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Right now I'm currently studying Spanish abroad in La Universidad Cumpultense de Madrid in Spain for five weeks this summer. I'm currently enjoying myself very much here and I feel like I'm well on my way to becoming bilingual much more quickly than I thought. However, what I'm going to post here was actually a paper I wrote for my class translated into English for all of you about how Spain has made it so that living a lifestyle that uses less carbon and energy in general is the easiest and most preferable way to live. I also explain why Spain is one of the countries that is on the cutting edge of clean energy and the fight against global warming and what American policymakers should learn from them. My professor actually recommended that I translate my paper into English and send it to be published in my college newspaper which I plan on doing. But then I figured why not post this on kos as well? My paper after the fold.

When I arrived in Spain I noticed a lot of things that were just a little bit different than their American counterparts. In my taxi from Barajas Airport to Casa do Brasil [where I'm living] I saw that most of the cars and trucks on the streets were a bit smaller than they were in America. When I went up to my room at night for the first time I noticed that you had to turn the hallway lights on and then after a minute they shut themselves off automatically. When I went into my bathroom for the first time I noticed that the toilet uses far less water than an American one. All of these examples that I observed on my first day here have something in common. They are all things that Spain is doing to use less energy and natural resources.

I saw many more things after my first day that Spain is doing to fight climate change. My room has air conditioning but it makes so much noise that I can sleep with it on. This has changed the way I'm used to sleeping. Every night now I'm sleeping with an open window and I'm using far less energy to do the exact same thing. Another example is when I visited the cities of Ávila and Segovia and I saw that the price of gasoline was around one euro per liter which translated into American figures is about six dollars per gallon. Also in the countryside of Castilla-León I noticed many wind turbines and solar panels to generate electricity from renewable sources without pollution of any kind. Also I am able to travel all over Madrid using their excellent subway system for very cheap without ever needing the use of a car. All of these are personal example of what I've seen done to reduce the amount of energy I use in Spain.

The Spanish government believes that climate change is a very serious worldwide problem and they have taken many significant steps to fight it. For example they have very strict regulations on polluting industry and petroleum and gasoline are heavily taxed which is the reason that gasoline costs about six dollars per gallon here. Also electricity is far more expensive in Spain than in the United States to encourage the use of less energy and therefore put less carbon into the atmosphere. The reason why the Spanish government is taxing petroleum and strictly regulating polluting industry is to provide an economic incentive for the people to change their behavior to fight global warming in their daily lives.

Some of the money raised from those taxes on gasoline is invested into making their public transportation system a better alternative to driving. All of the larger cities have a subway and bus system that covers the majority of the city and they are for the most part clean, attractive, and safe. They have also invested a lot of money in their high speed rail system, el AVE, to connect larger cities with one another with trains that travel at speeds faster than 300 km/h. These trains are a far more efficient and environmentally friendly way of moving people between cities compared to the alternatives of flying and driving. The gasoline taxes are also used to subsidize the prices of public transit in order to keep low prices and encourage usage. In Spain it is possible to live conveniently and comfortably without owning a car if you live in or around a city. In the majority of the United States it is impossible to live and work without a car.

Spain also has the long term goal of producing all of their electricity from clean and renewable sources and they are taking significant steps to make that a reality. Right now Spain is one of the worlds leaders in the production of renewable energy. One of Spain's longer term goals was to produce 30 percent of their electricity through solar and wind by 2010. As of January 2009 Spain produces 34.8 percent of their energy from wind and solar. They greatly exceeded their goal a year early. When I saw the wind farms and solar panels in the countryside of Castilla-León I did not know at the time that Castilla-León produces 70 Percent of their electricity from wind and solar. Also in 2005 Spain passed a law requiring that all new buildings to be outfitted with solar panels to produce some of their own electricity. With incentives to reduce the quantity of energy that is used and the energy that is used coming from clean renewable sources, it is possible that Spain could be the first country in the world to not have to use coal, oil, or nuclear to meet their energy needs in the distant future.

The difference between the United States and Spain with respect to climate change is very large. The United States contributes the most amount of CO2 into the atmosphere in the world and it is their policies that desperately need to change. However, the American government even with Obama does not take climate change nearly as seriously as they should. There are people like James Inhofe and Joe Barton and most of the Republican party that deny that global warming even exists. In the United States you have all of the coal and oil companies that desperately need to change the most buying off enough of Congress to prevent themselves from being forced to change disgraceful practices such as mountain top removal coal mining. Also many Americans live oblivious to the fact that these companies are absolutely raping the environment with impunity. Furthermore many do not realize that they are consuming way too much energy than they need to and can significantly reduce their energy usage with small little changes to their daily lives.

