Death Is Not Defeat: The Courage Not To Fight A Fatal Disease

We have a tendency to extol our late loved ones for having "fought" against the illnesses that struck them. But those who peacefully succumb to terminal disease are no less brave.

Bravery, too
Bravery, too
Uwe Schmitt


BERLIN â€" "He fought to the end..." So read last month's obituary of former German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who died after a battle against the ravages of leukemia. His husband agreed, and he's the only one who has a right to do so.

But no one seems to be disturbed by the latent implication of this deferential praise. It's as if to suggest that Westerwelle was defeated by cancer when he died. It also implies that a terminally ill person who doesn't try to fend off death, but rather accepts it as a part of his being, is essentially a coward â€" that he did not love life enough to fight.

But is it really any less brave to submit to the inevitable without a struggle, with composure and peaceful dignity? Does it really demonstrate courage for patients to expose themselves to the enormous agonies of long-shot treatments?

The fight against death is always, ultimately, a futile one, and the entirety of the world is a giant hospice. Only the wise among us live by the credo carpe diem, or "seize the day." Others follows the motto of Spanish philosopher Seneca: "To live is to fight." Or German poet Bertolt Brecht's: "Those who fight may lose, but those who don't fight have already lost."

This may apply to people like Westerwelle and everyone else who strives for political change, but it doesn't necessarily apply to people who are terminally ill. It would be more respectful to allow people to choose for themselves whether they want to expend every effort to live or whether they want to succumb to their illness without such a struggle.

It's not the intention of this article to condemn orthodox or alternative medical practices as interfering with God's work. It's about the freedom for people to choose their own approaches to illness and death, not about sanctioning these choices with moral judgments.

Siddhartha Gautama taught us that the greatest fighters aren't those who conquer a thousand enemies but those who conquer themselves. His Buddhism teaches us to "learn to let go, as this is the key to happiness." And for some ill people, letting go may be the key to a peaceful death.

Cancer never wins. Sometimes it simply doesn't respond to the treatment that's supposed to eradicate it. Those who die don't lose. The dying aren't less courageous or less happy than those who continue living after successful treatment.

We are now able to express our chosen manner of dying through legally binding documents, such as living wills, and it therefore seems only fair to spare the terminally ill and those who have died our admiring celebrations of their bravery. Let's save these for athletes and soldiers and celebrate their victories instead.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

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.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— 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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