Travels with The Climate Route through the Balkans between coal, nuclear power and environmental activism

The Climate Route expedition has passed the halfway mark. When you leave Italy and pass the Balkans, the routers are in the heart of Turkey and almost ready to go first to Georgia and then to Azerbaijan. The journey is not easy – time is short, journeys are often uncomfortable and rest is never enough – but the experiences they experience are powerful and are able to give them all the energy they need.

They meet people who, despite being very different in age, educational background, type of work and motivations, have made the same life choice: to look after our planet. One of the most frequent problems is energy: given that an energy transition is not only necessary but even indispensable, How can you do it right? What are the priorities behind this change?

GRAY AND POINT OF VIEW

From energy communities to nuclear power to coal-fired power plants, The Climate Route volunteers have listened to opinions and ideas strong enough to question their own. Discovering that there are so many points of view to look at the same thing is always interesting and often uplifting.

One of the first stages led the expedition to a municipality – Ponte Nelle Alpi, in the province of Belluno – where thanks to the commitment of the current environmental councilor a growing energy community was born. Producing energy thanks to solar panels above one’s own head, consuming it oneself, sharing it and thus freeing oneself from the distribution network has several advantages both from an environmental point of view – less use of fossil sources in the first place – and from an economic one – especially if it produced energy can be accumulated and reused as needed.

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Moving from one country to another and from one “scale” to another, in Slovenia, male and female travelers visited the nuclear power plant Krsko. This plant currently produces about 20% of Slovenian energy and about 16% of Croatian energy. Some employees tell us how this form of energy must be included in the energy transition if we really want to keep the global temperature below 2°C before the end of the century. They don’t feel like activists, but what motivates their daily work unites them: trying to save us.

Is there a real choice? The Climate Route expedition proves just the opposite. Black and white are difficult colors to prove, although they are very easy to choose because they are controlled by the most irrational part of us. Often the complexity of situations and the relationships within them impose a gray scale that is not immediately understandable.

THE ZERO TIME OF THE ENVIRONMENT

The stage in Serbia was dedicated to the main issue of the current climate crisis: the use of fossil fuels. 70% of the country’s energy to date still comes from coal and most of this from the Kostolac power plant, located just outside the capital Belgrade. The routers visited this place and only in this way did they understand the scale of the problem and Serbia’s difficulties in facing an energy transition.

Outside the well-guarded walls of the power plant, there are inhabited houses, a place that is often open, children playing basketball and the elderly sunbathing on the banks of the polluted river. Virtually all the city’s inhabitants and most of the Serbs work in this sector; what if the change happened now? The perception is that the government does not have a precise plan: the topic of climate change is now entering the political discourse and environmentalism is still in its infancy. In fact, the climate crisis is perceived both on an academic and social level only by a small part of societies and therefore faces difficulties.

Is there a real choice? The Climate Route expedition proves just the opposite

The climate route had the honor of meeting what could be called Serbia’s first climate activists: a small group of young girls and boys, mainly students of ecology, who try to increase sensitivity to these issues, starting from those around them. Together with the local WWF, they organize targeted meetings for the plant’s workers, who, however, almost never show up. They hope to make it, and even with the global support that environmental protection can generate, they will make it. The road is long, but the energy comes from the people who believe in it.

GOOD DAY

This journey is a journey of different dimensions. It crosses countries and landscapes, twists and branches in experiences and invades thoughts. It is a journey for those who are not there, and it is a personal journey. It is a narrated journey and a journey that can never be fully explained. It is a journey that takes us far and makes us feel at home. Turkey’s gold outside the window reminds us that in Tavoliere della Puglia the spark we see in the eyes of those we meet is the same as in ours.

We live different fears, but we are aware of the existence of difficult situations, sometimes serious, and for this our thanks are even greater. Thanks to all the people who gave us their word and opened their homes. Thanks to all the people who help us from afar and make us feel strong even when we fall asleep when we can. Thanks to those who listen to us and will listen to us. Thanks to those who love us, because it’s good that we talk about in the end.

Thanks to my companions and my traveling companions; because, giving me each their own look, from day zero on this expedition my life has never been the same.

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