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CEL home > Internat > October 2007

Fourth Ecology Summer School 2007
2nd Ecology Summer School - Aug 2003
First Ecology Summer School - Aug 2000

Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women -
Fourth Ecology Summer School - 2007

by Ruth Clarke

Women and Energy


In September, 20 women and one man came to Woltersdorf, a village to the east of Berlin . At a very pleasant Christian conference centre we took part in an Ecology Summer School. It was on the subject of 'Women and Energy' and was organised by German members of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women. Over half the participants were from Belarus . We worked in German, Russian and English.


The women from Belarus feel under threat. As they still work through the pain of the aftermath of Chernobyl , the government is planning to build a new nuclear power station. A part of the site is where victims of Chernobyl are buried. One region of the country is still contaminated by the disaster. Belarus is a country where people are denied access to information that the government disapproves of. Even for young people using Internet cafes, the sites they access are monitored. Nobody is encouraged to save any energy and the central heating still supplied by central industrial plants to a whole neighbourhood, overheat the flats even in that cold climate.


These Belarus women were to learn alongside others from Germany , Romania , England and Slovakia about alternate means of generating energy, notably by wind, sun and bio-gas. They could not grasp at first the notion of sustainability. They told us there was no Russian word for it. But they soon got very excited as they realised that there are several ways of making electricity, which would prevent the use of nuclear power and reduce the burning of fossil fuels. The German government has decided to build no new nuclear power stations and is putting a lot of money into research and development of alternative and sustainable means of producing energy.


We were able to visit the Reichstag to meet with members of the German Parliament and other experts on the environment. The women from Belarus were surprised that one could come so near to an MP, but they certainly took advantage of the contact, asking for support in their own situation at home. One young Liberal MP was already in touch with opposition MPs in Belarus .


On the last day we visited a farm, which proudly proclaimed 'We grow energy'. We saw in use, a large area of solar panels, three wind turbines and a plant for producing bio-gas from the waste products of 300 dairy cows - to create electricity. The reality struck home, especially through the nose! The German government enable this energy to be sold to the grid at a premium rate so that the capital costs can be covered within five years. Also they provide interest free loans for part of that time.


Some of the Germans and I were ambivalent about new nuclear power stations, thinking that they might be necessary for the next few decades. I took a paper produced by Christians working at Sellafield and this proved very useful to put the other side of the discussion. But it was hard to resist the enthusiasm of the majority of women for the alternative means of producing energy and the policies of German government seemed to add more than a touch of reality to the dreams for the future.


This was a Christian Summer School and we worshipped and prayed together (Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant). We also had quite a lot of fun!

Ruth Clarke - September 2007


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