But the thing I have learned about my country from living in Spain is that in America the easiest way for the average person to live is by living a life that does nothing to help in the fight against climate change or even living a healthy life. In many parts of America there are no alternatives to driving, electricity from a coal company is incredibly cheap so there is no need to conserve energy, and the most affordable food is incredibly unhealthy and has probably been driven all the way across the country to get to you. There is little incentive to turn off the air conditioning when the outside temperature is only about five degrees warmer than it is inside. There is no incentive to install solar panels on your roof and generate your own power when your electric company charges you an extra monthly fee because you are using solar panels. In America it is expensive to eat locally grown organic food, buy a hybrid, and use renewable energy yourself and the government lacks the political will to make it any easier on the people who are trying to reduce their carbon footprint.

When I arrived in Spain I changed the way I lived a to live the way the Spanish do. Most of the changes were very small but right now I use less energy than I did living in New Jersey. For example, I don't sleep with air conditioning, I take shorter showers, after I wash my laundry I hang it up in my room to let it dry instead of using a dryer (granted this is much easier and faster in Spain due to Madrid's very dry summer climate) and I wear my clothes two or three times before washing them. When I can I walk or use public transportation instead of using a car. I drink water out of my bathroom sink instead of buying bottled water and I waste much less food than I did in the United States. When I do all of these things I don't really save that much energy in the great scheme of things but when an entire country does all these things the amount of energy that is conserved is large. If all 300 million Americans were to do this then I think that the environment would improve significantly. Also it is not like the Spanish are making a huge sacrifice to their standard of living by doing this. They have all of the same luxuries that Americans have, they just use them in slightly different ways that make a big difference.

What Spain is doing is trying to change the way the people live their daily lives to reduce their carbon footprints. The government has managed to make it so that it is easier to live in an environmentally friendly way than to live the average American lifestyle. They have also invested a lot of money into changing the source of their electricity to renewable sources. Because of this the Spanish people live much greener lifestyles, do relatively little damage to the global environment, and are a leader in the development and use of clean and renewable energy. Some of the changes have been very easy such as people turning off their lights when they don't need them. Some have been relatively difficult like the AVE and have required a lot of time and money. But all of the changes they have made have been worth it and it would be worth it for America to do the same thing.

And that's all. Any criticism on how to improve my writing is very much appreciated. Do note that some of the links I provide are in Spanish.

Originally posted to billyleeblack16 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 12:49 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  No complaints about your writing (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, Mnemosyne, denmadrid, kaolin, jlms qkw

    and your perspective is appreciated.

    Personally, I'd like to see us adopt not only Spanish consumption practices but the Spanish daily schedule. Six-hour workdays and a two-hour dinner break at 2 PM? Hell, yes.

    "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

    by Geenius at Wrok on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:01:49 PM PDT

    •  As of 2005, that was dying. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kaolin, jlms qkw

      First, there never was a six-hour workday.  Work might start at 9, there would be a two-hour midday meal, and then work continued until 6.  This would be sort of like our old "9 to 5" schedule with an hour for lunch.  During July some people might opt for "la jornada intensiva" which would start at 9 and end at 4, apparently without a lunchbreak.  

      What's really odd, though, is that international business practices are making their way into Spain, even though the old system is ideally suited for a business world with trans-Atlantic links.  Madrid can call New York and LA at 5 pm local time and New York would answer at noon and LA would answer at 9 am.  Of course, perhaps Spaniards themselves prefer getting home earlier and don't enjoy eating long lunches a la mode francais.

      2009: Year of the Donkey. Let's not screw it up.

      by Yamaneko2 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:27:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  no six hour work day in Spain (0+ / 0-)

      The traditional Spanish workday was something like 9-2, 5-8, although many folks in non-office jobs worked longer hours. One went home for lunch. Plenty of folks still work this kind of workday. In the summer it can be switched to a `jornada intensive' - something like 7-3, no break.

      In considering Spanish hours, it's worth considering that Spain is on continental time, although far to the east of most of the continent (the Greenwich line passes through the western part of Spain). Thus the time at which the sun rises and sets is later in Spain relative to the east coast of the US at the same latitude, simply because of the positioning of time zones. Relative to the sun, most things occur at roughly the same time - when folks get up, when they eat lunch (2 or 3 instead of 12 or 1).

