Two weeks ago, writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben made a big show of driving a bio diesel van to the White House. His cargo? A solar panel plucked from the roof of the White House in 1986.
It might surprise you the White House ever had solar panels, but indeed it did, in the Jimmy Carter era, back in the ‘70s when many people were concerned with energy efficiency, overpopulation and global warming.
The Greed Party took over — first in the form of the Republican Party, who removed the solar panels from the White House roof, then Democrats, then, Republicans again, until we couldn’t tell anyone from anybody else.
Obama, we thought, would be different. The era of sacrifice could begin again; a time when people thought about their neighbors — not just themselves.
But instead of seizing this yes-we-can moment, Obama declined, and through his spokespeople told McKibben they were taking a deliberative process to assess the situation.
McKibben told reporters afterward: “I told them it would be nice to deliberate as fast as possible, since that is the rate at which the planet's climate is deteriorating."
Obama’s refusal to take the solar panel sent McKibben away and with it the hopes and dreams of the greenies — like myself — who had so much of the h-word associated with Obama’s victory.
Michelle got her garden, why couldn’t we get a solar panel? To be clear, McKibben wasn’t expecting Obama to put that solar panel on the roof of the White House. Sungivity, a California-based company, had offered to provide the latest solar technology. The answer, though, was no.
All right, we know what Obama is up against, and we also know that the EPA, under Lisa Jackson’s tenure, has begun to enforce the Clean Air Act and transcend our gridlocked political system, but all that feels like too little too late.
Whether we like it or not, here, on the cusp of the fucking apocalypse, everything becomes a symbol that could potentially sway public opinion toward action.
A solar panel, refused by the president, might defuse a movement. A solar panel, accepted by the president, might galvanize one.
For those of us paying attention to our quickly-deteriorating habitat, this little solar panel looms large, a symbol in the wings, waiting to take flight.
Jim Poyser watches it all fall apart each day on www.apocadocs.com.