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The Path to a More Sustainable Life

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Climate Reporthttp://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication/files/Global-Warming-CCAM-March-2015.pdf

I realize most people won’t read this Yale report entitled “Climate Change in the American Mind” (March 2015), but it is interesting to read and it explains why we can’t move forward dealing with our own self-destructive ways even in the face of wide-spread impact. Simply stated, we’re conflicted.

Yes, there’s little leadership or media support in our country, but this report shows that 50% of American’s believe Pope Francis when he talks about our need to deal with it! (Much to Sen. Rick Santorum’s chagrin :-)  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/02/rick-santorum-pope-climat_n_7498768.html

The Koch bros, Rush Limpdick, Fox News, and our fossil-fueled US Congress have done a good job of denying science, diluting the message, confusing our citizens and fighting against any action to remedy. However, Americans do overwhelmingly support renewable energy, even in oil country, and this is something we can build upon right now. Let’s stop wasting time we might not have.

It is time to stop talking and disagreeing about climate change and get to the work of installing renewables in a large scale. Before we know it we’ll have implemented a big part of the remedy even while the politicos, media and climate change deniers are still talking their fool heads off.

Action still speaks louder than words even in this modern social-mediatized society.

My two cents.

Memorial Day always flusters me a bit and today is no different. Like most Americans I’ve looked upon this holiday as a three-day weekend opportunity away from work. It represents the start of summer with family BBQs, camping and such on many people’s agenda. For others it is time to shop the holiday specials or attend a parade in town. In Portland Oregon Memorial Day weekend is the kick-off of our annual civic Rose Festival. All over America flags fly, businesses are closed, and speeches are made, and then we all go on about our business.

However, lingering in the back of my mind is a nagging feeling of neglect, or maybe even guilt, because I’m not honoring the holiday as it was intended. Sure, I watch the President place the wreath at Arlington Cemetery, catch a parade, or fly my flag, but rarely do I take the time to reflect on why the day was created, or to honor the honorable.  I really should. We all should.

Airman Basic – San Antonio, Texas (1972)

I’m a Vietnam War Era veteran myself and I served four long years in the US Air Force. My father was a decorated veteran of WWII and served in the US Army under General Douglas MacArthur. Dad was a proud member of the Sunset Division – the Oregon National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade – and he was part of a rather famous group of jungle fighters nicknamed “The Jungleers”. His father was also an Army veteran (he served under General Arthur MacArthur) and so too was his father’s father. My brother John also served in the US Air Force and all of our uncles were in the US Navy during time of war. Yes indeed, my own family is heavily represented in the spirit of this holiday, so I should show more respect for the spirit intended.

Sgt. Mac – Saving lives was my business!

For those who have endured military service the experience is personal and it is different for everyone.

Unlike many of my brethren, I was not emotionally scarred by my military experience although it was during time of war. Of course Air Force duty is a long way from the front lines in most cases and surely not to be compared with grunts who were locked in battle eye-to-eye with the enemy.

I also think it has much to do with the jobs I had, which were involved in saving lives and not taking them. All three primary duties I had during my tenure; Aircrew Life Support Specialist, PJ (parajumper /paramedic), and Survival Instructor, were concerned with keeping people alive. The motto of our 15th Air Force unit (promoted to pilots and airman) was “Your Life is Our Business” and I’m happy to say that business was generally good. I was lucky enough to have had a different orientation and experience than most people get in a time of war … and I am the better for it. No Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for me!

I’m sad to say that this isn’t the case for many veterans, especially those who have returned from multiple tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. My father’s old unit the Fighting 41st, made news because of the lack of respect these soldiers received from the Army upon their return from active duty in the middle east. You see, injured Oregon Army National Guard troops say the Army forced many of them off active duty while they still needed medical care.  I’m sad that members of Oregon’s 41st Infantry Brigade are still being systematically denied their benefits, this isn’t right, and it makes my blood boil. So today, when we’re all having that BBQ and enjoying life with our friends and families, take a moment to recognize the sacrifice made by veterans and the men and women of the military (and their families). I urge you to write to your congressperson and push them to support our troops in getting the medical treatment they justly deserve. It is something we all can do, and in this case, the pen is mightier than the sword.

