“Energy is not just one thing,” Méndez said. “You have to look at the basis of the energy system — the physical aspects, social aspects, geopolitical aspects.” ...... “Governments pass and people remain.” ...... In speeches, he pushed his people to reject materialism and embrace Uruguay’s traditions of simplicity and humility. “The culture of the West is a lie,” he told me. “The engine is accumulation. But we can’t pretend that the whole world can embrace it. We would need two or three more planets.” ........ He shared his own experience in solitary confinement, and how years without books or conversation drew him closer to the fundamentals of being: nature, love, family. ......... “I learned to give value to little things in life. I kept some frogs as pets in prison and bathed them with my drinking water,” he told me. “The true revolution is a different culture: learning to live with less waste and more time to enjoy freedom.” ........ Today, Uruguay boasts one of the world’s greenest grids, powered by 98 percent renewable energy. ....... he possessed such a distracted air of intensity that I picked him out of the crowd almost immediately ....... Some bought air-conditioning units, but many kept to their formerly low-consumption habits, continuing to hang their laundry and take the bus, dozens of which in Montevideo were now electric. ........ Late for another meeting, Méndez offered me a ride, and we climbed into his car, an old Renault with a smashed left mirror. .
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