She got me into Sex and the City when I was 12. Lately, she's been badgering me to read George Eliot's 800-page opus Middlemarch. She exercises every damn day and loves checking out men in the mall almost as much as she loves the shopping. She follows the stock exchange religiously, is a decorated veteran of the dance floor and pumps her own gas. In one month, my grandmother, who we all call Bubbie, will turn 94.
You can bet I was thinking of her when I read this back in March from Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick: "As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?... If that is the exchange, I'm all in."
Sitting in my Paris apartment, rage and sadness stirred together in my Boston-bred blood. But it's not just about me and my Bubbie, and it's not just an American calculation. The oh-whatever-this-virus-only-kills-old-people song has been sung all over the world, a tune that's both factually incorrect and a smash hit on age-bias radio. The Spanish army discovered a nursing home with residents dead in their beds, completely abandoned by their personnel and society. A survey by the Agewell Foundation found that 59% of seniors in India felt loneliness even when confined with their family, with 23% feeling ignored by younger generations addicted to screens.
Ageism was a global epidemic long before COVID — a World Health Organisation article from 2018 reported that 1 in 6 people worldwide over the age of 60 suffered abuse at the hands of their community. Even if you live in a place that respects its elders, the way other nations treat their most vulnerable members during this pandemic will affect yours, as the indiscriminate, contagious nature of the virus means no one is safe until everyone is safe.
Death is final, and thus make Dan Patrick's demographic-economic calculations meaningless — and inhumane. The idea that the lives of the elderly are disposable should simply be a non-starter, even if you don't have a grandmother around like mine.
Every Thursday, I call Bubbie. At the end of each call she tells me, "Be good." It's a joke, because neither of us have ever been very well behaved. I sign off to you, however, without any humor. As a 30-year-old, I know it may be hard to empathize with aging and illness when you feel like your life is in front of you. But for the love of the people who made us all, be good.
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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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