img005Photo: UCSB Model United Nations team (1980)

My old friend Jimi D sent me a link to the UCSB Daily Nexus (student newspaper) with the top caption stating “UCSB MUN Wins Award for Second Year”.  He knew I’d be impressed and a little bit proud. Yes, current student members of UCSB Model United Nations team recently returned from a conference in New York City where they won the Outstanding Delegation Award for the second year in a row. Faculty advisor Galen Stocking had a great deal to do with these teams capturing the top award at the annual National Model United Nations conference in consecutive years, but the work of these young students is most impressive indeed.


 MUNPhoto: 2015 UCSB MUN winning team

Model United Nations (MUN) is an educational simulation and/or academic competition in which college students learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations.

I am very impressed by what these teams have accomplished, but I am also proud of the legacy we started some 35 years ago! Not only has the group continued, it has flourished, and is now considered one of the best programs in the entire world.

In 1980, UCSB’s MUN activities had been dormant since the middle-sixties and myself and several other UCSB students wanted our college to participate. I was willing to act as organizer and leader but we couldn’t accomplish our goal without faculty support from the PoliSci Department. We were fortunate at the time to have Dr. Peter Haslund teaching on campus and he eagerly agreed to be our faculty advisor. Two years prior Dr. Haslund and I had led several MUN teams from Santa Barbara City College, so we had the experience and momentum to re-establish a viable club at UCSB. So with his support we reinvigorated the program and it grew to forty students that first year.

UCSB MUNI’m happy this program remains active and successful today, it is certainly gratifying.

I share this shout out with my peers from that first group, so take a bow Julia Pierce, Linda Hammer, Valerie Lapin Ganley, Gregg Hart, and others who I haven’t kept in touch with over these many years. I’m sure you all have fond memories of our collective experience and are proud to see this worthwhile organization continue.  Since our college days the world has certainly gotten smaller (!) and the MUN program is one way to learn how to foster understanding of other cultures to enable us to live together better on a more connected planet.

Go Gauchos!

To Solar Oregon members, partners and supporters

Farewell my friends it’s time for me to step off the “solar coaster” for a while …When Claire Carlson left for greener pastures, I stepped into the executive director role to ensure continuity, keep momentum, and meet our contractual obligations and mission objectives. I think this was accomplished and then some. I’ve always been connected to our cause and mission in a deep and meaningful way, but I couldn’t have accomplished much without the support of many others.

Mr Speaker It has been my honor and pleasure to serve Solar Oregon.

Along the way I put in a lot of my time, money, and energy into Solar Oregon’s mission, just as previous executive directors and board officers have done. Over the past six years, I’ve been a member and volunteer, workshop presenter, Solar Ambassador, solarize project leader, writer and promoter, cheerleader, sponsor, board member, president of the board, and most recently the executive director.

I admit I thrived on the solar coaster’s adrenaline rush most of this time, as it is constantly changing, very challenging, and so damn tempting in its promise. I believe we’re at the beginning of an energy revolution in this country and I like being a revolutionary in some aspects.

Of course there’s still plenty of work to do. Although studies and polls continue to show massive support by our citizens for solar power, and it is being pushed harder by the Obama administration, solar still lags as part of our nation’s energy mix.  Make no mistake that America’s fossil fueled powers-that-be have declared war on renewable energy and they fight us every step of the way. Their power and influence has been beating a war drum for decades over a reduction in fossil fuels, regardless of the impacts and consequences to our society and the planet.

Yet, we’re winning this war.

Sure, we’ve got a long ways to go to move to the mainstream stage for distributed energy, but the solar movement is approaching high gear and right now (2014) every 4 minutes, a new solar system is installed in the United States. One rooftop at a time! This is how renewables will eventually become a part of our daily fabric as an energy source. It will also be one of the things required to help deal with climate change, reduction of pollution and the protection of the environment – important stuff.

