Eco Austria

Although clouds and rain cover the blue Austrian sky for almost six months out of the year, the people in this Alpine republic have gone green long before the idea of harvesting our solar system’s most powerful energy dawned on American shores. With most of her fifty states baking in the sun day after day, one would expect to see glass solar panels gleaming on roofs of homes, apartment and office buildings. What a great way to save on utility bills and use nature’s resources to help curb pollution and regenerate Mother Earth’s health one would think. But unfortunately, such is not the case in the many sun drenched states of the New World on the other side of the Atlantic. Although solar companies have sprouted (not exactly like mushrooms), and although plentiful, greedy developers have simply turned a blind eye, ignoring the existence of such innovations, continuing incorporating energy guzzling systems into their projects.
How refreshing it is to learn that Austrian developers and engineers have been implementing green technology for decades now with Germany holding the current lead in solar production with its latest innovation, photovoltaic cells. That’s why the Germans, bold visionaries and innovators driven with long term goals, have probably decided to do away with nuclear power. For sure they see the writing on the wall and have awakened to the multiple dangers that lurk behind the thousands of massive nuclear reactors threatening our most valuable resources. Japan’s Fukushima plant disaster in the wake of the March earthquake tsunami should have been a wake up call for all of us.
Not knowing what exactly photovoltaic stands for, I surfed the internet and learned among other things that it was observed as early as the 19th century that the presence of sunlight is capable of generating usable electrical energy. From then on solar cells began to be used, notably in the 1950’s in satellites with Vanguard 1 being the first solar panel outfitted satellite to be launched into orbit in 1958. After that the growing demand in space exploration furthered significant improvements culminating in the development of photovoltaic cells.
As I walked around Gallneukirchen the other day, I delighted in the sight of red tiled roofs covered with solar cells. And despite the lack of perpetual sunshine, many Austrians do what they can to harvest the little there is knowing they contribute their share in preserving nature for generations to come. I am not so sure if that is the case in my adopted country. Whereas Americans tend to consume everything there is under the sun, (except the energy of the sun), and toss it when it is no longer useful, Austrians on the other hand, appreciate, preserve and respect nature and try to do everything they can to live in harmony with it. They even go to the extent of separating their everyday trash in glass, plastic, paper, biological waste, and general waste, which is all that does not fit in the previous categories. Can you imagine what chore it is to make sure you toss the right thing in the appropriate waste baskets cluttering the kitchen floor? But once you have accomplished that task, it’s a piece of cake just dumping the content of the various buckets into the marked containers lined up on the sidewalk.
Everybody I know around here is separating their waste. It is almost mandatory and people can get fined if they are caught dumping the wrong thing in a container that is meant for something else. I guess we in America could learn a thing or two from this meticulous practice. There is quite a bit of recycling going on in California where I live but in many parts of the nation people are still tossing plastic, paper and all into the garbage. No wonder the trash mountain keeps growing and digging deeper landfills doesn’t solve the problem either. Much to the contrary, it pollutes the ground and with it our precious drinking water. That’s a subject for another day.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Gail Mathews says:

    Mmmmm very interesting and enlightening….

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