to lead, .v., to guide on a way, esp. by going in advance.
The dictionary definition embodies the variables inherent in leadership – time, direction, position, relative power. Note that it doesn’t require that it come from the “top” or from the “center.” In fact, it can come from anywhere. And, for Maine, understanding that, especially at this time, is critical.
Leadership on comprehensive long range energy planning (CLREP) cannot come, and is not coming, from the center for the immediate future in Maine. That is because the Executive Branch is committed to denying the world climate crisis, is narrowly critical of renewable energy, and is beholden to corporate interests who are at best imperfectly situated to lead or, at worst and for more than one reason, seriously conflicted of interest.
Maine’s executive authority has, variously and we may always hope temporarily at least, shot down capitalizing on offshore wind and most recently vetoing a solar bill and is entertaining walking back on incentives already in place to support the expansion of solar. It has adopted energy planning postures which are (1) defined in terms of very short term immediate energy cost objectives, (2) almost wholly unrelated to the immediate and compelling challenges of getting off fossil fuels, (3) whose elements have virtually no sense of urgency to them corresponding to the climate threat we face, and (4) whose recommendations would actually increase Maine’s dependence on fossil fuels. (Furthermore, they would implicitly support environmental assaults – fracking – being visited elsewhere on the nation.) The “planning” currently under way is arguably much more attentive to the interests of the corporate energy community than to the long term welfare of the people, especially were we to focus on the generations following those of us now here.
The ‘Energy Quest’ of summer, 2016, however, made the moral problem of leadership clear. Those who responded were virtually unanimous that CLREP was critical for Maine’s future, but an overwhelming majority of them felt it was extremely unlikely that anything much could be done for a couple of years (so long as the Executive leadership, such as it is, is of its current character and persuasion).
To me, given the urgency of undertaking sweeping changes in the way we generate, use, and manage energy, the prospect of just waiting seems immoral. If the authorities now in place are not able or willing to act constructively, then leadership must and can come from elsewhere. It can come from us individually. It can come from us locally (e..g., the Midcoast Green Collaborative [Damariscotta] or MDI’s ‘A Climate to Thrive’).
In fact, it must come from us. Barring a “Saul on the road to Damascus” transformation, it won’t come from those currently elected to power. Even more problematic, even when they are gone, they will have left behind appointed officials who have yet to be persuaded that they must change their views of the requirements for energy transformation associated with preventing – or far more likely having to attempt to try and mitigate – the consequences of the world’s – and Maine’s! – two-century binge on fossil fuels.
So, install PV panels on your own home. Or join a solar farm. Switch to heat pumps. Invest in an energy audit. Understand and act for yourself on the concept of “nega-watts”! Take the risk that the possible backtrack on net metering is only temporary.
Those of us who can afford to do these things for our grandchildren’s future, to put our money where our mouths are, should! Join local initiatives to achieve energy independence. Join a Climate Action Team. If there’s nothing to join, then start something and carry it through to fruition.
Educate yourselves about energy and its sources. Prepare yourself on the science of electricity, micro-grids, photovoltaics, wind, all the other indigenous sources available for energy production, the technical status and development lying ahead for all renewable indigenous energy sources and how they might unfold, what decentralized generation of power means, how management of grids must evolve, what’s entailed in storing energy from solar and wind (including needed infrastructure) that will allowing using power when it’s available that can then be used to generate electricity again when the wind is down or the sun in bed, and so on. Understand climate change, its consequences, and its implications. The more knowledgeable we are on all these things, the better we’ll be in the position to lead.
And do not hide your light under a bushel. Speak your piece every chance you get. Write letters and op eds. Testify before legislative committees, boards, and commissions. In sum, every one of us can be a leader, a mover, a shaker! Every one of us must1 Our progeny are depending on it!
In sum, we need to become the experts and the spokespersons who keep the need for change, the rationale underpinning it, and the elements of its unfolding constantly before the public. We need to lead, encourage others to lead with us, and then call on elected leaders to follow our lead.
October 5, 2016 (also 10/8//16)