Last night, Clif and I went to Railroad Square to see the documentary Catching the Sun. This good movie was sponsored by ReVision Energy and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and as the title suggests, Catching the Sun is about solar energy. Its primary focus is the baby steps that are being taken in the United States to promote this much-needed alternative energy in contrast to countries such as Germany and China, which are whole-heartedly embracing solar energy.
Our reluctance to embrace solar energy is, of course, politically driven by oil companies who are intent on wringing every bit of profit they can from oil, coal, and gas. In turn, the money these companies contribute to politicians ensures that their voices will win out and that solar energy will be marginalized and vilified, even.
How ironic, then, that the technology for solar energy was developed in the United States during the space race. Nowadays, unfortunately, there is not much solar manufacturing in the U.S. This should not be a surprise to anyone as the United States has pretty much decided that it doesn’t want to manufacture anything.
The movie follows the green activist Van Jones, who for a short time worked with the Obama administration to promote green energy. However, Fox News decided to shred his reputation, calling him a communist and ridiculing his efforts. Sadly, Van Jones resigned under the pressure, and the Obama administration lost an eloquent voice on behalf of the environment.
Catching the Sun also follows some unemployed folks in Richmond, California, as they train to install solar panels. The movie makes it clear that even though U.S. doesn’t manufacture solar panels, the industry can still provide lots of hands-on jobs that cannot be outsourced foreign countries.
The sun shines and shines and shines. The United States is geographically blessed to take full advantage of this nonpolluting resource. Even Maine, in its northern location, gets a lot of sun, as much as Germany does. The technology has advanced, and the price for solar panels has dropped dramatically. There is no reason to hold back.
But this country is caught in the grip of the oil companies, and at the end of the movie, Van Jones concludes that support for green energy is going to have to come from the bottom up, from states and activists. He might be right, but many states—Maine included—are not exactly committed to alternative energies. It is more than a little depressing to think of where we might be—as a country, as a state— had the political will been stronger. (Right now solar energy accounts for a very small percent of our energy use.)
Still, on we go, and on we hope. At Railroad Square, Catching the Sun was definitely preaching to the choir. But as the Reverend David Billings recently observed on the PBS NewsHour, “The choir has to practice every Wednesday.” (He was referring to the workshops on racial matters that his organization People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond hosts. And how those workshops do indeed preach to “the choir.”)
So sing, choir, sing. Let your voices be heard, and maybe one day the song will be strong enough to drown out the shrill, negative voices that so dominate my state and this country.