Friday, June 28, 2013
Wow. It’s all I’ve been able to think the whole time I’ve been here. Riva, what an incredible place with so much history and culture that one’s jaw is perpetually dropped in amazement at the thought that such a place could actually exist. As I look around a place that is marching into a future of new and highly innovative technology, I am pleased to see that the heritage and past of the people that inhabit this area is being carefully preserved. Riva has already inspired me to want to take more action in seeing that my own heritage is protected in my hometown so that future generations may enjoy it the way the locals here enjoy their own. I feel that the Sustainable Europe class will help me to accomplish this goal.
Today in class we talked about some of the social issues that are preventing sustainable energy practices from taking a larger effect in America. I’ve witnessed a strong opposition to sustainable energy in my hometown of Grundy, Virginia, located in one of the largest coal producing areas of the state. I am still in favor of coal production, but only because I know that if the coal industry were to cease, the people I love and care for the most in this world would be forced to either move to find work or be left in a severe state of poverty. An idea came to me in class today, though. If renewable energy sources such as windmills and solar PV panels were to be placed on old strip mine sites, the residents of my home could be employed producing sustainable energy for years to come. We would still be ‘keeping America’s lights on’, but in a more sustainable and, I would argue, amiable way. No more massive layoffs due to the ups and downs of the coal industry, people would be employed in steady jobs in an area that could become even more of an ecological paradise.
I’m excited now because I see the potential opportunities that are available to my area. Before I left home, people’s conversations often floated to the disheartening topic of coal decline and company layoffs. Now I feel as if I have something beautiful to share with my friends and family. Maybe now it’s only hopeful thinking, but I feel that with action, Grundy’s economy could potentially boom to the level it experienced during the coal boom of the 1950s. The warehouse structures for production of wind turbines and solar PV panels are already there. The workforce is hungry for more jobs. Previously strip-mined mountains are filled with potential for wind farms and agricultural farms. I learned today that an industrial scale windmill requires about 50 acres of space per megawatt of capacity, but only occupies about 1% of this land. The remaining land on these old strip mine sites could be used for agricultural purposes, thus adding another industry to the area.
Excitement fills my mind as I lay down to go to sleep tonight. As I stare out my window, I see beautiful works of architecture that are hundreds of years old. I see mountains that have been preserved by the people who inhabit their valleys. I believe that my home is just as beautiful, with just as incredible a culture, and now I have the tools at my disposal to help preserve it. From one hillbilly to a nation of others, thank you Switzerland.
Guest contributor: Asher McGlothlin