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White House Goes Solar, After All

The White House’s decision to install solar panels will give a boost to 10/10/10, this weekend’s global work party in support of climate solutions.

Put Solar On It, photo courtesy of 350.org

Bill McKibben and a group of activists located one of the solar panels that graced the White House roof during the Carter Administration and returned it, asking the Obama White House to again go solar. They were turned down, only to have the White House change its mind weeks later.

Photo courtesy of 350.org

Looking back a few weeks, we were bitterly disappointed when the White House failed to act on our request that they put solar panels back on the roof.

But in truth, I'm almost happy that they waited. Today's announcement that the Obamas will be taking their showers and cooking their breakfast courtesy of the sun could not have come at a better moment. We're four days away from the start of the weekend's giant Global Work Party, and this is the perfect example of everything that we've been talking about for almost a year: It demonstrates the power of individual actions to carry political impact.

People get that. It's why this weekend's big day of work is looking to be even bigger than last year's rally, which CNN called "the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history." As of this morning, we had 6,227 actions in 185 countries. If you know folks in Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, or East Timor, encourage them to round the total out (We've pretty much given up on North Korea). It's going to be an amazing day—sumo wrestlers riding bikes in Tokyo, Filipinos replanting mangrove forests, and the president of the Maldives putting up his solar panel.

Would we rather have comprehensive climate legislation? We would—which is why, on Sunday, people will put down their hammers and shovels, pick up their cellphones, and in all those countries call their presidents, prime ministers, Politburos to say: 'I'm getting to work, what about you?'

And when they call the White House, they'll be able to add: 'Thanks for making a real start."

Last year's mobilization involved more than 5,200 events in 181 of the world's countries. Check out this video:


Bill McKibben is founder of 350.org and the author, most recently, of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. He’s a scholar in residence at Middlebury College.

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