked up to car batteries. As the inmates pedal, the car batteries are charged.

The charged-up batteries are then used to illuminate 10 street lamps in the nearby town of Santa Rita do Sapucai. The town’s mayor came up with the idea after learning about gyms in the United States that use electricity generated by exercise bikes.

Brazil is a trailblazing example of an economy on the rise; it has the land mass, work force and ambition to become an economic powerhouse. However with this drive comes the inevitable increase in emissions. The majority of Brazil’s emissions do not come from fossil fuels. In fact, according to the Ministry of Mines and Energy, in 2005 the national electricity matrix was composed of 84% hydroelectricity, 4% biomass energy, 4% natural gas, 4% diesel and fuel oil, 1% coal and 3% nuclear energy (Greenpeace, 2008).

ImageNow for pop culture devotees, the image of a person cycling on the spot to generate energy conjures a dystopian image of humans on hamster wheels akin to the ‘15 Million Merits’ episode of the last year’s series “Black Mirror”

In contrast however, Brazil’s approach to energy generation through means of pedalling takes on a much less sinister and dystopian manner. But instead have found a way to directly make a positive difference.

The benefits of this programme are 3 fold.

  1. The incarcerated individuals get their sentences reduced through expenditure of their kinetic on the stationary bikes. They do it to reduce their sentences with a by-product being a public good. Furthermore this helps the prisoners to stay fit and healthy and is vital contributors to their local communities in a truly profound sense. Though they may have been declared too dark of heart for their communities, now they help to illuminate it.
  2. This act of redemption not only provides light for the people of Santa Rita do Sapucai, it provides safety. By helping to light up the streets, the prisoners help to increase a sense of security among everyday citizens.
  3. An environmental benefit to limit the use of Greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels for energy.

This initiative proposes a promising union of Environment, Economy and Social unity which leaves opportunity for various institutions to approach climate change. As it currently stands More than 10.1 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners or as sentenced prisoners.  According to International Centre for Prison Studies, almost half of these are in the United States (2.29m), Russia (0.81m) or China (1.65m sentenced prisoners). This is particularly pertinent as China, the U.S and Russia are the world’s largest emitters and have the capacity to truly take advantage of Brazil’s example in a holistic way.Image


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