It’s a great win for your efforts over the last months—everyone who wrote letters, signed petitions, and turned out for the Solar Road Show as we rolled down the east coast from Unity College towing one of the Carter panels. You never know what will happen when you ask for change!
Just in time to give the Global Work Party on 10/10/10 a White House-sized boost, the Obama administration announced this morning that they are going to put solar panels on the First Family’s living quarters, returning to a tradition begun by president Jimmy Carter and abandoned by Ronald Reagan.
It’s a great win for your efforts over the last months–everyone who wrote letters, signed petitions, and turned out for the Solar Road Show as we rolled down the east coast from Unity College towing one of the Carter panels. We were disappointed that day that the White House wasn’t prepared to go solar, but very happy that they took our suggestion to look into the matter seriously.
Solar panels on one house, even this house, won’t save the climate, of course. But they’re a powerful symbol to the whole nation about where the future lies. And the president will wake up every morning and make his toast by the power of the sun (do presidents make toast?), which will be a constant reminder to be pushing the Congress for the kind of comprehensive reform we need. And remember, President Obama’s not alone: tomorrow, Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed and a crew from Sungevity will be putting solar panels on their official residence. It’s a trend!
The first account of the day’s news, from Associated Press reporter Dina Cappiello, noted the efforts of 350.org to make this happen. In particular, I’d like to salute Jean Altomare, Amanda Nelson, and Jamie Nemecek, the three young women from Unity College who made the trip and who made an impression on the White House. They remind all of us why we’ll be working hard this weekend–and why, when the day is done, we’ll be putting down the hammer or the shovel and picking up the cellphone to call our leaders. You never know what will happen when you ask for change.
It’s been just over a week since Bill and our intrepid group of Unity College students left Maine to try and bring solar back to the White House. Those of you who have been following the story already know the unsatisfactory ending: despite the signatures of more than 40,000 people and multiple offers from solar companies like Sungevity to install new panels for free, the White House refused to accept Jimmy Carter’s original panel or commit to putting a new array on the roof.
But as the saying goes, sometimes the best part of a trip is the journey, not the destination. And while our time at the White House may have been a downer, this video from Clean Skies TV shows just how much fun the road trip down to Washington was for our team and people we met along the way:
For full disclosure, we want to point out that Clean Skies TV is run by an organization largely funded by the natural gas industry. We don’t detect any bias in this piece — no mention of gas here — and are appreciative of the coverage. And we’ll let the reporter get away with the downer of ending since he definitely had the best line of any report on the panel we’ve seen so far, “You could cook a hot dog with this thing!”
For the last three days, I’ve been sitting at my kitchen table in California cranking out press releases, calling reporters, and generally playing “pit crew” for Bill and our Put Solar On It road trip. It’s been a great ride: tens of thousands of people have shown their support for putting solar back on the White House, the crew had great stops in Boston, New York, and D.C., and we managed to secure a meeting with the Administration to discuss putting solar back on the roof.
As we expected (but secretly hoped wouldn’t be the case), the White House didn’t commit to … well, anything. We tossed them a big, fat soft ball to hit out of the park and they just watched it float on by.
That’s too bad. But it’s also a great reminder of who the real leaders are. As Joe put it, if the President can’t climb up on the roof and hammer in some solar panels, clearly we need to push him up.
That’s exactly what we’re going to do on 10/10/10. There are actions all around the world where people are putting up solar panels and finding other ways to get to work on climate solutions. In the Maldives, President Nasheed will be on his roof top putting in a set of panels donated by our friends at Sungevity. In Zimbabwe, students will trek out to a rural hospital to install a solar panel there. In thousands upon thousands of communities, we’ll be showing our so-called leaders what leadership really looks like.
As for now, the Carter panel will stay in D.C., a symbol of a road not taken, yesterday and today. The fantastic Unity College crew will head back up to Maine and start classes for the semester. And Bill McKibben will head home for a few days of rest, before hitting the road again to promote 10/10/10.
And all of us? Well, personally, I’m going to go grab another cup of coffee, and then get back to work. After all, there are still a lot of rooftops — in Washington and around the world — that could use some solar.
