Boston Joins Call to Put Solar On It

Posted on behalf of  Caroline Wooten, student leader with Students for a Just and Stable Future.

Massachusetts wants solar panels on the White House and a clean energy future. This was the message sent by the more than 200 individuals who crowded into Boston’s historic Old South Church on Tuesday night to show their support for 350.org’s Solar Road Trip.

The back story: In 1979, Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the White House. In 1986, Ronald Regan removed them. Years later, the White House panels were rescued from a government warehouse and installed on the roof of the dining hall at Unity College in Maine.  Now, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, a group of students from Unity College, and one of President Carter’s panels are traveling in a biodiesel van from Unity, Maine to Washington D.C, where the group will pressure President Barak Obama to reinstall solar panels on the White House. For the past few months, 350.org has been circulating an online petition asking political leaders from around the world to install solar panels on their homes as part of the organization’s Global Work Party on 10/10/10. The petition to the politicians states, “Install solar panels on your roof, and then enact legislation to make it possible for everyone in your country to join you in the clean energy future. We need you to act symbolically—and then we need you to act for real.”

During the Road Trip’s stay in Boston, the reality of the growing climate movement was palpable.  The event at the Old South Church was high in energy. Before the event, attendees enjoyed live music played by the environmentally themed rock band Meolodeego, and joined together to sing “Three Five Oh” with the Rev. Fred Small. Later, they cheered on speakers from local, national, and international organizations, including Interfaith Power and Light, the JP Green House, Students for a Just and Stable Future, Second Nature, Unity College, and 350.org. Attendees signed their names and wrote messages to the president on the sheet of plastic protecting the solar panel. The evening ended with the American premier of the film A Road Not Taken, which documents the strange tale of Carter’s solar panels.

The next morning the road trip crew convened at the Park Street School (more specifically, on the school’s roof), for a photo-op with the school’s solar panels, faculty from the school, and Massachusetts leaders, including Congressional Candidate  Mac D’Alessandro (MA-9), Chief of Environment and Energy for the City of Boston Jim Hunt, and City Year founder Alan Khazei.

The message is clear from Boston: students, parents, churches, schools, and politicians are getting to work in Massachusetts, and they want President Obama to do the same in Washington.

When President Carter first installed the panels, he declared, “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.” Until recently, these panels seemed to have fallen into the most dismal of these categories, “a road not taken.” However, as the climate movement grows, new meaning evolves. A generation later, President Carter’s panels are now a call to action. We’ve heard it. We hope President Obama does too. He’s certainly going to hear us.

How can you help to get solar on the White House? Here’s what McKibben has to say:  “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.” Register an event and tell your friends to do the same (http://www.350.org/oct10). Make your voice heard.


About Craig


Craig Altemose is the founder and Executive Director of Better Future Project, which engages in movement-building to make communities more resilient and to accelerate a rapid and responsible transition away from fossil fuels. Currently, he serves on the Massachusetts Green Economy and Climate Protection Advisory Committee and on the board of the Mass Climate Action Network. Craig founded and led Students for a Just and Stable Future (MA's state network). He has previously served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Co-Chair of the National Association of Environmental Law Societies, worked with Energy Action as an intern and a fellow, and served on the Executive Committee of the Sierra Student Coalition, a group he remains active with. Craig helped plan Power Shift 2007, and was the Lead Organizer of the Massachusetts Power Shift conference in April, 2008. He holds a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School, a Master in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. in International Relations and Global Affairs from Eckerd College.

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