Bill McKibben | My Road Trip With a Solar Rock Star, or Notes on the Enthusiasm Gap

Thursday, 16 September 2010 10:15 By Bill McKibben, TomDispatch | Op-Ed | name.

Bill McKibben | My Road Trip With a Solar Rock Star, or Notes on the Enthusiasm Gap
The Solarbus, aconverted school bus powered by vegetable oil and solar panels, led themarch to the White House.(Photo: Jennifer Kunze / 350.org)

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.

President Jimmy Carter with solar panels at the White House.

President Carter with the White House solar panels in 1979. (Photo: 350.org)

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.

Last modified on Thursday, 16 September 2010 13:30