      Most studies I've seen (I can't find a link right now) show the average Spanish work week as among the longest in western Europe, and longer than in the US. Until recently Spain was poorer than the rest of western Europe.

  •  Great diary (5+ / 0-)

    Back in the late sixties I traveled to Spain and Portugal and the next year to England and Scotland on vacation. I loved both trips but contrast stayed with me all these years. I love to walk although I can't do as much anymore. London and Madrid are great cities to walk in but what I was struck by was that in Spain the underpasses on city streets and Plazas were for cars whereas in London the underpasses were for people. The Sundays in Spain were bright and festive , London had that dour Anglosaxon feel.

  •  Fortunately For Spain They are a Homogenious... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, bryfry, jlms qkw, billyleeblack16

    country.  The differences in climate, topography, and culture are more uniform than in the US.  And their historical perspective is different.  Americans tend to be more individualists and prefer more personal freedom.  Of course Spain has exceptions, like my grandfather, who was Basque, and immigrated first to Mexico and later to the US.  He was a truly rugged individualist as many Basque people are.

    In the US, even within a political party, many different opinions exist to solve the same problem.

    One of the biggest problems in the US is the NIMBY.  It seems that everyone wants the climate change problem to be solved, but at someone elses expense with no pain to themselves.  I could list many examples, but one of the more fascinating fits wery well with you diary.  You focused on how little changes add up to big savings when repeated by many people.  Recently a state representative in one of the Carolinas submitted a bill prohibiting HOA's, Cities, and Counties from restricting homeowners from hanging clothes out to dry on clothes lines.  He was ridiculed and the bill died.  I don't know for a fact, but I would assume that many of the people who ridiculed him support cap and trade legislation.  This is NIMBYism in action and is a huge impediment to true change in the US.  I am amazed that someone that supports CAFE standards and low flow toilet laws would be against regulations allowing every American to hang their sheets on a clothes line.  Surely, my sheets are no uglier than the windmills you have seen in Spain!  Would Al Gore be against letting his neighbor hang their clothes on a line to dry?

    Does Spain have as many NIMBY's as we do?

    •  To be honest (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, kaolin, jlms qkw

      I'm not really sure if NIMBY is a big issue in Spain. I'm sure that some things will always have a NIMBY factor no matter where in the world they are such as prisons and landfills but when it comes to clean energy I'm not really sure if it's an issue. The reason being is because the majority of the people I have talked to in Spain so far live in Madrid and they don't have to live near the solar and wind farms which in the US are probably have the biggest NIMBY factors when it comes to clean energy. When I get out of the city again I'm gonna ask a few people about that.

    •  Homogeneity (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mnemosyne, billyleeblack16

      At the moment, Spain has as high a level of immigration as has the US. In the areas of greatest concentration of immigrants, Madrid, Catalunya and Almeria, the percentage of the population that is immigrants is officially 15-20, and unofficially a bit higher. The largest sources of immigration to Spain are (not quite in order): Morocco, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Romania, China, Poland, Ucraine, Dominican Republic, the area including Niger/Mali/Burkina Faso/Nigeria, etc... Also on the coast there are many British and German retirees.

      On top of that, Spain is a country with 4 official languages (Castellano, Catalan, Euskera, and Gallego).

      Topgraphically, Spain is not at all homogeneous. It is an incredibly mountainous country, with any number of independent large ranges - there are the Pyrenees in Catalunya and Navarra, the Picos de Europa in Asturias, the Guadarrama outside of Madrid, the Sierra Nevada in Andalusia, the Canary islands, etc... The varied and difficult topography has a lot to do with the Iberian peninsula's long history of political heterogeneity.  

      As far as climate goes - the climate is quite varied given that Spain is about the same size as California, and squarer in shape.

  •  We're a dying empire and don't need to change (5+ / 0-)

    our behaviors, instead we need to increase the stupid for our gratification to feel better about ourselves while we're denied a good quality of life. It's the new 'merican way.

    Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

    by doinaheckuvanutjob on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 02:06:58 PM PDT

  •  Re writing (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mnemosyne, bryfry, kaolin, jlms qkw

    It's fine, but for online writing, use more paragraph breaks.

    That's it!

    This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

    by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 02:58:28 PM PDT

    •  I agree, but ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, Mnemosyne, billyleeblack16

      It's more than just that.

