While cleaning up around the house this morning I decided to take a break from fictional escapism and put on a documentary that’s been I added to my Netflix Queue on a documentary binge. The film is called Catching the Sun and it’s a documentary about solar energy and the United States. I thought I’d write a little about it while I’m still fired up over it. Green energy and protecting our environment has become increasingly important to me and solar has been on my wish list for future home ownership.

So on to the film. Although his name is not prominently featured, Leonardo DiCaprio is the Executive Producer of this film which I gather helped it gain some traction out in the world. First Catching the Sun focuses on a solar jobs training program in a section of California that has historically low- income jobs and little opportunity. The program teaches its students all about solar energy and how to install solar panels. What I love about this is that green energy is providing economic solutions to a struggling neighborhood as well as helping to move us away from an oil based economy.

The stunning things for me were that solar energy was invented in the US but has yet to be fully adopted or funded here due to push back from oil companies and conservative groups. The film highlights how China and America are both working to be the first country to really get solar established because that is where all the jobs and money will go. That means our jobs don’t have to be outsourced to China if we can get it together and start caring about this. The complaint against solar is often that it will cost us American jobs, but there’s no reason why we can’t have job training programs that shift existing jobs to green jobs.

Unfortunately when the Obama administration hired Green activist Van Jones to truly start pushing solar out and solve problems for the environment he was quickly derailed by the conservative media as a communist. Once the ideas were out there his past was dug up and eventually he was forced to resign. What could have been great progress was halted.

The amount of money that could come out of this industry is mind-boggling, so again the idea of it costing us money is ridiculous. The film states already the cost of solar has dropped 80% and in the near future it will be less expensive to get solar than regular electric. So why aren’t we doing this! Both conservatives and liberals are interviewed in the documentary as being on board. The biggest point is that the environment is an economic issue so it really should appeal to anyone who cares about jobs staying in America.

Another shocking thing to me was that the White House had solar panels installed by President Carter in 1979 but then they were removed by Ronald Regan during his administration. So 37 years ago we actually had some of this technology on our most notable building and then it was taken away! Luckily it seems both George W. Bush and President Obama have both added panels to the White House since then (and when have they agreed on anything)!

The versatility of solar technology is also incredible. We could use it to power anything from cell phones to cars! Imagine parking your car on a solar mat and never needing to fill up the gas tank! The sun isn’t going away (and when it does then none of this will matter anyway) but our other resources are disappearing. Why wouldn’t we want solar technology to grow?

On a personal note, I’ve been watching solar panels go up around where I live in Long Island. There aren’t tons but I see them and I see ads for the companies selling them and the jobs that they are providing. It’s encouraging to see these changes, even if they seem small. Maybe by the time I own a house it won’t even be a financial question any more. At least that’s this crunchy girl’s hope.

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