Sunday, April 18, 2021

Zuckerberg shows keen interest in Okla. dreamers


When Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, visited the Oklahoma University campus in Norman, he talked with a little more than a dozen college and high school students who were all Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, recipients.

Zuckerberg at Facebook’s F8 2017 Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif. (Maurizio Pesce/Flickr CC)

“We’re sitting with one of the richest people, one of the most successful people … not just in the nation, but in the world, and the conversation revolved around the experiences of Dreamers in Oklahoma,” OU Daily, the student newspaper, quoted Vanessa Meraz, one of the OU students who had the opportunity to meet Mr Zuckerberg, as saying.

Three high school students from Oklahoma also joined the meeting, news reports said, and the student newspaper at one of their high schools talked with a jubilant DACA recipient.

“At first, I felt nervous, but when [Mr Zuckerberg] came in and talked with all of us, it was like having a conversation with any other person,” student reporter Ariana Garcia at Santa Fe South High School in Oklahoma City quoted one of the three as saying. “What really caught my attention about Mr Zuckerberg was how optimistic he was and his strong accent, that I loved!”

The school was invited by the Facebook team to select one student who was a DACA program recipient and send that student to the meeting to represent the school and high school-age Dreamers, The Express student newspaper reported.

The visit was part of Mr Zuckerberg’s 2017 state-by-state tour of the US. His stop in Oklahoma also included a visit to a wind farm. After the trip, he went to Kansas to share his thoughts and lessons learned. He also shared a few key points to his Oklahoma visit in a Facebook post:

In Oklahoma I visited a wind farm outside Duncan. Oklahoma is oil country, and they’re still the third highest producer of natural gas of any state. But as technology improves and costs get lower, renewable energy is catching up. Oklahoma is on track to become the nation’s second biggest producer of wind energy behind Texas. One of the managers told me wind is now 17% of Oklahoma’s energy.

For the workers I met, they said working in wind energy is a more sustainable lifestyle than oil and gas. Oil prices are volatile, and any oil well eventually taps oil, so you have to move from place to place, often working shifts a few weeks away from home at a time. By contrast, wind is renewable and doesn’t run out, so the jobs are more consistent and sustainable.

For people in the community, they also said wind is more sustainable. In recent years, Oklahoma has started having earthquakes—which they believe are from fracking—when they never had earthquakes before.

I was also curious to understand the affect [sic] of technology on the work. A lot of people focus on whether technology creates or destroys jobs. I’ve seen both this year—improving tech has created more jobs in some industries and in others it has eliminated jobs. But perhaps the more common dynamic I’ve seen is that the number of jobs stays about the same, but in order to operate the increasingly advanced technology, people need more training and therefore get more pay.

That seemed to be the case here. More efficient wind turbines means we need fewer turbines to produce the energy we need. But the turbines are more advanced and more complex to operate, so almost everyone I met had gone to special training programs to get these higher paying jobs.

It’s clear that wind and renewables are the future—both economically and environmentally. That’s why we power every new data center we’ve built at Facebook with 100% renewable energy, with a lot coming from wind. Places like Oklahoma are showing that what’s good for the environment can also be good for the economy.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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