It is just that my priorities have changed since a bright and beautiful spirit entered my life. My wife, Noriko, and I have an infant daughter (Maya Cassidy) and she needs our full attention. I simply couldn’t manage the rigors of the job and support my family in the way they require, so this is why I’m leaving the office.  My family comes first and I know everyone will understand.

As for Solar Oregon, I think the organization is fortunate to have good governance during this time of transition with a great staff, executive committee, and a solid board led by President Doug Boleyn. Please continue to support them as you supported me.

You probably haven’t seen the last of me. I am still a Solar Ambassador and a lifetime member of Solar Oregon and so is Noriko.  So, you might find me conducting a new volunteer orientation, presenting a solar basics workshop, or even hanging out at Solar Drinks event. Be sure to say hello.

Solar energy’s brightest days are still ahead, so keep on keeping on, my friends.

My thoughts re: President Obama’s speech on Climate Change – June 25, 2013

Note: Originally printed in Sustainable Business Oregon online publication – Voices Section – when I was President of Solar Oregon.

Obama Solar

Today, rather quietly in front of a small audience at Georgetown University, President Obama announced he’s issuing a presidential memorandum to launch the first-ever federal regulations on carbon dioxide emitted by existing power plants. He articulated that his climate strategy will focus on three key areas: cutting the amount of carbon pollution in the U.S., preparing the country for the long-term effects of climate change, and leading global efforts to combat it.

Speaking to a predominately student audience, the President said, “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that is beyond fixing … I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the USA a leader, a global leader, in the fight against climate change.”

It was fitting that President Obama chose to give his speech before a group of young people who face a daunting future.

“It was important for me to speak directly to your generation”, Obama said, “because the decisions we make now, and in the years ahead, will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit.” He continued, “The question is not whether we need to act … the overwhelming judgment of science has put all that to rest. So, the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And, how we answer will have a profound impact on the world we leave behind, not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren. As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say – we need to act!”

As a renewable energy advocate, and someone who is concerned with destructive behavior towards our own environment, I’ve been waiting to hear this kind of message from a sitting American president for almost twenty years.  I pray it isn’t too late.

Warning us that climate change threatens the health of the planet is vitally important, but will the President’s message be a game changer?

After his announcement today, some may believe that America will finally begin to take appropriate action and move faster toward climate solutions. They want to believe that this administration will stand up to the fossil fuel industry and resist developing new infrastructure investments such as the Keystone XL pipeline and coal export facilities.

I suspect this isn’t going to be the case.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the President for taking leadership on this issue (albeit five years into his administration), but this situation shouldn’t be left up to his administration itself to solve. We are all in this together. We citizens are all caretakers of the future and what we need in this fight right now are thousands more citizen leaders at every level of our society. This is a defining moment in our history.

Opposition to the President’s announcement will be fast and furious. It started before he even gave his speech for heaven’s sake. Critics from both sides of this issue have commented that his speech was simply pandering to environmentalists for his administration not acting sooner on climate change; or that this is no more than a ham-fisted attempt to sooth greenies because the Obama administration is planning to approve the controversial Keystone XL project.

Republicans and the established energy industry criticized Obama’s climate change plan saying it will lead to higher utility bills and less development of reliable energy. House Speaker John Boehner stated, “ these policies will shutter power plants, destroy good-paying American jobs, and raise electricity bills for families that can scarcely afford it.”

Yawn. This is the same tired refrain we’ve heard for the past thirty years anytime the fossil fuel industry feels threatened.

The fact is that no climate proposal from President Obama will get past Republican opposition, so our greatest chance for a climate legacy lies in empowering American citizens to take control — with our voices, our votes and our dollars — and especially taking control over our own energy future.  Unlike the countries cited by Obama as global leaders in the clean energy race, like China and Germany, this is how it will get done here in America.

President Obama must already know this. He challenged us in his speech by saying, “I’m directing the EPA to develop the standards in an open and transparent way, to provide flexibility to different states with different needs, and build on the leadership that many states and cities and companies have already shown.”

