Geopolitics

Looking Europe's Migrant Crisis In The Eye

As tempting as it may be to just turn away, we lose a piece of our humanity every time we do.

Youth attempt to enter Spanish territory through the North African enclave of Ceuta  May 21
Youth attempt to enter Spanish territory through the North African enclave of Ceuta May 21
Dacia Maraini

-Essay-

Looking at these photographs means becoming witnesses. The eye sees, preserves and remembers. The eye feeds on presence, and presence is history. These photographs tell us that we are all witnesses and our conscience is implicated; it cannot call itself unaware of events.

But what to do? How to go from testimony to participation? Strange that, with all the tools technology makes available to us, we feel more helpless than ever.

A child is saved by a generous man. We feel an instinct of compassion and gratitude. But who is that child and who is that man? Can knowing this help us understand more? Maybe, yes. The images make their way into our heads and raise many questions: Who, how, when, why?

There is little doubt that the movement of peoples is a constant reality that will not cease after another emergency. We also know that it will be used by politicians to gain power. But what can we do?

Our gaze moves our compassion for those naked bodies, slapped by the water, for those poor feet that don't know comfortable and protective shoes, for those surprised faces that ask for asylum.

"Let them in!" cry those who think, like Saint Martin, that we should cut the cloak we wear in half and share it with those who feel cold. But if migrants become many, if they are thousands of thousands, how can such an intake be managed?

I have only two eyes to look, and a stomach that tightens.

Some argue that we need these people in our ranks as laborers, to swell the workforce. But I find this a cynical argument. With their arms, human beings also carry a faith, a culture, habits that die hard. Are we able to integrate thousands of refugees? Unhappy people cannot be welcomed in order to turn them into cheap workers.

What then? I have no answers, only questions. I have only two eyes to look — and a stomach that tightens — at the sight of so much despair, poverty, pain.

Compassion is certainly not enough. We need to think rationally and understand what we can do not to abuse these unarmed people fleeing hunger and fear.

Does remembering that we, Italians, were once a people of emigrants help us to organize ourselves without losing humanity? Someone speaks of a nemesis: We have plundered territories rich in raw materials for centuries, without leaving behind us roads, houses, schools and an example of good governance.

I got distracted and spoke as if these migrants had landed on our shores. But it doesn't make much difference — today they are in Spain, tomorrow they will be on the Sicilian islands.

I don't know if pity is good for anything. Yet I think that pity, together with reason, can help raise awareness and create a desire to act. And acting means building alliances to face together, without injustice and without wars, the inevitable displacement of peoples.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Green

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

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

Xinhua/ZUMA

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.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