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  • Nora Koch

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

Change is coming to my old neighborhood. The largest solar power array in Wisconsin will go into the neighborhood where my parents settled for thirty years after we left the dairy farm of my childhood. We lived there while I attended High School. I feel the grief I'd feel if a housing development was planned for the area, or a factory farm. The solar array overwhelms far more of the countryside than those possibilities.

The developers forecast a lifespan of forty years for the array. We are assured that natural plantings will preserve the soil and deter run-off (which they probably will), that grazing may be a possibility (hope so, but doubt it), and that the land can be returned to agriculture after the solar array has fulfilled its purpose, which is to provide low-cost energy (a little bit of investigation will show you that it is not low cost), to Western Wisconsin and contribute to the economic growth of the area. The panels will stand as tall as full-grown corn. I’m not a fan of cornfields, but the solar panels will not follow the topography of the landscape nearly as organically as the corn now does. The thought of the visual intrusion on the countryside of big square photovoltaics leaves me cold. What affect will they have on wildlife such as amphibians, birds, and anything else? They are ugly; jarring in a bucolic setting. The same can be said for wind turbines. Neither of these forms of energy production are reliable or cost effective. Please watch this: The great Texas freeze

The look of the landscape will be drastically changed for a long time. It will be filled with mechanical panels, impregnated with chemicals, some of them dangerous, such as gallium arsenide (GaAs), not plants. Years ago, as an Art major at UWRF, I was required to take Great Ideas in Science with Virginia Akins*, in addition to regular science requirements, to fulfill a well-rounded liberal arts education. Ironically, although I wouldn’t have elected to take it, it turned out to be one of my favorite classes. I loved Dr. Akins as a teacher; she was funny and intelligent and intense. In her class we covered pollution of various sorts; one variety of which visual pollution, was most compelling to me. This solar array falls in that category.

Dostoyevsky wrote that the world would be saved by beauty. What effect will the sight of the solar array have on the people who live in the neighborhood? I recall the dismay expressed in an interview by a woman who’s neighborhood had become the site of a fracking operation. Her once peaceful area was now the scene of blasting with countless trucks hauling sand going by. No more peace and quiet for her. She breathed the same air, albeit a bit dustier; the water she drank was probably not sullied, but her life was diminished by what was going on around her. The lives of those living in the neighborhood, looking out on a solar array will be diminished aesthetically, probably chemically and dare I say spiritually.

The life span of photovoltaics is 20 years. There are risks that come with it: Will it be maintained? Will it be cleaned up; where will the scrap go? There in the land of the deplorables?

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  • Nora Koch

Updated: May 30, 2021

Beata and me in the cave, Hannibal, MO. She, her husband Jim and I took a road trip down from Iowa City and Read Tom Sawyer on the way down; she had never heard of the book.

Beata and me in the cave, Hannibal, MO. She, her husband Jim and I took a road trip from Iowa City and read Tom Sawyer on the way down; she had never heard of the book.

Beata was a co-worker I helped train, along with Brett when I worked as Assistant Registrar at the University of Iowa Museum of Art. She, young Brett, and I were like the three musketeers, sometimes like the three stooges, and became fast friends as we proceeded around the Museum doing our job. They were both at least 10 years younger than me, but it didn’t matter.

She would say to me in her beautiful Polish accent “Its pronounced Beata, like the Beatitudes.” Only her pronunciation of beatitudes and that of Americans was vastly different. I practiced saying her name until I got close to pronouncing it the way she did: Beh-AH-tah. I loved hearing her tales of growing up.

She told of Soviet tanks rolling down the streets of Cracow where she and her parents lived in an apartment that they eventually left in the 1970s to escape communist Poland. When her Father left Poland to work in France, Beata and her mother were held as State captives until he returned. Eventually a friend of the family, who worked for the communist government arranged for them to leave the country to join her father. They packed their suitcases as if they were leaving for a weekend, left her beloved dog behind to make it convincing, then she and her mother got on a plane ostensibly to visit her father, never to return (or at least not until communism had lost its grip on Poland). Her father, Stefan Niedziałkowski,, was working with Marcell Marceauu a celebrated French mime who was a regular on the Ed Sullivan Show – the same venue that helped make the Beatles famous.

Beata related to me that they were unsure until they actually touched down in France if they would end up there or in Siberia.

I met Beata’s parents in 1991 after the Berlin Wall came down. They were again living in Poland, but came back to the US for the summer to make money any way they could. Her Father worked de-tasseling corn in the fields of Iowa and her Mother worked at Walgreens. They lived with Beata, her husband, Jim, and their little silky terrier Ami in a small apartment.

When I consider socialism and communism, it is not from somewhere in my imagination, I have a real person with real experiences to recall. Beata always said “In Poland. . . . ,” and then recounted something brilliant about her country, particularly about the Catholic Church there. I had grown up hearing Polack jokes, now I’d met real ones and was edified.

Poland is one of the most civilized countries in the world. I look to them for wisdom and today I found it once again. According to Deputy Minister of Justice Sebastian Kaleta, Poland has decided to fine big Tech companies large amounts ($13.5 Million), if they dare to censor free speech:

“Advancing the new legislation, Kaleta noted that Poland has spent 45 years under communism—an experience he said has taught it the value of free speech and the need to know when to draw a line amid disturbing new trends toward censorship. . . . We are now increasingly faced with practices we believed were left in the past. The censoring of free speech, once the domain of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, is now back, but in a new form, run by corporations, who silence those who think differently.”

Epoch Times:

I am glad to have met Beta and her family; feel privileged to have done so. They opened my eyes. Uh oh, I feel privileged . . . does that mean I have to confess that to the thought police?

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  • Nora Koch

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Instead of having a variety of history classes from 1964 through 1968, because we moved from the farm in 1965, it happened that in four of the five separate schools I attended we studied South America. I did not have European History, World History or US history. When we landed in Spring Valley the Six Days war had just taken place in Israel. I ate up the current events we studied and was subsequently intrigued by history of WWII in Europe, I was fascinated, both because it was something different than South America, but also because it related to me as a German, albeit, American. I felt responsible somehow for the holocaust, which led to the creation of Israel. It haunted me and I read numerous books, among them novels: Mila 18, and Exodus by Leon Uris to understand what had happened.

Later in life, through a Palestinian man, I gained perspective about Israel from a different point of view.

Over the years I have made it my business to educate myself about the history I missed. I realize I am speaking primarily about European history, but that is my background. Much of the knowledge I gained was from Art History classes, and by reading the Story of Christianity by Justo L. González a Cuban-American Methodist historian and theologian. Though not intentional, my haphazard approach circumvented much of the history of war.

Last year I read the abridged version of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, and multi-award winning Bloodlands by Yale historian, Timothy Snyder to understand the scope of atrocities before and after WWII in Europe. I’ve read War and Peace by Tolstoy, and Les Misérables by Hugo. This past spring, I listened to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I don’t understand why being called an Uncle Tom is considered a disgrace; he was a noble man. I learned about Emit Till from my friend and co-worker, with whom I believed I could discuss anything. I finally took a systematic on-line class of American History, free through Hillsdale college. Though it was a survey class, it filled many holes in my knowledge and helped me understand our country better. It helps me understand why we are where we are right now. I want to understand the world I live in. I intend to keep learning until I die.

One thing I have learned in all this is that we are all capable of the vilest of atrocities. We are all responsible for what we do as individuals. Ignorance is not an excuse.

Gulag Archipelago

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either - but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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