Wednesday, May 18, 2011

more thoughts from the frecciarossa

Solar energy is big in Emilia Romagna, the rich (both culturally and agriculturally) region that includes Parma, Modena, Bologna, Ravenna and Rimini. The combination of financial incentives, social concerns and abundant sunshine have spurred the widespread adoption of solar panels on both a micro and macro scale. Small-scale rooftop installations have appeared on individual farmhouses and barns, and large-scale solar farms are increasingly common. In a landscape of field crops, orchards and vineyards, photovoltaic panels are sprouting in between their photosynthetic neighbors.

My quick trip to Cesena, close to the Adriatic coast in Romagna, gives me another chance to sing the praises of Trenitalia, the state rail system. The new frecciabianca service shaves a half hour off the ride between Cesena and Bologna, where I transferred to the (even faster) frecciarossa to Florence. Not only are these trains a delight to ride (I’m typing at a table furnished with four electrical outlets, and my seat is more comfortable than anything in our house), and easy to ride (reserve a spot from your home or office, and print out the ticket at your own computer), but Trenitalia now trumpets their ecological sustainability bona fides. Ticket tell passengers how much carbon dioxide they’ve saved by taking the train (my tally today? 18kg). The calculation is a bit specious – Trenitalia subtracts the CO2 produced per passenger mile from the median of that emitted by cars and planes, even though nobody flies from Cesena to Bologna – but the idea is solid: monitoring our use of resources enables us to make better informed decisions.

We’ve passed through the low mountains separating Romagna and Tuscany, and the screen over the door says we’re just ten minutes from the next stop in this research trip, Florence. A presto.

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