      For online writing that is strict prose and where there are many items to cover, I recommend a "five sentence max" rule. It goes as follows:

      1. First sentence: state the main point of the paragraph. Make it clear and unequivocal. The exception is a transition sentence, if it is needed.
      2. Second sentence: support the first sentence. Give additional information. If you can't provide this sentence, then reconsider adding this paragraph altogether.
      3. Third sentence (perhaps): add additional information, if you have it. Think hard about the "if you have it" part. If you don't, then summarize and move on.
      4. Fourth sentence (even more?): really consider before adding this sentence. Try not to ramble. If you have so much to say, why not group it into more organized, focused packets? Your readers will thank you.
      5. Fifth sentence (skating on thin ice): If you get to your fifth sentence, then you had better be transitioning into your next paragraph. Otherwise, you have simply been too wordy and rambling, and your audience will lose you, particularly an audience that has an attention span as short as you find on the Internet.

      Just my two cents.

      An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
      -- H. L. Mencken

      by bryfry on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 03:34:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, a one-sentence paragraph is OK online (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mnemosyne, Calamity Jean

        IMO.

        To break the monotony, to make something stand out.

        Ultimately, what they say is that reading online is harder than reading print, so having shorter paragraphs helps people keep track.

        Whatever the reason, online writing contains shorter paragraphs.

        This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

        by AllisonInSeattle on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 12:51:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I never thought about it that way (0+ / 0-)

        The way I was always taught how to write was to always have 4-8 sentences in a paragraph that provide substance to whatever subtopic the paragraph was dedicated to. But then again the only writing I've really only ever done was just academic papers since high school that my instructor had to read through and evaluate. What I'm not sure about for Internet writing is where in a normal paragraph of mine should I stop and start another paragraph. For example should a two sentence example be a paragraph in and of itself even if it is in support of the point of the previous paragraph?

        •  For academic papers (0+ / 0-)

          particularly on relatively complex topics, 4-8 sentences in a paragraph is a good guideline. This is also probably a pretty good guideline for writing longer material, such as books, both fiction and non-fiction, but that's a matter of writing style (cf. Hemingway's use of short sentences and paragraphs).

          Writing online, however, usually involves a different audience with different expectations. It's much more similar to journalism than academic writing. Thus, it's a different game.

          Go look at a copy of your favorite newspaper. Study the style used by the journalists. Notice that the paragraphs tend to be short and to the point.

          In very good journalism (which is becoming quite rare these days), the format of an article has a top-down structure. That is, the entire story should be captured in the first one or two paragraphs of the article, with the less important details appearing later in the article, with the more important details appearing first. This allows the reader to browse the newspaper, scanning each article, reading the summary at the top, and deciding after that whether he or she is sufficiently interested in the details to read the rest.

          Although I'm talking here about writing online, say for a blog, this is also a very good technique for writing effective emails, particularly business emails. Once again, the important point is to get across the main idea right away; keep the paragraphs short and focused; and place the details down at the bottom, with the less important ones farther down.

          I hope this helps and gives you something to think about.

          An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
          -- H. L. Mencken

          by bryfry on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 01:14:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  You've Been Rescued (0+ / 0-)

    "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them"

    by ItsJessMe on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 08:25:05 PM PDT

  •  In this sentance: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW

    My room has air conditioning but it makes so much noise that I can sleep with it on.

    I think you need to change "can" to "can't".  

    Renewable energy brings national security.

    by Calamity Jean on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 06:02:24 AM PDT

  •  another benefit of train travel (0+ / 0-)

    high speed rail system, el AVE, . . . at speeds faster than 300 km/h . . . a far more efficient and environmentally friendly way of moving people between cities compared to the alternatives of flying and driving.

    and I just thought of it while reading your description, is that for the most part boarding a train is a pleasant experience. You're calm, looking forward to relaxing and looking out the window, anticipating the trip and your arrival.

    You are not subjected to searches of your person, shoes and luggage (except on international trains), you are treated like a person, and you can (generally) travel without fear of disaster striking in one form or another before your arrival.

    And, as you say, it's more efficient.

    When the cold war ended, America needed an enemy to replace Communism and chose Islam.--Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State

    by Mnemosyne on Tue Jul 28, 2009 at 06:38:41 AM PDT

    •  Unfortunately for me and my friends (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mnemosyne

      We can't use the AVE to travel to where we want to go in Spain. High Speed Rail in Europe may be subsidized but it's not subsidized enough for 21 year old American college students dealing with a tough exchange rate with the euro. For example when we were considering our options to go to Barcelona a bus was significantly cheaper than the AVE and us being broke college students, we followed our wallets. It's a shame too because I really wanted to go on that thing and see another thing that America is missing out on.

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