Reflections on the 2005 Energy Fair

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-112490458130073.jpg’, ‘Photo by Becca Pierson’, ‘Jim Phelps, co-owner of Phoenix Traders, mans his booth at the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair on Saturday, Aug. 13. Located at 215 7th St. in downtown Rockford, Phoenix Traders specializes in the importing and exporting of handcrafts and artifacts from planet earth and sells a variety of incense, sweatshop free fashions, natural health and beauty items and much more.’);

From what we observed, the Fourth Annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair was a huge success. Attendance was up; participants were impressed by the caliber of the speakers; speakers were impressed by the caliber of the participants. It enlightened citizens and provided knowledgeable vendors and presenters a chance to interact with interested participants. Once again we are grateful for the wonderful efforts provided by our volunteers.

The event shone a spark of sunlight into the dark clouds of uncertain energy supplies and prices. While high energy prices are draining family budgets, they also serve to stimulate interest in efficiency and renewable energy. If prices stay high, energy innovations will flow into the marketplace making more sustainable energy practices a part of our culture.

As successful as the event appeared, the environmental, energy and health challenges facing us are immense. While Governor Blagojevich’s sustainable energy plan is a significant step in the right direction, the reality of energy practices in this country is devastating. We consume 25 percent of the world’s energy supplies and release 25 percent of its greenhouse gases. Our national leaders continue to declare their willingness to have us bear any costs to defend the American lifestyle.

It is a lifestyle based on ever burgeoning urban sprawl consuming more farmland every year, featuring homes of increasing size and amenities and necessitating ever longer commutes in less fuel efficient vehicles. The sheer number and diversity of fuel efficient cars and alternatively fueled vehicles at the Fair provided visitors a glimpse of the possibilities of cleaner, more efficient transportation systems. Presentations on community energy plans provided a vision of how revitalizing our cities would reduce energy and land consumption.

The majority of speakers acknowledged the seriousness of the energy and environmental situation we have created for ourselves. They offered a ray of hope and optimism about the technological and social changes occurring in various parts of the world, our country and Illinois. While it is difficult to predict how many people will actually implement solar, wind, geothermal and energy efficient practices some individuals did purchase solar panels to use at home. Attendance at solar hot water workshops was especially high leaving two vendors extremely pleased.

While technological changes are essential to achieve a more sustainable society, we also need fundamental changes in our outlook and attitudes toward nature and our personal consumption. The newest and most exciting technologies tend to draw our interest. The more mundane practices such as buying less, driving less, planting a garden and recycling more tend to be overlooked. Pressing global social justice issues receive little attention.

A spiritual dimension was added by Ralph Bronner who told the story of his soul which moved many people close to tears. While a few were uncomfortable with his message, he spoke of experiencing the joy of giving and practiced it by giving soap samples and an occasional $50 bill to startled fair goers. He encouraged participants to make donations of time and money to local organizations to experience the joy of giving and help efforts thrive.

Jan Woodhouse, a new IREA (Illinois Renewable Energy Association) board member, commented that Lovins, Hopkins, and Pasqualetti painted an exciting picture of numerous diverse global actions implementing sustainable energy practices. She likened our plight on earth to that of a person on horseback who chooses to continue riding the sustainable energy path toward the horizon with the hope of arriving at the destination before the sun sets and we are enveloped by darkness.

Ideally our Energy Fair has inspired many attendees to mount the horse of renewable energy and efficiency and enter the race of avoiding the darkness of despair or resignation.

The Fair was sponsored by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the Illinois Department of commerce and economic Opportunity and Commonwealth Edison.

From the Aug. 24-30, 2005, issue

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