“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” Gustave Flaubert
Reluctantly leaving splendid Gyeongju behind the next destination was a UNESCO World Heritage Site I was assured would be, for the small-town boy that I am at heart, a visual treat. On the way, atop one of the innumerable hills in the area I spotted a windmill farm. Never close up to one before without hesitation I turned off the highway and found the way up to discover more than I’d expected to see.
(NOTE: To improve your viewing experience click on the photos below to enlarge – once for medium, twice to zoom in.)
These are so much bigger close up than can be imagined seen from the valley below. I was surprised other than a softly blowing wind, no discernible sound other than a gentle whoosh emitted from the giant spinning wings generating valuable electric energy. All in all a peaceful scene that was so much more agreeable to the eye and kind to our natural environment than the gigantic containment towers of radiation spewing nuclear power plants and carbon laden smoke belched out by coal burning power generating effectively ruining our atmosphere. When I think about the killing wounds inflicted to our fragile blue planet, I wonder just what are they thinking the self-annointed ‘Captains of Industry’? Abetted by craven politicians who meekly kow-tow, do they not have offspring of their own or are they all as I suspect sterile eunuchs? Well, I answered my own question.
Incidentally, to add weight to these admittedly acerbic comments, I have personally observed up-close the machinations of politicians (grubbing for votes and money to buy elections, always) and the lobbying pressure from industry to allow unrestricted action in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. I say this as a former journalist and having also spent time within the Canadian Ministry of the Environment. When Brian Mulroney took power (1984) with the Conservative Party (correlate to G.W. Bush and today’s Republican Party) the first order of business was to slash research budgets into pollution and to expunge any lofty ideal about controlling let alone punishing polluting industries. What a pathetic human being! Today we have a sordid mental midget, a weasel Prime Minister if ever there was one who has wantonly destroyed Canada’s former stellar standing in the international community by (without consulting the Canadian people I may point out) slithered us out of the Kyoto Treaty we were almost first to ratify and who presently is moving heaven, no, make that hell, to promote the sordid Keystone Pipeline project to ferry dirty oil from the Alberta Tar Sands, across an entire continent all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. Who for? To enrich further the venal oil barons sitting in Houston, Texas and Calgary in Alberta his home province and of course political base. Yet, Albertans are the heedless sheep who will bear the brunt of the ecological disaster to follow – a pox on him!
If you can read the Korean language the statistics posted below are self-explanatory or, much easier as in my case, asking Ara to translate.
I can assure you even intrepid Don Quixote would have thought twice about taking these giants on. Image the height at 80 metres (263 feet) or if you can imagine it, the height of a North American skyscraper; individual wing span at 46.2 metre (147 feet) for a two wing span of 95 metres (312 feet) rotating at between 9 to 16.9 revolutions per minute. These steel leviathans weight 11 000 kilos (24 25o pounds), are 4.8 metres (16 Ft.) measured at the base and 3 metres (10Ft.) at its summit. These particular seven windmills provide a year’s supply of electric energy for the equivalent of a 12 000 household town. Imagine now much more can be done if there is the political will to encourage and if necessary to fund the construction of thousands more across the world. And here’s the not so secret method to bend the for-hire political system to the will of an enlightened voting public to effectively prevail upon old, inefficient energy providers to mend their ways. Take it as an absolute that politicians are nobodies once booted out of office. The will of the people can be made to prevail with the power of the voting urn. Use it!
I’m a convinced believer in the green power of modern windmill farms. Much as their forerunners made use of natural wind flows over hilltops, these giants are a technological and structural wonder creating electric power that is economic and renewable without limits. Definitely the future is in innovative power generation, whether with windmill farms, developing unlimited potential tidal power and maximizing other environmentally benign power generation techniques. For example a valued friend, Jim K. has recently converted his home (London, Ontario) into a solar power generating station. He’s done himself a big favour by mitigating the rising cost of electricity, moreover adding reality value and contributing to the well-being of the environment by meaningfully reducing what he refers to as, “My carbon footprint”. Check and consider this intelligent alternative with your local electricity provider and personally contribute to a greener world. Not only must we demand political action and corporate responsiveness, but renewable energy should not be merely a pious wish for individuals.
Beginning the northern swing back towards Seoul, we first headed for Andong, a thriving city of some 160,000 inhabitants. It was interesting enough on its own, the usual good food and eclectic market place, but knowing my proclivity for authentic rural life-style, Ara was quite secretive about the next morning’s outing and the surprise was indeed worth the anticipation. I enjoyed the drive through bucolic countryside and there around a corner my first glimpse of what surely was bound to be a fascinating look backwards into Korean history.
First recorded presence dates to the 16th century, Hahoe Village is a traditional farming community from the Joseon Dynasty. Presently a valuable part of Korean culture as it preserves period architecture, folk art and customs, valuable ancient books and yet still maintains the old tradition of clan-based villages. It is organized around the geomantic guidelines of ‘pungsu‘ therefore in the shape of a lotus flower or two interlocking comma shapes. Over six centuries, the Yu clan of Pungsan has persisted through hard times and good times steadfastly maintaining a one-clan community since its very first days.
In keeping with the unexpected an elaborate entrance greeted us after a long walk from the parking lot kept well away from view so as not to spoil the rustic charm of the village. Just so there’s no misunderstanding, this is a real to goodness working and living village with farmers tending to their fields. The food stalls, souvenir shops and folk art museum are segregated away from the ‘real’ village to afford maximum privacy for the resident farming folks.