Regardless of speeches and the good intentions of the Obama administration, I believe the solution to addressing climate change will rely heavily upon individuals, organizations and local governments.  Climate-protecting energy policy succeeds when communities can keep their energy dollars local by directly owning and profiting from investments in renewable energy. This is being proven every day, both here and abroad.

I’m proud to say that the solar energy industry is uniquely poised to be part of the solution. America’s solar energy industry is already ushering in a new era of clean energy and providing opportunities and jobs.  Despite what critics say, this isn’t a choice between clean energy and a robust economy. We can have both – and solar power is showing the world how to make that possible.

As President Obama declared, “A low carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come, and I want America to build that engine, I want America to build that future, right here in the USA, that’s our task.”

Well, that starts with change in our own behavior and in our own backyard. And, it takes leadership. As President Obama himself said, we can’t win it, if we’re not in it. He asked the Georgetown students … can we imagine a more worthy goal? Well, as a non-profit president, as a father, and as an American myself, I cannot. My wife and I are expecting our daughter, Maya Cassidy, to be born only few days from now, so time is of the essence.

Ron “Mac” McDowell

Sabin Green

By David Sweet, Solar Oregon member and Solar Ambassador

Ralph Nader famously remarked, “The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun.”  But that was before we created the Solarize Portland model that has opened up solar energy to hundreds of Portland households and is about to open it to hundreds more.

Solarize Northeast had its start in the fall of 2009, when my friend Kelly Rodgers and I decided to see if we could replicate the Solarize model that had been created in Southeast Portland.  We brought our plan to the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, which took it on, and the result was 204 solar installations in Northeast Portland.

The idea has really taken off, and over the last 2½ years, neighborhood-based Solarize projects in Portland have resulted in over 700 solar installations.  In all of 2008, by comparison, there were 38 installations.  But the Solarize totals are only part of the story, because the number of non-Solarize installations in Portland is exploding as well—there were more than 500 in 2010 and more than 1000 in 2011.

What’s going on?  Social scientists call it “innovation diffusion”—the spread of a new idea.  Typically, innovations are championed by activist “change agents,” and first tried by so-called “early adopters.”  Our goal with the Solarize projects is to move solar technology to the “tipping point,” where it spreads beyond early adopters and into the mainstream.  Among the factors that determine whether and how quickly an innovation spreads are its complexity and its visibility.  The Solarize model addresses these factors.

We simplify the complex decision making with a predetermined contractor, a fixed price, and community workshops to demystify the process.  We also make solar technology more visible through our outreach, our workshops, and the number of panels going up in our neighborhoods.  People are also encouraged to try something new if it’s being done by people they know—people like them—their community.  Which is another reason that the Solarize community model is so successful.

Solarize is also a model for the cultural transformation we need to make.  The end of the oil age is upon us.  The subsidy of ancient sunlight that has brought us the wealth and wonders of a global industrial society is ending.  In the very near future, we will need to be locally self-reliant and self-sufficient.  We will need to produce most of what we need, including energy, very close to home.  We will also need strong bonds of community to support us through this challenging change.  Solarize Northeast is a shift toward local self-sufficiency and it is an exercise in community.  And community, like a muscle, becomes stronger when it is exercised.

Eighty years ago, Thomas Edison told Henry Ford, “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.”  Well, we haven’t quite run out, and we’re beginning to tackle it.  Solarize Northeast Phase II is going to be even more successful than Phase I, and I’m excited that I get to be part of it.  My gratitude to NECN and to everyone here who is working to create a more resilient, self-reliant, and stronger community.

The Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods is proud to announce a second round of Solarize Northeast, a community driven project to simplify solar electric installation for North & Northeast Portland residents. Mr. Sun Solar has been selected as the solar contractor for this effort.

Interested neighbors enjoy savings through a community-driven bulk purchase of solar panels. Solarize Northeast hosts workshops to educate residents about solar options, site assessment, installation, and financing options.  For more information, including dates and times of workshops see …  http://solarize.necoalition.org/

Lately I’ve been reading up on how to be a successful non-profit board member like Nonprofit Management 101 and How to Manage an Effective Nonprofit Organization. In doing my homework, I came across this list of resolutions for nonprofit board members that I just had to share with all of you. I also sent this to the boardmembers I serve with on the Earthshare Oregon and Solar Oregon boards. Please indulge (and pardon) me … I don’t mean to preach and I do mean well. I hope you’ll take these ten things to heart and apply them so our non-profit organizations can be as successful as possible.

