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Chapter 3 Role Models for the Rooftop Revolution

Kennedy, Danny Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do.

—HENRY MOORE

THE WORLD ENERGY COUNCIL 17TH CONGRESS, IN HOUSTON, Texas, 1998: We were on a mission. Our first goal was to highlight the evils that Big Oil wrought on frontier areas like the Amazon; the second was to let all the international bigwigs attending what was until then the largest gathering of petroleum giants that the days of easy oil were over.

Just after 3 a.m. on September 16, 1998, five of us crouched down at a section of the fence that protected what was to become Enron Field, just opposite the George R. Brown Convention Center, where all the official meetings were being held. We rolled under the fence while two others kept an eye out for the roaming security guards who took turns patrolling the perimeter. My backpack, with the stuffed koala I’d had since I was a kid sewn into a side pocket, hardly fit through the hole because it was so jammed with ropes, harnesses, and other climbing gear. We worked quickly, our bodies humming with adrenaline. Once on the other side, we raced toward the enormous idle crane in the middle of the field, mud sucking at our boots. When we reached the crane’s ladder, we ascended it in the order we’d planned—I went last because one of my tasks was to install a steering-wheel lock on the hatch at the first landing, to slow down anybody who tried to catch us. This precaution proved unnecessary, as nobody pursued us, at least not then. By the time the sun rose with a lambent glow over the Houston skyline, we had tied our anchors, rappelled into place, and unfurled what was then the biggest banner (more than 1,500 square feet!) ever used in an American act of civil disobedience:

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Chapter 5 Hot Jobs

Kennedy, Danny Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The great economic revolutions in history occur when new communications technologies converge with new energy systems.

JEREMY RIFKIN

FROM EDUCATORS TO WAR HEROES AND FROM ROCK STARS TO everyday people, Americans are reaping the benefits of the Solar Ascent and benefitting from the multitude of jobs it’s quickly and steadily creating.

Take Justin Cox, a bloody hero to me. He jumps out of airplanes at altitudes so high that he’s required to wear breathing gear, and then he swoops down diagonally like a flying squirrel at seemingly impossible speeds toward a drop zone, pulls his chute at the heart-stopping last minute, shoots upward, and then floats down to land precisely on his target. He was a US Army Special Forces operative on two tours of Iraq before he suffered a serious head injury from a roadside bomb. Having sat on a barstool across from him and listened to his stories, I know he’s been through things I’m glad I’ve never had to deal with, and it’s clear he’s proved his valor and loyalty to the United States many times over.

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Chapter 4 Take a Walk on the Sunny Side

Kennedy, Danny Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

—THOMAS EDISON, IN CONVERSATION WITH HENRY FORD AND HARVEY FIRESTONE, 1931

SOLAR SCHMOLAR, SAYS OL’ KING CONG—JUST LEAVE WELL enough alone: Pay a small fee when you move into a new home, and we’re ready to serve. Just flip a switch, twist a knob, or press a button, and—voilà—your beer is cold, your shower is hot, and your TV casts its warm glow onto your grateful faces. We’ll take care of your energy needs and your energy future. (Just make sure you get your monthly check into the mail.) Why change? Why even consider that solar mumbo jumbo? It’s impractical, unreliable, unviable, inefficient, unaffordable, and overly subsidized. Plus those solar panels on your roofs would be downright ugly. Maybe there’s something to solar power in the distant future, but if it’s really such a great energy alternative, why hasn’t it caught on in the 50 years or so since the technology was first developed? In any case, don’t worry your pretty little heads about that now—we’re looking into it, and we’ll get back to you. Someday.

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Chapter 6 Energized

Kennedy, Danny Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

People have always been good at imagining the end of the world, which is much easier to picture than the strange sidelong paths of change in a world without end.

REBECCA SOLNIT, FROM HOPE IN THE DARK: UNTOLD HISTORIES, WILD POSSIBILITIES

JOURNEY BACK WITH ME TO 1989, TO THE SOUTHERN HIGHlands of Papua New Guinea. I’m 19 years old. I’m bird watching and bumming around this magnificent land, working as a trekking guide among the country’s indigenous people. A road called the Highlands Highway, which had been built just a year before, snakes through forest, where clouds of butterflies explode from fragrant bushes and stunning birds of paradise display each evening as the dirt strip winds down into Tari. I’ve spent the past three months hiking around the valley, stopping at each village along the way to meet the people.

Big Oil companies, led by BP, had recently come to the valley to drill, with little regard for how their work would affect the inhabitants. Their presence ignited a Wild West–like frenzy in the region.

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Contents

Kennedy, Danny Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

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