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College Kids From Maine Go To Washington With Solar Panel, Find Large Enthusiasm Gap Instead

The White House seems to have decided that solar panels on the roof would be ammo for Fox News: an association with Jimmy Carter that's the electoral equivalent of cooties.

It’s true that my hometown didn’t find itself underwater this summer like certain  cities in Pakistan, a country which experienced flooding of a kind unknown in its history, nor was mine, like Moscow, enveloped in a  pall of choking smoke from out of control wildfires, thanks to a  heat wave the likes of which hadn’t previously been seen in Russia.  In my city, there were no massive wildfires, no  Xtreme hurricanes, and no unprecedented global warming-ish visual spectaculars like the calving off of a nearly 100-square mile iceberg in Greenland,  four times the size of my town and the likes of which had not been seen in the Arctic for half a century.  No, in New York City, it was merely, grindingly, ploddingly, the  hottest summer (June through August) on record.  Period.

Oh, and p.s.: just to put that in context, January through June 2010 represented the  hottest six months on record for the planet, and barring a total surprise, 2010 will be the  hottest year on record following the  hottest decade on record.

And p.p.s.: check out  this list of Republican climate-change deniers battling for Senate seats, all of whom are ready to take the pose of cartoon ostriches and many of whom may -- heads in the sand and butts up -- actually take their places in the next Senate.  Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute  suggested that Xtreme weather events should be named for these guys (just as we now name hurricanes for generic human beings).  The fact is, though, that such denial -- and so lack of action -- goes way beyond the official deniers which is why, I suspect, future generations will look back on much of the global leadership class as a criminal crew, not just for what they actively did in the world, including the requisite wars and other nightmares they were involved in, but for what they didn’t do, for looking the other way when our planet was in real trouble.  We’re talking about the sorts of people who, on hearing the first cries of “fire” in a crowded movie theater, buy another bag of popcorn and search for a better seat.

Bill McKibben, the creator of  350.org as well as the author of the indispensable book  Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, is made of different stuff, as those who have read his  regular dispatches at this site know.  He’s also the Energizer Bunny of climate change averters.  He never seems to stop.   Tom

My Road Trip With a Solar Rock Star 
Or Notes on the Enthusiasm Gap

By Bill McKibben

I got to see the now-famous enthusiasm gap up close and personal last week, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

The backstory: I help run a global warming campaign called 350.org.  In mid-summer, we decided to organize an effort to ask world leaders to put solar panels on the roofs of their residences. It was to be part of the lead-up to a gigantic Global Work Party on October 10th (10-10-10), and a way to give prime ministers and politburos something easy to do in the hope of getting the fight against global warming slowly back on track. One of those crucial leaders is, of course, Barack Obama, who stood by with his arms folded this summer while the Senate punted on climate-change legislation.  We thought this might be a good way for him to signal that he was still committed to change, even though he hadn’t managed to pass new laws.

And so we tracked down the solar panels that once had graced the White House roof, way back in the 1970s under Jimmy Carter. After Ronald Reagan took them down, they’d spent the last few decades on the cafeteria roof at Unity College in rural Maine.  That college’s president, Mitch Thomashow, immediately offered us a panel to take back to the White House. Better still, he encouraged three of his students to accompany the panel, not to mention allowing the college’s sustainability coordinators to help manage the trip.

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