Critics Complain About ‘Ugly’ Solar Panels Powering Lights on Christmas Tree in Rome
The traditional Christmas tree placed in the Piazza Venezia of Rome has sparked some controversy this year. The tree’s lights are being powered by two solar panels positioned nearby, but some critics are saying the solar panels are ugly.
“There are other methods to light the tree with clean energy without placing two panels there which are objectively ugly,” Linda Meleo, a former Rome councilor with the Five Star Movement, told The Guardian.
Art critic and undersecretary at the culture ministry Vittorio Sgarbi told The Guardian the panels were an example of “bogus environmentalism” and “an idea à la Greta Thunberg,” and that they shouldn’t be placed in such an important and historic square.
The solar panel installation is part of a collaboration between Rome and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in an effort to promote and educate sustainable actions in the community. This year is the first time the traditional Christmas tree of the city’s historic center has been powered with solar energy.
FAO estimates that using solar panels to power the tree’s lights will save about 17.55 kg of carbon emissions per day, or about 526 kg of carbon emissions for the entire time that the tree is lit.
“This is intended to strongly promote a culture of sustainability, also taking into account the delicate moment linked to the war in Ukraine,” Roberto Gualtieri, mayor of Rome, said. “The tree will consume 5.5 kilowatt hours which, instead of coming from the grid, will be self-produced by the photovoltaic system.”
In addition to the solar panel project, FAO, Rome and Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation are asking locals and tourists to help vulnerable communities impacted by increasing costs for energy, food, and other goods.
“This holiday season, we are calling on all people living in Rome and beyond to join us and unite in solidarity, and with passion, as a community to help build a peaceful and sustainable world where no one is left behind,” FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said in a statement.
As an added course of action for those who visit the tree, there are gift boxes at the base with scannable QR codes. When scanned, a “Christmas in Rome” web app comes up on the smartphone and offers lifestyle tips that align with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, plus tips on sustainable tourists for those visiting Rome.
“Here adults and children can find concrete actions to avoid waste, respect the planet and achieve sustainability including during traditional festive season meals, and in the exchange of gifts in solidarity with those who are less fortunate,” FAO explained. ”It also stresses the need for peace and dialogue.”
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