It’s that time again—for turning over a new leaf, for reexamining our work and lives, for refocusing on what we really want, and for refreshing our commitment to good works.

Here are some great New Year’s resolutions for nonprofit board members. If you do these, you’ll set an example and be a “spark plug” for your organization — and you’ll also help make the world a better place through your favorite nonprofit.

 1. Get more engaged. Your non-profit needs you to pay attention to your job as a nonprofit board member. We don’t need disengaged bosses.  And yes, you are the boss – you’re the legal fiduciary guardian of your nonprofit. The staff all report to us and they need us to lead, to question, and to act.

 2. Have a bias towards action. Do something. Non-profits need more than talk out of you. Don’t be one of those board members who thinks his or her job is to come to meetings and pontificate. Look for real actions you can take to help the cause. Ask the staff what they need you to do this month, this quarter, this new year. There’s too much at stake to just sit around and talk!

 3. Think big. You can make a huge difference if you think BIG! We’re not going to change the world, save the environment, feed the hungry, or change the community, by thinking small. There is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. A big vision helps you attract people and resources  to your cause. Energy is everything when you are trying to create change.

 4. Be optimistic, no matter what. Be a board member who sees the glass half full. Ban the handwringing and nay-saying. Negativity is self-defeating , wipes out passion and deadens momentum.  Be the board member who has the point of view of abundance rather than scarcity. You’ll influence the rest.

 5. Go back to your vision over and over and over. It will keep you excited, focused, passionate, and results-oriented.  If you feel jaded or bored, ask yourself why you care about this cause and this organization. You’ll feel deep personal satisfaction when you see the results your organization is creating in people’s lives.

 6. Be the catalyst; be the provocateur. Challenge the status quo. Remember Jack Welch’s quote: “If the change is happening on the outside faster than it is on the inside, the end is near.”  Well, guess what – that goes for nonprofits too. Too many nonprofits plan for the future based firmly on the past. Be willing to ask, “Why are we doing this?”

 7. Make your own personal gift to support your organization. And … encourage the other board members to give generously. If you don’t put your money where your mouth is, you have absolutely no credibility. Set an example. Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of board gifts in board meetings. Be willing to talk to other board
members about their annual contributions and commitments.

 8. Support the staff. Ask them what they need from you or how you can support them. The staff is carrying the weight of the organizational responsibility on their shoulders. Pay them competitive salaries. Don’t let them overwork in the name of the cause. Return their phone calls and respond to their emails. Tell them what a great job they’re doing. An acknowledged, self-confident staff is a higher-performing staff.

 9. Introduce ten of your friends to your cause. See if you can get them on your organization’s bandwagon. You’re not asking them for money, you’re trying to get them to join the cause. Have an open house and invite your friends to meet your Executive Director, or take a group on a tour out to the field to show them the good work your organization is doing.

 10. Spread your organization’s viral news wherever you go. Ideas are like viruses – they are contagious, spreading from person to person. You want to create an epidemic of good buzz about your organization all around. All your friends, family and business associates need to know about your passionate involvement in your cause.

 Bottom Line:

  • Don’t be a bystander.
  • Don’t waste your time in meaningless meetings
    and committees.
  • Make your service on the board meaningful. Make
    a difference.
  • Support your staff.
  • There’s way, way too much at stake.

I challenge us all to make it happen in 2012. Let’s put our ideas into ACTION!

Best Regards.

Reprinted from Gail Perry, January 2010
© 2010, Gail Perry

Gail Perry is the author of Fired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action and founder of Gail Perry Associates, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based consulting and training firm.

                                                         Happy New Year!

