Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bogotá's (Un)Environmental Fair

The Ecossol solar power team.
When I attend an event like Bogotá's Environmental Fair, which ends tomorrow, all of my cynicism surges to the surface.

On the one hand, there's all the marketing of expensive stuff in small packages whose only environmental quality seems to be a sort of hippy, or new-agey image. And those idealistic 'eco-villages' generally located far from cities and dependent on polluting transportation. And the 'recycled' products, which look good at first glance, until you reflect that better than weaving a colorful handbag out of old plastic bags would have been not consuming those throw-away plastic bags in the first place. (And that the reusing of a tiny proportion of disposable plastic bags, bottles, etc, makes people feel better about consuming disposable stuff.)
Thermal solar sets. Their marketer said they can pay for themselves in Bogotá - unlike photovaltaic panels, which don't in cloudy Bogotá.
But the fair did include positive things, altho you had to look around for them - and they often aren't even labeled 'environmental.'

I found some of the first solar energy set-ups I've seen in Bogotá. The guys of Ecossol said that solar photovoltaic panels don't pay for themselves in cloudy Bogotá, which gets only 3 to 4 hours per day of sunlight. But thermal panels, which heat water directly with the sun, are economically viable. Unfortunately, they haven't exactly caught on fire here. The guy said his company has installed in the city about 15 sets in the city.

A bici-taxi on display. Quiet, efficient and non-polluting, but it doesn't have a green label. 
Bogotá's thousands of bicitaxis, which shuttle people on short trips, mostly to and from TransMilenio stations, cary out a huge public service and also reduce congestion and pollution - but the city hasn't ever legalized them.

Creatorio, a new bike maker.
Several brand-new bicycle manufacturers displayed their work. Their trendy bikes are not likely to create a mass market in this mostly-poor city. However, by making cycling cool, perhaps they'll lure a few drivers out of their cars. Unfortunately, bicycle marketing can never match the marketing behind big, polluting vehicles.

Gallardo, maker of bamboo bicycles. But at more than a million pesos each, they're not likely to become a mass-market item soon. 
Showing off a 'Litro de luz' or a bottle of light.
One of the most elegant things I saw at the fair was this bottle of light, which consists simply of a bottle of water with a bit of bleach inserted into a house's ceiling to let in light and replace light bulbs during the day. Unlight a window, the bottle's light is diffuse and pleasant, its creators told me.

Biodegradable packaging made from sugar cane and corn. 

I'm not sure what's parktuclarly 'green' about Colempaques' septic tanks and agricultural feed equipment. 
This woman, from Bosa, weaves handbags out of disposable packaging materials. But she didn't seem to have thot that it'd be better not to use those packaging materials in the first place. 
'Canine Diginity' is campaigning for drivers to turn off their engines so as not to gas anti-bomb dogs sniffing their vehicles. But mightn't it be better to actually enforce air pollution laws and stop contaminating people, dogs, cats, birds and bees all of the time?

This woman's CD says 'Colombian fruits,' but she also sold apples from Chile. I observed that importing apples isn't very ecological. 'But Colombian apples are very small,' she said. 
Abundant public bikes. But Bogotá's own public bikes program is limited to only part of a single street, Ave. Septima.

The big car parking lot - albeit shared by other events. 
A bicycle parking rack. I was told there was another one, but never saw it. 
Recycling bins. But where does the material go? Bogotá's own recycling bins, located in parks and public markets, aren't used. 
Ella, a women's magazine, wasn't embarrassed about participating, despite its huge materialism. 
Organic gardeners from a rural area near Ciudad Bolivar. Unfortunately, I saw no urban gardeners. 
This guy was selling products made from yage, a narcotic vine. I asked him several different ways, but he couldn't explain what was environmental about his products. 

The fair ends Sunday, Oct. 27. It's being held in the Plaza de los Artesanos, near Parque Simon Bolivar. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


rojito said...

I first heard about the plastic bottle being used to provide light when I watched a short documentary showing how successful it was in the Philippines. It was very successful in that tropical, coastal setting, but in the cloudy mountains of Bogota, with as you say 3-4 hours of direct sunlight...? I'm not so sure.

I next heard about it when I met a group from Switzerland, who did in fact come here to Bogota to put it in to action. Putting aside my doubts about the suitability of the weather, these guys (and it was a large group) got fully involved in the seedier side of life in Bogota. Drugs, prostitutes... all of that. In fact, what truely disgusted me was instead of asking some poor zorrero to collect empty 2-litre bottles for them, they went to Exito and bought 50 bottles of cola and poured them down the sink!!

I doubt they had the knowledge to buy high-end silicon able to withstand Bogota's rain, meaning I fully suspect many families now just have a hole in their rooves. And when you consider the pollution caused by such a large group flying over from Europe, the money they spent on flights, accomodation and their "other" activities my faith in any volunteer charity program for young people has been truly destroyed.

I have never meet a more ill-advised, obnoxious group trying to pass themselves off as idealist, caring or whatever. No doubt they only did it as it will look good on their CV or will provide them with a story to help them get laid back home.

Miguel said...

Hi Rojito,

A sad story about the Swiss. The people at the Feria Ambiental were definitely Colombians, not Swiss, and seemed sincere and responsible.

They're only interested in teaching the technology, not selling anything.

I don't think that the number of hours of sunlight is so important with the bottle of light, since the investment is so tiny. As long as there's even one hour of sunlight, that's one less hour of using electricity.

I wonder about the possibility of filling the bottle with a liquid which stores the sunlight and slowly releases it after dark.