Janet Bridgers

 

On a cold and windy Dec. 9 in Albuquerque, the New Mexico Solar Energy Association (NMSEA) celebrated its 40th anniversary at the South Broadway Cultural Center. Seventy-five people reconnected with people who have been involved with the organization for decades. What a milestone! Forty years, and the NMSEA is still promoting clean, renewable energy—especially solar energy—through education, empowerment, colla­bora­tion and advocacy.

 

Sharon Gross, wife of the late solar advocate and UNM Dean Bill Gross, wrote, “I found the celebration energizing. It was wonderful hearing about new NMSEA directions, and learning so much about so many people involved in solar.”

 

Outgoing PRC Commissioner Jason Marks attended and lauded New Mexico’s accomplishments in solar and renewable energy in recent years. We received formal congratulations from American Solar Energy Society President Susan Greene via a YouTube video, as well as a congratulatory letter from former US House Rep. and now Sen. Martin Heinrich, who wrote:

Congratulations… Your dedication to promoting solar energy businesses has been an asset in building our nation’s clean energy economy… Thank you also for your work in solar energy education. The future of these technologies is only as strong as the education we deliver to students today in and out of the classroom…

 

Following the organization’s annual meeting, a light brunch and toast to both the past and future of the organization, four fully edited episodes of Renewable New Mexico (RNM), NMSEA’s new high-quality TV series, were shown on a big screen. The series features interviews with a who’s who of NM solar energy pioneers, entrepreneurs and educators.
 

Directed by Toby Younis and produced at the new UPublic community service television facilities in Albuquerque, RNM marks a new direction for our venerable organization that began in the early ‘70s with conferences devoted to passive solar energy (see accompanying article). The series is concluding its first run on Channels 26 and 27 in Albuquerque, will soon begin playing on public access channels throughout the state, and will also soon be uploaded to the Internet. For more information about dates and times, “friend” NMSEA on Facebook or consult the website: www.nmsea.org

 

In fulfilling its mission, the NMSEA will continue to produce Solar Fiestas (see sidebar), offer Sun Chaser programs to schools and collaborate with other organizations on renewable energy advocacy.

 

A Movement for This Time

 

All of this, of course, couldn’t come at a more important time, with the accelerating need for renewable energy to avert the worst-case scenarios of changes to the climate that are already stressing the planet’s human and nonhuman inhabitants.

 

I challenge the idea that the early ‘70s (i.e. 40 years ago) will be regarded historically as the high-water mark in terms of federal environmental legislation and national environmental consciousness. I say we cannot let that be. Though we have already seen unprecedented efforts in Congress to reverse federal legislation to protect land, sky, water and endangered species, this erosion of our country’s commitment to its environment will only continue if we’re not willing to fight it.

 

Those of us who were in our teens and 20s in the ‘70s remember the period’s intensity. We were in the streets. And there were many political victories in the same timeframe as the disastrous loss of over 60,000 American soldiers and millions of Vietnamese who died in a war that proved to be one of our nation’s greatest mistakes. The environmental movement of that time was fueled by the same intensity. Does it still exist? No. But a new intensity may be emerging.

 

Though the progressive forces in the US failed to regain the House of Representatives in the November 2012 election, we did see the re-election of President Obama by a successful coalition of labor, young people, women and minorities. Despite dissatisfaction with the Administration’s lackluster environmental record, the environmentally concerned joined that coalition and overcame the fossil-fuel industries’ unprecedented political spending.

 

I think that the people who were smart enough to re-elect Obama are also smart enough to understand that private profit at public cost is no way to fuel economic growth. They are smart enough to understand that we cannot sacrifice precious groundwater or otherwise grant fossil fuel and nuclear power companies a free hand that leaves communities and individuals at risk of the consequences of the poor planning and carelessness that the BP oil disaster and the Fukushima nuclear nightmare so clearly demonstrate.

 

Those of us involved with renewable energy as advocates, professionals and homeowners are part of a movement with few household names but millions of people. Whether or not we have children of our own, we care about future generations. And now, if those of us who have grey hair (if we have hair at all) will just learn to do social media to stay connected with younger people, if we’ll continue to be active politically despite the maddening frustration of the political system, if we’ll continue to find personal ways to reduce our carbon footprint while advocating for large-scale change in that direction and by supporting companies that are moving the ball, we will eventually succeed in re-popularizing an ethos of care for the planet. Because we must.

 

 

Janet Bridgers is vice president of the NM Solar Energy Association. www.nmsea.org