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Solar Back on the White House

Solar panels white house

Few groups do activism as well or as effectively these days as the folks behind 350.org. By galvanizing the movement to regulate carbon around a single, symbolic number -- 350 (most scientists not working for oil companies believe in order to stabilize climate change we need to reach a concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere that's no more than 350 parts-per-million) -- the group managed to not only present a strong and unified front at the global climate summit in Copenhagen, but also to turn scientific abstraction into a symbol for action.

In the lead-up to their next big number-centered event, 10-10-10, Bill McKibben and team have pulled off another major success: convincing the Obama Administration to put solar panels back on the White House. Jimmy Carter first had the idea back in the 1970s, and one of the first things Regan did in office was pull them off.

While it's great news that the White House will be solar-powered once again, I can't help but think how sad it is that we're celebrating a victory that was supposedly won nearly 40 years ago. The gesture is commendable, but it also highlights the need to get to a place where legislation that protects public and environmental health doesn't shift depending on which political party is in the White House.

On that note, Alexis Madrigal's riff on the Atlantic blog this morning, about George W. Bush's solar electric system, is fascinating. In fact, Madrigal points out, Bush Jr. installed a system in 2003. And before him, Republicans have been responsible for the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts (Nixon), and for backing the country's national parks system (Teddy Roosevelt). Which begs the question: What can the people do to ensure that we back such moves, regardless of our political affiliations? Were we to applaud such progress no matter who's behind it, perhaps politicians would feel more comfortable making them.

 

Amy Westervelt, Journalist
The former Managing Editor of the Journal, Amy is associate editor for The Faster Times and This Week in Earth, a columnist for Forbes, and contributes to an assortment of other magazines and websites. In 2007, Amy won the Folio Eddie for excellence in magazine editorial for her feature on algae as a feedstock for biofuel, which was published in Sustainable Industries magazine.

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