Just a few days ago, we were arriving in Nottingham. Today, we are in York. Tomorrow, we leave for Manchester. Our time in the United Kingdom has been a whirlwind filled with a variety of meetings, bus travel, and continued memory making.
When we arrived in Nottingham, we were treated with a chili dinner provided by the group of Luther College students spending the year abroad studying at the Univeristy of Nottingham! Many of us have close friends from the program, and it was truly a wonderful time getting to reconnect with them. When we weren't in class acitivies, the Nottingham students showed us some of their favorite places around the city. It was great being able to be with these students that we wouldn't have seen until next school year.
Thursday was one of our busiest of the trip. We trailed Professor Jim Martin-Schramm as he set a brisk pace to our meeting at Nottingham Trent University. Our professors have done an excellent job keeping us punctual, and the trip has been smooth even at the busiest of times. Our meeting was with representatives from the Nottingham City Council. Nottingham is leading Europe with inovative methods to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions and improve efficency. They have invested in improving heating in homes, they use an incinerator to turn waste into energy, and there is a fleet of 100% electrically powered busses servicing the city. After a quick lunch, we went to visit the bus depot for the electrically powered busses. The buses could hardly be heard! It would be amazing if one day all buses were electric, but it will take some time to get there.
We gathered again in the evening after dinner for a presentation, this time from former Member of Parliment Alan Simpson. He shared with us about how to remain actively involved in supporting and pushing enviornmentally friendly policies during politically challenging times. His passion for change was motivating to all of us as both the United States and the U.K. approach significant shifts in their political agendas.
Saturday was a free day! The group was able to utilize the morning by sleeping in, going on long runs, or doing whatever they wished around downtown Nottingham. We were given the opportunity to go to a Nottingham Forest football (soccer) match, and the whole class capitalized on it. The Forest are a Championship team, meaning they are a second tier football club. While the game remained 0-0 for the majority, a goal in the second half secured a 1-0 victory for Nottingham against Bristol City! It was great seeing how invested fans were to their team. After the last two days had been full of information on energy policy and regional change, it was nice to be free to enjoy the evening in this lively city.
150 Meters Underground
On Sunday, we left Nottingham for York. Along the way, we stopped and toured the National Coal Mining Musuem. Many argue that the United Kingdom rose through power through coal, and it was facinating getting to experience this important part of their history firsthand. The tour took us 150 meters underground into a former coal mine that closed in the 1980s. It has been maintained to give visitors a real feel as to what life in the mine felt like over generations. Our tour guides were both former coal mine workers, and they remain passionate about the industry. I believe it was important for us to experience this, because it provides another side of the story to energy development in Europe.
Today we visited Drax Power Station, one of the largest plants in the U.K. It is powered by coal and biomass, organic matter used as fuel. This massive facility showed us just how much goes into providing energy for millions of people every day of the year. Many of us were left with thoughts about the transition the U.K. is taking away from coal and whether or not biomass is a viable resource to rely on as an alternative. We will continue to grapple with this moving forward in the final few days. The group is starting to wear down as we have spent much time traveling by bus, writing our papers, and taking in loads of information, but I believe we all have just enough left in the tank to enjoy Manchester!
With only a couple days left, we are all going to make the most of our time in Europe before heading back Thursday with new thoughts and stories to share. Cheers!