350.org founder Bill McKibben and a team of students are walking into the White House right now to tell them to put solar on it on 10/10/10. Check out Bill’s oped in the Washington Post that lays out the case — and celebrates the work we’re all preparing for this October.
A few of us have spent the past week carefully transporting a relic of American history down the East Coast, trying to return it to the White House, where it belongs.
It’s not a painting spirited from the Lincoln Bedroom or an antique sideboard stolen from the Roosevelt Room by some long-ago servant. No, this relic comes from the somewhat more prosaic Carter roof. It’s a solar panel, one of a large array installed on top of the White House in June 1979.
When he dedicated the panels, President Jimmy Carter made a prophecy that, like many oracles, came true in unexpected fashion — in fact, nothing better illustrates both why the world is heating and why the American economy is falling behind its competitors.
“In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy,” he said. “A generation from now this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.”
– By 2000, the panels were long gone from the White House, taken down during the Reagan administration. But they were indeed still producing hot water, on the cafeteria roof of Unity College in central Maine.
– Some have indeed become museum pieces — one is at the Carter Library and another was donated this year by Unity to Huang Ming, the entrepreneur whose Himin Solar has become the world’s preeminent supplier of solar hot water. It is in the gallery at his enormous Sun-Moon Mansion complex, a few hours south of Beijing.
– The technology has indeed become part of a great and exciting adventure. Just not for the American people. Instead, by Huang’s estimate, 250 million Chinese shower with hot water from rooftop panels. There are entire cities where essentially every building heats its water with the sun. Which explains why China leads the world in installed renewable capacity.
Meanwhile, in America, the solar industry essentially vanished after Reagan stopped supporting it with federal dollars. Less than 1 percent of Americans heat their water with the sun, a number not expected to rise very quickly now that the Senate has punted on even the modest climate legislation passed by the House.
To counter this situation, we’re carrying the panel back to the White House and asking President Obama to put it back on the roof, alongside a full array of new photovoltaic and hot-water panels. Obama has drawn much of the blame for the failure of the climate legislation, which he didn’t push aggressively; this is a chance to make at least symbolic amends. Thus far, however, we have not gotten a firm response from the administration, even though other world leaders have pledged to join a¬†Global Work Party on Oct. 10 (10-10-10). Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldive Islands, for instance, will be on the roof of his official residence bolting down panels donated by the American company Sungevity.
Clearly, a solar panel on the White House roof won’t solve climate change — and we’d rather have strong presidential leadership on energy transformation. But given the political scene, this may be as good as we’ll get for the moment.
The Bush administration, in fact, created an opening — it brought solar energy back to the White House, with some photovoltaic panels on a maintenance shed and a small water heating system for the “presidential spa and cabana.” But the Bush officials purposely did it without fanfare, and fanfare is exactly what we need. Those panels belong on the roof, where every visitor can see them.
A memo in the Carter Library, written by domestic policy adviser Stuart Eizenstat in May 1978, lays out the case with prescient power: “It would provide a symbol of commitment that is understandable to all Americans, and would enable you to recapture the initiative in the solar energy area. . . . The White House experience will show, to the great number of interested but skeptical Americans, that solar energy is clean, practical, and worth the long-term investment.” He’s still right — when Michelle Obama planted a garden on the White House lawn, it helped boost seed sales 30 percent in the next year.
We wasted three decades when, across America, we could have been using the sun’s power instead of coal to heat our water. We wasted our technological lead in the most important industry of the future and handed it to countries like China. As scientists tell us with increasing fervor, we’re laying waste to the planet’s climate. Now is the moment to go back to the future.
Bill McKibben, founder of the global warming campaign 350.org, is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont and the author of “Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.”
We just got the news that Bill and the road trip team will be going to meet with White House staff tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM! They’ll be going over the Eisenhower Executive Office Building which is part of the White House complex (you can see it on a map here) to send a clear message to the Administration: it’s time to put solar on your roof and start leading the clean energy revolution.
The big question is: what will the White House say tomorrow? Will they take the chance to accept our panel and commit to put solar back on the roof? Will President Obama join President Nasheed of the Maldives in committing to hammer in some solar panels on 10/10/10 as part of the Global Work Party?
