February 5, 2014

Southern European Meditations, Part Three: Money Talks

(This is written with apologies to my wonderful economics professor David Jobson at Keystone College, so many years ago. If I have misunderstood or forgotten any of the lessons you taught me, I regret that.)

Solution to the Economic Problem in Southern Europe

Sun and Shade in Seville

In Greece, where the economic distress is apparent, we saw solar panels stretched across agricultural fields and our guides told us they were owned by private individuals and not by the government. I was wondering why Germany and other more financially secure nations don’t loan the governments of Spain, Italy and Greece money to create an infrastructure for a solar power system. There is so much sunshine that the countries could reduce their dependence on oil and gas and sell the excess power to raise funds—perhaps even to Germany? They should be able to general adequate income to pay back the loans, with interest and improve their economic outlook.  

Sun and Shade in Rhodes

Sun and Shade on an Amalfi Hillside

A Fortune to be Made

I don’t know how everyone else travels, but we schlep a lot of electronic gear and many people we met or observed did as well. Those traveling in pairs usually have two telephones, two cameras, and 
two computers or tablets (sometimes both). This means they have at least six devices that need to be charged. Since each device has its own set of peripherals, our bag of cords, spare batteries and foreign plug adapters take up significant suitcase space. Then we must find ways to charge the devices in foreign hotels where the rooms sometimes have only one or two unused and adaptable plugs. While traveling I wondered whether there might not be a lot of money in finding a solution, perhaps a universal charger with adapter incorporated. When I returned home I learned that Eesha Khare, an eighteen-year old Californian has invented a supercapacitor that charges devices in 30 seconds or less. Maybe the answer is on the way. Let’s hope it’s versatile enough for all our devices.

Value of the Euro

The American dollar pales in comparison to the Euro, making European travel expensive. Why is there no discussion in our country, at least in the popular media, about that disparity?

Prosperity or Enhanced Quality of Life?

Spain is struggling economically and yet—at least in the Southern part of Spain—the quality of life (for the employed, certainly) is excellent. Cities are clean. Parks are plentiful and manicured. Gardens are blooming and maintained. Public transportation is efficient. The main streets are broad and accommodate both pedestrians and bicycles. Historic buildings are in beautiful repair. In my own country, highways and streets are not cleaned often. Parks are trimmed but not maintained. Gardens are often non-existent, unless funded privately. Public transportation is not designed for people. The list goes on. I’m thinking that I might be happy with a poorer economy in our country if we had a better quality of public life.