I volunteered with Grid Alternatives on 4/20 alongside a Grid team of five and volunteer crew of eight. Grid develops and implements solar projects in low-income households and communities in effort to reduce the energy cost burden and promote career development by employing local community members. We worked from 8:30-12:30am and installed a total of 25 solar panels atop one family home. The crew offered detailed explanations for each step and allowed volunteers to take the lead. We were securely attached to a cable bolted into the roof, which is the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like a spider on its web.
I was pleased by the organization’s attention to the volunteers leading up to the install. The week before, the Grid coordinator emailed the volunteers readings concerning our role in the communities Grid serves. Grid wanted us to understand that by volunteering we were not remedying all hardships, economic and social, afflicting the community. I appreciated Grid’s immediate effort to clarify how volunteers should view their intentions with this project. Climate change and economic disparity are complicated issues that require long term, dedicated work, none of which we would be able to provide as visitors over a one-time event. The article, “The Reductive Seduction of other People’s Problems” emphasized that being privileged likens us to problems that are quickly and easily solvable. Access to renewable energy resulting in decreased economic inequality and improved job opportunity is no quick nor easy undertaking and should not be viewed as such.
Grid also sent articles that map economic disparity nation-wide “EPA Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool” and “Environmental Justice and your Block”. The map points to the correlation between demographic and economic prosperity and helps explain where Grid chooses to focus projects and how community boundaries are drawn. I am eager to learn more about where solar energy is on a county, state, and national scale and what the barriers and propelling forces are right now in the solar field. Perhaps opening up the discussion to this at some point during the event would be of interest to Grid and/or the volunteers.
I am thankful to Grid for involving the local community in their efforts to expand renewable energy. I highly suggest this experience. If it’s any greater motivation, there’s coffee, bagels and lunch provided. Oh, and the resources to generate 100% renewable energy for a family home.
—— By Shaina Forsman, Transportation Team Volunteer