Just in time to give the Global Work Party 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.
350.org founder Bill McKibben urged President Obama to install his new set of solar panels back on September 10 as part of 350.org's 10/10/10 Global Work Party, a day when millions of people across the planet will be getting to work on climate solutions.
"The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons: they listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future," said McKibben. "If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world. Obama's not the only world leader taking the challenge. Tomorrow Maldivian president Mohammed Nasheed will install panels on his official residence, and on Sunday 7000 communities around the world will engage in similar projects."
When he dedicated the original set of panels in 1979, President Carter stated:
"In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy. 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 the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people."
In 1986, President Reagan removed the panels and let subsidies for renewable energy expire. A number of the panels were donated to Unity College in the 1990s.
Over 40,000 people signed a letter urging President Obama to install a new set of panels at the campaign's PutSolarOn.It website. The site provided live updates from the road and a chance for the public to interact with the road trip participants.
The website is here: http://PutSolarOn.It/roadtrip