Last year Solar Oregon spent a great deal of time working on our three-year strategic plan, building and training staff, relocating to a new home, and working to ensure solar energy incentives are available for everyone in Oregon. As we look back, we’re proud of all that we accomplished, but we’re even more excited to begin the New Year.  Our organization is committed to bringing together citizens, government, business, educational groups, and sustainability advocates to help solve our energy issues and improve the quality of life in our beautiful state.

So we approach 2012 with a renewed vigor with new initiatives aimed at better supporting our mission. We intend to expand our influence and will be working with communities to provide support for a multitude of Solarize and educational programs across the entire state. We’ll also be improving our internal processes, systems and website to allow for easier access to information and improve communication for our members and residents.

Oregon is such a special and diverse place abundant with natural resources and majestically beauty. Many of us choose to live here because of this quality of life. If you made a resolution to live a more sustainable, less polluting, and healthier lifestyle this year, then Solar Oregon has plenty of opportunities for you to make a difference right away. Please contact the Solar Oregon office to inquire about how to get involved.

Join Solar Oregon today – together we can make 2012 a year of action!


Our best years are ahead of us as an organization because solar power is the
future! As leaders of Solar Oregon, we are honored to serve the organization, our members, partners and residents of Oregon. Let’s work together to make our ideas and values a reality.  Regards,

 Mac and Claire

Ron "Mac" McDowell, President

Claire Carlson, Executive Director

Mt. Hood Oregon - December 2011

The renewable energy industries are under attack and for mostly political reasons. In solar, we are even at war with ourselves as stakeholders have turned against each other, while the powers-that-be sit on the sidelines. All of this is distracting our attention at a time when we should be creating great demand to balance this (over) supply, and get us off of fossil fuels as soon as possible. I urge you to join an ASES chapter, like NorCal Solar or Solar Oregon, because they work hard to create supportive policy for solar power, educate our citizens, and drive demand into the heartland of America – only $5 a month for a membership!


El Presidente with Executive Director Claire Carlson

Dear Friends: With 2011 quickly drawing to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to express how grateful I am to everyone who supported Solar Oregon this past year. THANK YOU! to those of you who joined as a member, volunteered at an event, or sent a donation in support of our mission.

I am thankful I belong to a community that shares the promise of solar energy and one that values sustainability, collaboration, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Solar Oregon recently celebrated our thirty-second anniversary and no doubt this year will go down in our history as a period of significant challenge and achievement. We are proud of our accomplishments and we remain committed to being a trusted resource to our members, the general public, policymakers, advocacy groups, the media, and our professional partners.

Recently we strengthened our resolve with a newly-developed strategic plan and revised mission and values statement.

 Our Values – community, optimism, leadership, passion, results, and distributed and scalable solutions – form the core of everything we do at Solar Oregon.

Community: Solar Oregon has developed a community where Oregonians who are interested in solar energy have a voice and feel empowered to be the solution for a clean energy future. We provide a forum for sharing local perspectives, knowledge, and experience.

Optimism: Solar Oregon believes that a clean energy future is possible, and that solar will move us to a clean energy future.

Leadership: Solar Oregon leads the way for a clean energy future by demonstrating the successful use of solar energy. Through our Solar Ambassadors, community organizers, and our members, we inspire people to share their practical experience. Solar Oregon provides leadership through our depth of knowledge and connections across Oregon.

Passion: Solar Oregon loves what we do! We are a mission-oriented organization motivated by the meaningful work we do. At Solar Oregon, you will find a workplace surrounded by people who share their passion and values, motivated by the idea that there is always something new on the solar horizon.

I’ve lived and worked in Oregon about half of my life and raised my family here. I feel at peace in a place that is so green and beautiful and I’d like to keep it that way for generations to come. I feel we all have this responsibility and it is one of the main reasons I am an avid supporter of renewable energy. To my way of thinking it is a no-brainer to reduce fossil fuel consumption by utilizing a different technology to energize our homes. Solar makes that all possible.

From all of us at Solar Oregon, I wish you the merriest of holiday seasons and a happy new year. I hope to see you in 2012!

~ Ron “Mac” McDowell, President, Solar Oregon