Become renewed at the Fair

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

As we enjoyed a moment of communion with the natural world watching a bee follow our “pet” hummingbird to the feeder, we are reminded that, according to recent National Public Radio program, our connection to nature is so broken that 80 percent of the world’s people and 99 percent of Europeans and North Americans cannot see that Milky Way.

We have lost much in our quest for faster and easier. Last week, Earth Overshoot Day 2016 was reached. Humanity continues to use an entire year’s worth of the Earth’s productivity and assimilative capacity within just over seven months. Until the 1970s, we stayed within the Earth’s limits.

Now, we are taxing the Earth’s regenerative ability.

The concept of “Earth Overshoot is one of the reasons Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) established the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. Using energy efficiency practices and renewable energy rather than fossil fuel is one way we can start to rebalance our system. Leading sustainable lifestyles gets us still closer, encompassing all that we do in our daily lives including the use of clean energy.” (from the 2015 IREA column on Earth Overshoot)

Can we return to ecological balance? The Fair offers options for changing our energy choices and many aspects of our lifestyles that can help us return at least part of the way. It’s a long journey, but we can make it if we try.

Workshops and exhibits will provide fairgoers with thought-provoking ideas to use in their own lives. Renewable energy was covered in several recent Rock River Times columns. Others are covered this week.

Energy-efficient housing, whether new or rehabbed, provide options for improving our own homes. Doug McWain will present an idea that is gaining popularity: building a low-cost tiny house. Dave Kozlowski will help us consider how to use low energy cooling in our warming climate. Jim Hutchison will explain how to use an ancient technique, straw-clay construction, to provide naturally insulated buildings. Dirk Dypold will return after a brief break to discuss using the Earth’s natural insulating ability for geothermal heating and cooling.

Transportation, which is extremely energy intensive, will also be covered. Allen Penticoff and Jeff Green will clarify misconceptions about electric vehicles. Find out how to locate electric recharging stations.

Everyday activities in addition to food and gardening will help encourage visitors to try their hand at more sustainable living. Jill Horn Kohlert and Mary Gummow will provide means of cleaning with non-toxic products.

Jack and Judy Speer will provide a summary of their ecological approach to developing their homesite. In addition to renewable energy and lifestyles, Nick Head will lead people on a journey through their own perspectives on stewardship. Through exercises in personal inquiry, he will help the audience increase their awareness of the important venture – our commitment to the planet – of which we are all members.

Why should people come to the Fair? Because it’s educational, interesting, applicable and regenerative. Why does IREA organize and present the Fair each year? Because we need the energizing influence and because we feel it’s the right thing to do.

From our home in the country, we can see the Milky Way. We hope that all people will have the same opportunity.

The 15th Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon.

Major sponsors of the Fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times, Northern Public Radio, the Ogle County Waste Management Department, and Midwest Energy News.

Check out the Sharing and Caring Table: free seed, vegetable and book exchanges. Visit

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