Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 7: Salt, Geography, History — and Our Conclusion

After seven days, our Green Bike Tour has taken us around half of Slovenia, from Nova Gorica on the west at the Italian border, through the capital city of Ljubljana, to Lake Bled in the north near Austria, and to Piran near the Croatian border.

We have seen how Slovenians use solar power in many ways — with modern examples such as solar panels arrayed on a hydroelectric plant — and at Piran, we saw how solar power has helped the local economy for centuries. (Photos at right and below)

At Piran, this happens in salt-making. For centuries, local people have channeled sea water onto the flats, dammed them off, and let the sun evaporate the salt. They raked the salt into piles and sold it around the world.

On our Friday ride, our final day on the Tour, we passed mountains that were the scene of one of the great engagements of World War I as the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies fought over two years to a draw, before the Germans entered and drove the Italians back to just north of Venice. This is where Ernest Hemingway drove an ambulance for the Italians and wrote A Farewell to Arms. The museum in Kobarid has three pages from Hemingway’s draft of the book. On the wall were the first page, the last and another, which mentions Kobarid.

The 2010 Green Bike Tour accomplished what we set out to do each time we ride: to link policy makers, educators, students, environmentalists and renewable energy strategists and pioneers. We are bringing home examples of how Europe is replacing fossil fuels with more sustainable options — and this time we can share examples from home as well. Unlike our trip to Northern Europe in 2002, where we learned about what was happening in hopes we could spark interest in Iowa, this time we could share the advances being made in Iowa, where we produce 20 percent of our electricity from wind power. Our performance in Iowa puts us on par with the leading European country, Denmark. But we know we need to do more.

It is undeniable that humans are causing the Earth's climate to change. We must replace dirty, polluting fossil fuels with clean energy. This trip shows it not only is possible, but it can help our economy. It's a mistake to focus on short-term costs of change without recognizing the benefits for both the short and long term. Renewable energy sources like wind, solar and small hydroelectric dams bring an economic boost to a local area. Clean sources of energy can fuel more than our homes and industries. They can fuel our economy.

(Posted by David Osterberg)

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The Green Bike Tour is sponsored by The University of Iowa's Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, The Iowa Policy Project, and The Fred & Charlotte Hubbell Foundation, and Kelly Webworks.