I had the good fortune to be invited to present a key note talk at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona this November. I was flown from Australia to Spain to give a 12 minute presentation on sustainability. This irony was not lost on me but I have never been to Spain and I figured the marginal carbon footprint of adding me to a flight going from Adelaide to Dubai on to Barcelona was well worth a chance to visit my sister in Barcelona. My talk was titled: Alone in the Void: Some speculations as to the nature of future observations of the Dark Side of the Earth. (Click here for the powerpoint).
Porta Fira Hotel
I stayed in a wonderful hotel across the street from the Fira Barcelona conference center which was east of the airport and west of the seaport of the city of Barcelona. The cabs of Barcelona were clean, affordable, honest, and efficient. The Smart City Expo World Congress was a new kind of gig for me. There were Mayors from cities all around the world (mostly from the EU but I met the mayor of Kansas City Missori here). There were also lots of entrepreneurs trying to make a buck selling smart garbagbe trucks, electric cars, smart grid technology, etc.. One of the journals they handed to me as I arrived was a special issue with this title: “Fighting Crime and Congestion with Technology”. Then I walked into the showroom floor and saw the scary robots and I started to get a little uncomfortable.
Dumb Robots …..
And Smart Cars
I really felt like a jet setter because after the conference I hopped into a cab and went downtown to a Hotel in ‘Plaza de Catalunya’ and met my sister and her new Beau (Dennis). I chatted with the cab drivers during my whole trip. Many had sons and daughters that could not find a job and either migrated to Finland to work for engineering companies there or moved back in with Grandma in the country to learn how to grow food. There were big strikes and protests going on while I was in Barcelona. The unemployment for 20-somethings is astronomical here (many claim it is over 50% unemployment for people in their 20′s). The cab drivers and others on the street tell me the economy is terrible and that it is not the kids fault. In contrast, most of the people I talked to at the Smart City Expo blamed it on the laziness of the students and the socialist state. I met a cab driver who had a degree in chemical engineering who said driving a cab was the best job he could find and he was probably going to move to Germany to make better money. All the whinging about laziness and the socialist state sounded like bullshit to me. In my opinion we have a serious financial crisis that has to do with lazy bankers who have made a fortune doing nothing productive for it and now they are sitting on all the money. This sentiment was shared by most of the people I spoke with on the street yet many of them still blamed the government for many of their problems. They were very cynical about the whole situation. Here in Barcelona 9 out of 10 people I spoke with wanted the state of Catalonia to secede from Spain. Barcelona is the second largest metro area in Spain and the people felt they would be economically better off on their own. A referendum was coming up on this very issue and most people were pretty sure it would pass but that Spain would not let them go. They percieve Calalonia as a goose that lays golden eggs for Spain. Their attitude about politics is well summarized by the photos below.
- “Place Your Votes Here” cynicism?
“Stop Fascism” Anti-Austerity Graffitti
Karin and Dennis and I visited Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, Le Pedrera, and Guell House and Park. We also went to the Palau Musica which was brilliant. Gaudi was absolutely brilliant. When you wander about in the Sagrada Familia you wonder how many people have the capacity to envision something this complex, beautiful, spectacular and simply brilliant. How many of them are recognized and allowed to manifest their ideas? How many geniuses are there out there that never get a patron to fund the development of their genius? It is very humbling. As I say in the title: Seeing the work of Gaudi or Miro or Picasso or Leonardo Da Vinci just makes me feel like I have accomplished nothing with my life. C’est la vie.
3-D Stained Glass ‘Sun’ hanging over roof of Palau de Musica
I wandered down Barcelona’s most famous street: Las Ramblas. What a hoot. Very fun open street with lots of goofy street theater, shops, tourists, and general mayhem.
Human Statue #1
Human Statue #2 Las Ramblas
It was good to see Karin and Dennis in Barcelona. We had a great time doing Cafe Culture and checking out architecture and museums. I think I could do “independently wealthy’ as a lifestyle but alas, it was back to the salt mines in Adelaide, Australia.
Karin and Dennis outside Picasso Museum
And boy did Emirates Air make me pay. I had to fly from Barcelona to Dubai, Dubai to Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, and Melbourne to Adelaide. Of course, on the flight from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur I had the misfortune (and that is putting it mildly) of sitting next to a Jabba The Hut entity that was aromatic, large, and oozing into 30% of the seats on either side. The tattoos vaguely suggested that this globular cluster was female but I still am not sure. The 32 hour return flight is something I hope I can forget like women forget the pain of childbirth. I’m still recovering. Next up – Green Infrastructure, Permaculture, and the Food Forest.