By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association
We spent a few days in Madison, Wis., for medical care on the way to the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Custer, Wis.
Our hotel was across the street from the capitol and the Walkerville encampment. Many of its supporters were there, so we spent some time listening to speakers and discussing concerns with the protesters.
Protesters characterized Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) as using the state’s budget woes to destroy the role unions play in countering the political power of corporations and the wealthy, cutting support for education, medicine, elderly and the poor, and privatizing government services. They fear privatization emphasizes profits for shareholders over using taxpayer money to provide essential public services.
Some elements of the conflict were evident at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair as concerns were expressed about the $20 million cut of the state’s Focus on Energy program, which reduced its budget to less than $100 million and eliminates the anticipated budget of $256 million by 2014. The program helps fund energy initatives, including efficiency, solar power installations and lighting upgrades. The funds come from a 1.2 percent tax on utilities, and each dollar invested through Focus on Energy saved consumers at least $2.50 while providing thousands of jobs and cutting fossil fuel consumption.
The program has been privatized, and it will now be reviewed by the legislature rather than the Public Service Commission.
The fair itself was well designed and well worth attending. Given the weak economy, there seemed to be increased interest in workshops, technologies and tools supporting self-sufficient living. A presentation about living off the grid by Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) Board member Aur Beck drew a large crowd that overflowed the large tent set up for it.
The theme of the Aug. 13-14 IREA fair, Green Journeys, is intended to direct attention toward changes individuals are making in their lives to adjust their lifestyles to the economic, energy and environmental challenges we are facing.
For those who intend to get off the grid, as Aur Beck suggests, Jeff Green’s presentation about batteries should prove helpful since battery storage will be needed. Brian Green’s session about electrical safety is important whether on or off grid.
Gardening and food preservation are of growing interest to many who seek independent, sustainable lives. Caron Wenzel will demonstrate seed saving, helpful to growers of heritage plants, and using plants for dyes. Tim Lewis of the Wild Ones will explain using native plants for landscaping and rain gardens, helpful in flood prevention.
Sherry Piros and Lin Vogl will return with new material to enhance their popular food preservation workshop. They will demonstrate simple methods of food preservation and share the bounty they have including fruit leathers and veggie chips.
Lin Vogl will also discuss the joy of raising chickens and share helpful hints to chicken farmers who want to be small scale.
Jeff Ludwig will present a look at honey bees, their life cycles and commercial hives that beekeepers use for those interested in beekeeping. Based on the concern about the decrease in honey bee hives, Christine Wagener will present some of the research that may answer questions about what is happening to them.
Linda Conroy will help visitors learn to choose herbal remedies close to home that enhance sustainability of the environment and human health.
The 10th Anniversary Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair will be helpful to those who hope to attain sustainable lives.
Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the June 29-July 5, 2011 issue