“I tried to change things but I had to recognise that it wasn’t possible,” says Petr Pavek, leaning against his adobe straw bale house. He gazes out on his property over-looking the little town of Jindřichovice pod Smrkem in the Czech Republic. In the fields below grow organic vegetables, and cows for organic beef graze in the pasture. A totem pole stands next to his pond and a composting toilet sits half finished. In the village a dog barks, and a lone car rumbles along the road.
Jindřichovice seems like any other dwindling, quiet town in rural Czech Republic. But from where Petr stands, the view is drastically different. In the distance, two wind turbines lazily turn in the evening breeze. Beyond, eight sustainable houses stand in a row. Powered by renewable energy, these green-roofed houses were built to attract young people back to the community. When they were completed, over 100 applications poured in. The community selected eight families and sold the houses at cost price.
Petr, the mayor of Jindřichovice, and his team had a vision: to develop a different future for this community. Petr’s renewable energy mission and his desire to have a sustainable, local economy was the driving force behind getting the two windmills built. Now, the profits from the windmills are recycled into the community and the money is allocated for green initiatives around the town. First up, re-naturalizing the waterways that were straightened during communist times.
Petr ventured for a time into the national political scene. Unfortunately, his ideas of sustainable, community-based development never gained traction in a government heavily influenced by fossil fuel interests, and he burned out.
“There is no way to change it. In the political way, you can’t change it, the only thing you can change is your own life”, says Petr. “And I did, I do. As a mayor, I could change the life in my small town and introduce renewable and wind energy, but more, I couldn’t do. I tried to help wind energy and renewable energies become more common in Czech Republic, but the enemies are too powerful and it is difficult to fight them.”
Petr decided that it was time to get out of politics and moved back to Jindřichovice to become an organic farmer. He is busy with a plethora of projects. Buildings sit around the property in differing states of construction. He is conducting little experiments with compost, weeds, soil and vegetables and their interaction with each other. He has planted a garden in a Native American tradition, corn and pumpkins with bean vines growing up the corn. Most of his income is derived from organic cattle and he is enjoying spending more time with his family. “I want to live an easy life, transparent in nature”, Petr sums up.
This blog post is part 5 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden. Next week meet Pat Blount, an Irish entrepreneur who has changed the face of a community and made life long friends along the way.