WARSAW â€" Even as change spreads from such historically Catholic countries as Ireland and Mexico, same-sex marriage rights still look to be years away in Poland, home to a diehard traditional Catholicism that some say was even too pious for Pope Francis.
The 2015 Eurobarometer survery found that just 28% of Poles favored same-sex marriage, with 61% against. Still, Newsweek Polska reports this month on five gay and lesbian couples in Poland who have decided to publicly fight for their right to get married. All five couples were rejected by their local city administrations and later lost their appeals to city officials.
Krzysztof ÅoÅ› and Grzegorz Lepianka have been together for 13 years. "Having to explain why I want to get married with somebody that I love is itself an insult," Lepianka told Newsweek Polska. "What could be the reason after 13 years together, apart from the fact that I love him? We really love each other and we want the country to acknowledge it."
The couples have established the Coalition in Aid of Civil Partnerships and Marriage Equality, and are taking their cases to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Indeed Italy, another country with a close relationship with the Catholic Church, also took a European path to finally recognize same-sex unions earlier this year â€" though that path began way back in 2002.
Still, change has been accelerating, and today only six EU countries do not have any laws allowing for same-sex marriage or civil partnerships: Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Poland. But in Poland, at least, the ball is now rolling.
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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