Reflecting on the fair

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

It was a small but enthusiastic group of participants at this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. Saturday’s (Aug. 23) keynote speaker, Bob Dixson, mayor of Greensburg, Kansas, came a day early and provided the Oregon, Illinois, business community with a well-received presentation about how his community responded to the devastation following the near-complete destruction of their town.

Some people gave up and moved to other communities. Many stayed and met frequently in a large tent to discuss what needed to be done to rebuild their community. Outside assistance from units of the federal government was essential to their successful efforts.

A critical point in their success was how they came together around the concept of what it means to be a citizen, including simple things such as helping one another to clean up the mess and rebuild both their homes and public buildings to be very energy efficient. They incorporated geothermal heating systems in buildings, used solar power for heating and electricity, and installed large wind generators to supply power to their community.

He referred to citizens as having a sense of owning the community rather than being renters. Owning one’s community means citizens support one another by helping when help is needed. For example, by buying cookies from the Girl Scouts, popcorn from the Boy Scouts and pizza to finance a high school project.

Sunday’s (Aug. 24) major speaker continued the theme of owning one’s community by pointing out the multiple ways a community could secure much of its energy through efficiency and renewable energy. John Farrell’s focus was on decentralized and democratically controlled local energy sources. The content of his presentation should be available soon; we will indicate where it can be found.

It was good to have Davis Caves return to our event. The firm has buildings in our area, and now encourages potential builders to consider incorporating more solar energy into their homes with the use of photovoltaics.

Dave Kraft shared his concerns regarding the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources being brushed aside by fossil fuel and nuclear proponents. See for details.

Nearly half of the presentations focused on sustainable living. Raising and preparing food, eating more health-promoting foods such as grains and fermented foods, processing one’s own meat, supporting a county wide sustainable food system, keeping small animals, and living in harmony with the land were well-attended sessions.

When asked why they attended specific sessions or the fair itself, visitors overwhelmingly expressed the desire to be more self-sufficient. Quotes included the following: “To be more self-sufficient in terms of energy/food consumption and be [a] more responsible steward of the earth!” They also expressed appreciation for the presenters: “I like the variety and quality of the speakers — always very informative,” and “Very interesting — came to find out new information.”

While fair participants expressed support for the importance of the efforts of fair organizers, some expressed concern for what they saw as public apathy regarding our energy/environmental situation and how to overcome that apathy. With issues of energy supply, climate change and environmental deterioration, should not far more people attend an event in which the alternatives are clearly presented and available?

Major sponsors of the fair were the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times and the Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department.

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

From the Sept. 3-9, 2014, issue

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