• Mark Lampman

Rooftop Victory Gardens

Updated: Aug 21, 2018

Something a military weapons instructor once told me out on the range stuck and became a metaphor for life and business. Warning: This blog is about to get a little dark, but I promise to bring it back into the light quickly. Tom told me that well-trained enemy combatants are not deterred from their objectives by mere incoming fire. They are disciplined, well trained and experienced enough to continue to press the fight unshaken by rounds snapping in and around their positions. All of the world’s top tier military units become accustomed to shooting and maneuvering while rounds transect their position by training with live ammunition. My instructor went on to add that the most effective way to shake the will of a seasoned enemy is for him or her to witness teammates to his or her left and right fall mortally wounded.

There are actually few instances in which well-trained soldiers fire indiscriminately at unconfirmed targets. Professional combatants confirm their goals and only engage when their round is likely to hit its intended mark. This avoids harming noncombatants and also ammunition is hard to come by during sustained firefights. Stay with me on this, but I often think about Tom’s insight when I read about unfair public health or environmental policies and circumstances that hurt my family, community, country or our global community. Examples abound from the pollution Orlando’s coal-fired power plant emits into my air and water to the unacceptable lead levels left unaddressed by municipal water providers all across the country. All of us worry about our family’s susceptibility to such health problems as asthma, learning disabilities and cancer caused in part or whole by unhealthy environments but often struggle with how to best take action.

The recourse most of us take is to add our voice to a couple of health and environmental organizations that share our concerns. We provide funds for their teams to pursue initiatives like Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign and Environmental Working Group's water quality standards database. Some of the writers among us may pen an email to government offices or elected officials while even fewer opt for the direct civic engagement like that taken by marchers at last week’s Zero Hour Climate Change protest. All of those actions serve an essential role in improving our public health and environment, but the tangible contributions monthly donations, emails, and demonstrations make are ephemeral, and their impacts challenging to measure.

What if people who were upset about their country’s public health and lack of adequate environmental protections could take actions that have both an enduring impact and serve as a visible symbol of defiance? The families of WWII London during the German Blitz bombing campaign understood the material as well as the symbolic value of taking such visible individual action in the face of adversity. Londoners responded defiantly to Germany’s nightly Blitz raids by planting vegetable gardens on every available piece of open ground. These plots, inspired by England’s “Dig for Victory” campaign, dotted the city from rooftops to Buckingham Palace. They produced desperately needed food during a time of great scarcity for a war that required everyone’s contributions. These gardens also served as a potent symbol of defiance to the enemy bomber pilots passing overhead. The level of resilience these exigent farmers demonstrated by carving out farmland from among WWII London’s rubble and fortifications signaled to their aggressors that London’s will was resolute. These small plots of tilled land also served to inspire Londoner’s themselves as neighbors drew strength from helping each other bring life and hope to an otherwise devastated landscape. The size and output of each of these gardens weren’t nearly as important as the role they played as the embodiment of defiance and hope.

What if residential solar electricity became today’s version of a WWII era Victory Garden? Today, America’s WWII version of England’s wartime gardens, Victory Garden, is invoked to convey facing down adversity with strength, and defiance through individual contributions. Imagine the message families and communities would send if solar panels started appearing on roof sections large and small in response to unfair government policy or government inaction. What if a slow day at your local solar company was upended when news broke that the EPA was loosening coal ash storage and monitoring regulations? What if you live in #Townsville, Australia and you’re stuck between the Abbot Point Coal export terminal and a rapidly diminishing Great Barrier Reef (Link: Adult language)? What if America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement was met not just by donations and protest but by a spike in global solar installations from #Kigali to #Kentucky?

Disclaimer: I sell solar- Orlando, FL

People say they install solar for many reasons, but one of the most prominent among them are not what most would imagine. Very few customers install solar because they are committed to clean energy, and far fewer yet would go solar if doing so meant an even marginal electricity cost increase. Solar is however already used to lodge a protest and signal defiance in the service of a much less lofty goal. One of the most prominent yet under-reported reasons why people go solar is because they hate their utility. People get upset with rate increases, power outages and their inability to choose providers, so they welcome the opportunity to rebel. Some of my favorite solar customers are those who merely want to spite their utility. They have already made up their minds about wanting to slip their utility provider’s bonds and just need the details necessary to make an informed decision.

I wish more families brought that same level of enthusiasm and commitment to going solar from a place of higher purpose and personal outrage. Rooftop Victory Gardens in the face of a utility provider’s perceived tyranny is okay, but perhaps that same level of defiance would better serve to champion stronger personal and community health in the face of inadequate protections.

Disclaimer: I sell solar- Orlando, FL

Mark’s Author’s Notes:

- Solar is indeed the kind of visible protest vote that will produce clean electricity for a few decades, but even smaller efforts are incredibly valuable. There are a lot of great electric and electric/ gas cars out there that can help get one family member to work while the second family car is the full size- hauls the kids, gets the groceries and puts the boat in the water workhorse. LED lights cost a few extra bucks on the front end, but the light portion of your electricity bill will shrink by about 5 to 6 times as a percentage of its original usage.

- A blog post that links military insights with Victory Gardens and solar can only be the product of a mind that's hard-wired to see the world through a unique if sometimes a little unsettling perspective. Today’s solar industry is benefiting from an influx of people from varied backgrounds and experiences. The unique aspects these newcomers provide will continue to reshape and advance an industry that is just now hitting its stride. Expect to see solar’s technology, applications and messaging evolve and improve as a new generation of diverse and committed leaders and innovators chart its course.

- Please feel free to reach out if you have questions about going solar in your part of the country or globe. I may not know specifics for your circumstances but can help get you started and directed to the right resources. I enjoy the opportunity to learn about solar’s local and global adoption practices. The best starting point for many will be to look at your home or business’ roof on Google’s Project Sunroof. This site provides a visible depiction of how much sunshine hits your roof over the course of the year.

- I was unable to confirm whether the wartime gardens that were encouraged under England’s “Dig for Victory” campaign were referred to as “Victory Gardens.” “Victory Gardens” was a widely used WWII United States term but couldn’t find its direct usage in a WWII England context. I have tried to respect and preserve correct historical terminology usage, but please do let me know if I can improve this post’s accuracy. I'll apply your insights and inputs to this post's later revisions. Thank you.

International Readers’ Notes:

- I want to write for a global audience as I dive into topics, technologies, and ideas that transcend international boundaries. Please let me know if I can better communicate the views and perspectives.

- I wish more families brought that same level of enthusiasm and commitment to going solar just from a place of greater purpose and personal outrage. Rooftop Victory Gardens in the face of a utility provider’s perceived tyranny is ok but perhaps that same level of defiance would better serve championing better personal and community health in the face of

inadequate protections.

Disclaimer: I sell solar- Orlando, FL

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