French Intellectuals Try Crowdfunding To Save Greece

With scant help common from Frankfurt, a group of French intellectuals is calling for online donations to help the Greek people. Desperate times indeed.

Helping out Greece, one backer at a time?
Helping out Greece, one backer at a time?
Pia Duvigneau

PARIS — While many of us are busy watching, bewildered, as Europe abandons the people of Greece, some have decided to take matters into their own hands and actually do something.

Interdemos (Greek for "between people") a group of seven French intellectuals is calling for online donations via the French crowdfunding platform KissKissBankBank that allows all, old and the young, rich and poor, to finance creative and innovative projects.

Following the lead of noted French Revolution historian Sophie Wahnich, the group of seven academics, filmmakers and artists — and more generally, those who "believe in the impossible" as Wahnich puts it — are inviting people to break their piggy bank and pitch in.

They're not completely delusional: The goal is not to reimburse the totality of the Greek debt (320 billion euros), but to collect 300,000 euros by April 6.

Fundraising as public shaming

Their mission is meant to be a political symbol, but it has actually more tangible humanitarian consequences: The donations collected will go to the Greek initiative Solidarity4All, which aims at providing access to food, education and healthcare for the most destitute.

"The Greek people voted and asked for a different kind of life," reminds Wahnich, calling the European Union's decision to leave Greeks to fend for themselves "shameful."

Another member of the group, writer Marie Cosnay, says the crowdfunding is a form of political action. "We're also doing this for ourselves. Giving our money to the Greeks is also a way of refusing the authoritarian policies of the ECB (European Central Bank) and offering an alternative solution to those who suffer from those policies."

And since demonstrating was clearly not enough, "money is the only solution left," Cosnay adds.

At the time of this writing, the KissKissBankBank crowdfunding campaign called "De peuple à peuple" ("From people to people") has collected more than 109,000 euros. You still have four days to participate, in case you too "believe in the impossible."

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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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