Either way, it’s clear that the real leadership will remain with us: the people. We’ve been pretty proud of our little band of solar road trippers this week who’ve made this journey down the East Coast. But it’s been just as heartening to see all of the emails, comments, and calls of support from across the country and around the world. Since we began the trip, dozens of new 10/10/10 work parties have been signed all across the globe.
Tomorrow’s meeting is possible only because of your support. Let’s keep up on the momentum. With your help we can put solar not just on it … but on everything.
Another successful day on our road trip to re-power the White House. We wrapped our drive from Boston down to New York with an event at the spectacularly cool solar education and arts facility, Solar One. Many thanks to our hosts and to everyone who turned out to sign the Carter solar panel.
The panel and our team will be in DC tomorrow. It’s been a nail biter how the trip will end: Bill and our pit crew at 350.org have been back and forth with the White House for the last two days negotiating about a meeting and a potential delivery. We’ll keep you all updated as we get more info.
For now, it’s a good night’s sleep. We’ll be up bright and early tomorrow morning to appear on Democracy Now! Even the panel is going to be on the show, after all, it’s the real star of this trip.
Time to take it home where it belongs: the White House.
Check out this update from Bill McKibben that just went to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Momentum is building by the hour to put solar back on the White House.
Well, I’m getting to work a few weeks ahead of 10-10-10, and wanted to send along the story to get you fired up for the big day.
I’m trying to type this as the biodiesel van I’m sitting in bumps down the highway in rural Maine. We left tiny Unity College yesterday morning, bound for the White House with stops in Boston and New York — and we’re carrying a piece of history with us.
It’s one of the solar panels that President Jimmy Carter installed on the roof of the White House in 1979, 31 long years ago. Here’s what Carter said that day: “A generation from now this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.”
Sadly, the panels were taken down a few years later in the Reagan administration. Not because they stopped working — but because we stopped thinking carefully about the future. The folks at Unity College salvaged them from a government warehouse and put them on the roof of the cafeteria, where they still work fine.
But now they’ve agreed to donate one back to the White House, in the hope that it will spur Obama to pick up where Carter left off.
Our great hope, of course, is that on 10-10-10 President Obama will be up there on the roof, helping to put the panels in place. Our friends at the solar company Sungevity have even offered to donate¬†a massive, brand new solar arrayfor free. (Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives, has already taken them up on the offer — he’ll be up on his roof on 10-10-10 hammering in a new set of panels).
But so far, there’s no definitive answer from the White House. They say they’re “interested,” but that it’s “complicated.”
Here’s how you can tip the balance: in the next 24 hours, we’re going to get back on the phone with the White House and work to convince them to commit to taking action on 10-10-10. It would greatly strengthen our hand to say that hundreds of people have registered new work parties since we last called.
Can you help by¬†registering an event in your community or forwarding this email to friends encouraging them to Get to Work on 10/10/10?
We had a great set of events in Boston for the Put Solar On It road trip and Bill McKibben and the team are now on their way down the East Coast to NYC. We’re looking forward to building on our momentum in the Big Apple: tonight there will be a fun event at Solar One, an solar-powered green arts and education space in Manhattan.
Bill’s going to be on Democracy Now! tomorrow morning with the panel, so make sure to tune in. More stories are coming out by the hour about the trip and we’re making headway with setting up some exciting events in DC when the team arrives tomorrow afternoon.
All in all, the trip is succeeding: with every mile our team travels and every signature we collect (both here on the website and on the panel), the more likely it’s becoming that we’ll get a good commitment out of the White House. Either way, the message is being heard loud and clear: it’s time to put solar on it!
Climb up on your house (safely) and hold up a sign that says "Put Solar on it!" (or hold the sign above your bicycle, desk, or even your cat.) Email your photos as attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll add them to the photo petition!
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Organize for a Solar & Clean Energy Revolution
Join us on 10/10/10, when thousands of communities will join together to show the world what solutions to the climate crisis look like -- and call on our leaders to unleash them. Learn more & sign-up here: www.350.org/1010
Featured Partner: Sungevity
Our partners at Sungevity have offered to donate a solar array to the White House--you can learn more about their work and check out an interactive tour of the proposed White House solar panels here.