Ursula Sladek, photo courtesy EWS

This month’s issue of Resurgence Magazine features The Reluctant Rebels, an article I wrote based on my visit last summer with 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner Ursula Sladek in the small town of Schönau in the Black Forest region of Germany. It’s quite a remarkable story of a small community taking matters into their own hands, and you can read the whole piece here, but if there’s one moment in their journey that not only goes to the root of many of the ecological problems the planet and its inhabitants face but offers a textbook example of what motivates a determined activist, it’s this one:

As it turned out, the Schönau energy rebels would need all that energy in overcoming their next, more formidable obstacle. “We went to KWR, the power company that was operating the local grid, and asked them whether they’d like to join our conservation efforts,” Ursula recalls. “We just wanted to add a few energy-saving measures, like rates based on consumption, and incentives for more cogeneration units, but they said, ‘Conserve energy? Have you lost your mind? We want to sell energy, not save it!’”

Here’s the Goldman Prize video in which Ursula describes the transformation from a group of concerned parents into a non-profit energy cooperative that provides power from over 1,800 solar, hydroelectric, wind, biomass and cogeneration facilities to 115,000 homes and businesses throughout the country:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz4XpBkR7tM]

Also, Ode Magazine ran an article last month based on my visit with Peter Hasenbrink, pastor of the Schönau Lutheran church that became a legend when it covered its church roof in solar panels, calling them “Creation Windows” that provide “heavenly energy.”

Pastor Peter Hasenbrink in front of Bergkirche in Schönau

I’ll be writing more about Schönau and its cast of energy rebels in the coming months, but for now some visual impressions of this giant little town from my trip this summer…

Schönau - Solar Capital of Germany

Walking to church...

View from above

EWS Energy Coperative Headquarters

"Southern Power - Electricity from Schönau"

Ursula Sladek in front of one of EWS' transformer stations

solar-powered mountain

Community-owned windmill

Hydro-powered brush factory

Greetings from Schönau!