Is solar power on the White House a moral issue?

Dear UU friends:

As a layperson who has studied environmental justice issues a bit, I have a moral quandry that has been irking me.

Are solar collectors on the White House roof more than just technology?  Maybe a political and spiritual symbol, too?

If you think they might be, I am writing to ask you to use your power of the pulpit (or power of persuasion with fellow congregants and friends) to spread what I consider to be a moral message.  Please forward this link to your congregations; with my personal story, or with one of your own.

I ask you to join a movement to put solar collectors BACK on the White House roof.  For those of you who don't know, 31 years ago, they were there.  I saw them and was inspired. Please sign this petition to put them back and circulate it:

On June 20, 1979, I was inspired to study solar power engineering by this message from President Carter on inaugurating the White House solar collectors:

“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 a small part of one of the greatest adventures ever undertaken by the American People.”

What happened?  The solar collectors were taken off the White House roof, my potential career was taken away, and it was “Drill, Baby, Drill!” for thirty-one years.

I did not understand the connection at the time.  When I decided my career two years later, the solar power major was gone.  I felt that my dream was stolen as my advisor suggested I choose another career.  In the interim thirty years, I have invented many things as an engineer, but none related to solar power.  Could I have made a contribution to solving our current energy dilemma?  Maybe.  Alas, it is another example of a road not taken.

Instead, over the years, I have watched in frustration as we fought major wars over oil, as a phony fossil fueled controversy has ensued over global warming, as a recent mining disaster killed 29 miners, and as 11 workers lost their lives on the BP Deep Horizon, and as people continue to lose their livelihoods over the Gulf oil spill.  In my opinion, this is wrong.  To me, it is an immorality on par with treason.  To continue our oily ways is not only wrong, it ought to be a crime. It is a crime against humanity, against nature, and against our future.

I promise that I will not let what happened since the collectors were installed on the White House roof happen again - not now, and not in my children's time, nor in the time of our children's children!  Over my dead body.

Thirty years later, I am back with a new degree in Sustainable Community Development, as a member of the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth, here to ask for your support to return the collectors to the White House roof, and to all our homes. 

Does that make my story special?  No.  I hear similar stories from others in my travels.  It is the story of our country.

After two cross-country trips speaking at UU congregations, touring coal ash spills, mountaintop removal sites, and talking to politicians in Washington I am moved to further action.  After asking questions about fossil fuels, climate justice and renewable energy, I am convinced that we have a moral battle facing us.  The same arguments that were used to take off the solar collectors rationalize “Drill Here, Drill Now”.  They present a host of other justifications for the short-term easy path of doing nothing about our sustainability dilemmas. I have heard them all.  I am convinced they come from a deep well of muddy values.  These are values that put economic rationalizations first over doing what we clearly know to be the right thing for us, for all the world’s people, for future generations, and for Earth.  The immorality of doing nothing is rearing its ugly head again and must be defeated. 

I know how critically important it is that we all work together to put the collectors back on the White House roof now and spread the message that fossil-fuel lobbyists and their oily-handed politicians cannot take them off ever again.

Renewable energy was a national security issue and a moral issue then, and it is one now.  I believe that taking the solar collectors off the White House roof was as much of a political statement as returning them will be.  It was one that may not have been directly bought and paid for by the fossil fuel lobby was certainly influenced by them, as has been the phony debate over global warming.  As it was then and is now, renewable energy is not just a good idea, it is the right idea.

So, please join me and my friend, Bill McKibben, and Put Solar On It!

In answer to my own question, "Is solar power on the White House a moral issue?" I must emphatically answer, YES!

The only question that I still have is "What more can I do?"

Living on our only Earth,

Vincent Pawlowski

Please note this is my personal story and the opinions are mine.  I honor the courage of UUMFE for allowing me to post this here.