10/10/10: Reset for Fighting Climate Change

What’s become clear is that the fossil fuel industry, the most profitable enterprise known to man, defeated the Senate’s watered-down climate change legislation this summer without even breaking a sweat. And given how hot the summer was in many parts of the world, that’s saying quite a bit. Are we angry enough yet?

On October 10, 2010 (10/10/10), the international organization <a href=http://www.350.org>350.org</a> is leading a Global Work Party to reverse climate change with the motto “Let’s Get To Work.” Leading the effort, 350.org is right now delivering a Carter era solar panel – shown on the first leg of its journey in the picture - back to the White House where President Carter had it installed to provide hot water and reduce energy consumption. As Bill McKibben reported:

“The story is painful even to consider. This panel went up on the White House roof in 1979, with then-president Jimmy Carter (in a wide tie, and with a bushy haircut) promising that it would still be there in the year 2000, producing hot water from the sun for whoever was then president. In fact, it didn’t make it through the next decade—it came down in the Reagan years, a symbol of our decision to turn away from the idea of limits and veer sharply down the path we’ve trod ever since.”

Meanwhile, around the world other nations took the technology and went to work. Germany and Japan took over the lead in photovoltaic panels, but solar thermal technology like this became the special province of the Chinese. Adding insult to injury, Huang Ming, China’s leading solar entrepreneur, who’s firm has put up 60 million such systems across China, keeps one of the Carter panels in his private museum.

“But not everyone in the US went along when Reagan took the panels down. Folks at Unity College in Maine salvaged the panels, and put them up on the cafeteria, where they continued to produce hot water for the next three decades.”

That is the panel now making its way (in a biodiesel caravan) to the White House for re-installation on October 10. So far, if you can believe it, no one’s heard from the White House about whether or not they will accept the gift! Which is pretty surprising. I mean, the Senate cannot filibuster the White House roof. But, be that as it may, the solar panel’s just the symbol.

Local communities and organizations are planning Work Parties around the world to install renewable energy systems, dig gardens, insulate homes, and just about every other climate saving action you might think of. (Find a work party near you at <a href=http://www.350.org>350.org</a>.) The message being that if WE can get to work, so can our legislators.

You need to help make this action a success. It’s a wonder that as the fossil fuel industry rakes in profits by destroying the climate, while the Senate sits and dithers over ineffectual legislation, while our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ future are taken away from them, that we don’t see a revolution, or at least a movement, of some sort erupting. Unless and until voices, angry voices, are heard in the corridors of power, we will remain lambs being led to slaughter. As McKibben wrote:

“Some of that movement will go on at the local level, as we transform cities and towns and show what can be done. Some will be done on college campuses like Unity College, or Middlebury where I teach, which are showing the way forward. Some of it will be done in jails—I’d be very surprised if civil disobedience doesn’t become a bigger part of this battle in the years ahead, if only because it’s the tool we use to show our society how urgent, morally and practically, this crisis really is.”

Paul Birkeland lives in Seattle, WA, US, and develops Strategic Energy Management Systems for government, commercial, and industrial organizations through Integrated Renewable Energy.

Photo: Mark Tardif