Barcelona has faced some extreme weather over the last decade. Unexpected snow, storms, floods, hail and drought, all following each other rapidly. Forest fires have almost become a tradition and aquaducts are needed to guide water from the mountains towards the farmlansds. Is it all a big coincidence or is this climate change at work?
Xavier (30) and Alberto (34) tell me that Barcelona`s weather has always been unstable, and that little changed in recent years. `There are parts of Spain where water shortage is becoming a serious problem, and people in the south fear that the Sahara desert may slowly move north into Spain`, says Xavier, `and I think it is also raining less in Barcelona than it used to, but that has not led to any problems inside the city so far.`
`Spanish people don`t care a lot about the environment`
Spain is working on renewable energy, which is why so many mountains in the central part of the country are full of modern windmills. `We are also one of the sunniest countries in Europe and are now slowly starting to take advantage of that. Solar receptors are integrated in new buildings and the awareness of global warming is slowly spreading`, says Alberto.
`Barcelona is one of the most advanced cities of Spain, if you look at environmental sensibility of the inhabitants`, says Rebeca (25, photo), adding that only some regional capitals may be improving as well but the average Spanish person does not care a big deal about the environment. Barcelona put recycling campaigns into place some years ago, while other communities often still put everything on a big pile.
Rebeca tells that public transportation inside the cities is increasing as well, but often at the expense of huge delays in present times. Intercity transport easily takes 30 minutes longer than foreseen, which leads people to take timetables as rough indications rather than anything else. New high-speed train connections are built to increase speed and reliability. Within cities, more and more buses are operated using natural gas instead of diesel. and, if you don`t need to leave the city, you can even just walk.
Rather than using cars, many people in Barcelona now use scooters: a tool which is indeed more practical than a car, when it comes to rush hours and traffic jams. Beside the scooterists, it is quite common for people to walk or use skates to get trough town. A newly introduced concept with rental bikes is a huge success as well.
From a number of service stations, people who have a subscription to the service can pick a bike and cycle it for half an hour before they leave it to the next point. Subscriptions were introduced at 6 euros per year, but their popularity has increased that fee to 24 euros per year. `I often use them to get to work or just somewhere in the city to see friends`, says Rebeca, who explains that there are also many people who just as easily walk their way around town.
Albert (22) claims that Spaniards can do much more to save the environment than they actually do. He says that manufacturing companies should be given more freedom to come up with innovative alternatives to fossile fuels, but suspects that governments are not supportive. `Especially the Americans prefer to concentrate all the oil in the world on their territory so they can make huge profits when everybody else runs out`, he says, further claiming that it is economically more feasible to keep the current industries alive, rather than invest in new technologies.
Albert himself separates at least paper from plastic, and pays attention not to use too much water. He thinks that individual people can only make a small change compared to what factories can do. Even their cars ? many families have one or two ? only produce a marginal amount of pollution and carbon dioxide compared to factories and energy plants. He fears for beaches and cities to be inundated if the sea level continues to rise. Albert further thinks that the estimated 20% of people who at least separate their garbage, are way too few to turn the tide.
Surprisingly, environmental consciousness is highest in the regions that have so far experienced the fewest problems: Catalunya and Bask Country. The rest of Spain is only slowly starting to think about deviating rivers and to save jeopardised farmlands in the south. The northern provinces are not very happy about that. They may end up depleting precious reserves to help out areas that have so far not even started making efforts to use their resources in a smarter way.
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