Solar power has never been my thing, but I was just incredibly inspired by a film I saw about solar—not just as a potential source of energy, but as a source of energy that seems uniquely inline with democracy and American principles of individualism.
Before I talk about it a little, did you know you can volunteer at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, and do things like help feed baby birds, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and fox? Oh my god.
So solar. It’s history is fascinating, and it’s growth right now is explosive. Solar jobs in the U.S. already outnumber coal jobs 4 to 1, and it’s one of the fastest growing industries in the country. Like most cool shit, it got its start at NASA, because there are no electrical outlets in space. We pushed the technology as a country during the space race with the USSR. Like JFK said at the time in his famous moon speech,
Except then we didn’t. We went the easy route, and solar died because people thought it was wimpy to use energy from the sun. Jimmy Carter put them on the White House after the oil embargo of 1979 scared the shit out of every American, saying “No one can ever embargo the sun.” He set a goal of 20% renewable energy by 2000 in the U.S. That didn’t happen, because Reagan. The attitude was “a superpower does not use solar.” He took those panels down as soon as he hit office, and funding for solar set like the sun on the arctic in winter.
Think of it: we’ve had solar energy since 1954. It powers the most advanced technology we have. But we don’t have much here in the USA because industries like oil and coal have actively lobbied against it—developing solar is and has always been a problem of political will and of breaking the influence held by oil and coal for more than a century. They’ve convinced us that to be a “manly” energy, things need to either explode or burn. Sunshine is for sissies. Except solar is a distributed power, with each house its own power plant. Take that away, and who can charge you for it? No one. Thus, the resistance.
What a bunch of shit they’ve sold us
This film I saw, “Catching the Sun,” talked about all this, with real people working in solar today. Solar is back in a big way, and it’s changing communities and lives for the better.
The film talked about the community of Richmond, Calif, home of a massive Chevron oil refinery that has had numerous fires in its history. The latest, in 2012, sent 15,000 people to the hospital with breathing problems.
It’s also a place with a bad economy, and solar is bringing back jobs to people in the inner city. I highly recommend watching it.
The last message came from a guy talking about what you can do if you want renewable—even with a federal gov’t that has dragged its feet for decades now. He said,
“Don’t buy a Prius, for the love of God—go to a city council meeting.”
So do that. Policy changes at the local level, in our neighborhoods and communities, just like solar.