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From Stable to Star – The Making of North American “Climate Heroes”
August 16, 2016
By Cory Morningstar
50 Million Shades of Grey
Fifteen years ago, Phil Radforth, former Executive Director of Greenpeace USA founded Powershift to which he served as Executive Director of Power Shift. Powershift was to be “a non-governmental organization dedicated to driving clean energy market breakthroughs and building the grassroots base to stop global warming.” [Emphasis added. Source: Phil Radforth’s Wikipedia profile.] The year was 2001.
In 2007, Bill McKibben launched the national ‘Step It Up’ campaign (Clinton Global Initiative Commitment 2007) targeting members of the U.S. congress to be ‘real leaders’ on climate change. Presidential candidates including then senators Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton attended Step It Up events and issued statements of support for the goals put forward by the newly developed NGO 1Sky. Step it Up then morphed into 1Sky. 1Sky was an incubator project of the Rockefeller Foundation at its inception. [Further reading: Rockefellers’ 1Sky Unveils the New 350.org | More $ – More Delusion] At the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative, then President Bill Clinton announced the 1Sky campaign. [Video, September 29, 2007: 1Sky at Clinton Global Initiative published by Step It Up]
“Working with partners 1Sky will raise $50 million to advocate for a simple set of goals and policy proposals to improve the federal government’s policies on climate change.” — Clinton Foundation Press Release, Sept 27, 2007
“In 2007, Power Shift 2007 committed to bring thousands of young people to Capitol Hill for the largest-ever climate lobby day and equip them with the tools and trainings to increase youth voter turn-out and pressure politicians to offer bold climate solutions.” — Clinton Global Initiative website [Emphasis added]
Prior to the Clinton Global Initiative’s lucrative injection of financing into the Rockefeller incubator 1Sky (which would later merge with 350.org in 2011) also previous to the launch of Step It Up in 2007, there was another predecessor: The Energy Action Coalition. (“Power Shift 2007-Commitment by Energy Action Coalition | Launched: 2007, Est. Duration: 1 year, Estimated Total Value: $3,000,000.00.”) [ Source: Clinton Global Initiative website]
Founded June 6, 2004, the Energy Action Coalition was created as an umbrella group for approx. 20-30 NGOs (in the familiar vein of Climate Action Network, TckTckTck/GCCA, and scores of other NGOs). To illustrate its importance as the largest youth advocacy group concerned with environmental issues, Energy Action Coalition co-founder, Billy Parish was cited by the annual ceremony honoring environmental leaders under 23-year-old ceremony entitled the Brower Youth Awards website as the founder and director of “Earth Island’s first project led by a BYA winner.” [Emphasis added]
Preceding his cofounding of Energy Action Coalition in 2004, Parish founded the Climate Campaign, an umbrella group comprised of 10 student organizations representing about 125 college campuses with the pursuit of “clean energy” as the shared common goal:
“So in 2003, he founded the Climate Campaign, an umbrella group of 10 student organizations representing about 125 college campuses throughout the Northeast. Though these groups may disagree about strategy and philosophy, they’ve settled on a common goal: greater use of wind power and other clean-energy sources on their home campuses.” — Grist, A Spotlight on Young Enviro Activists, August 11, 2004
Parish’s 2003 “Climate Campaign” and personal bio (in addition, a not so subtle personification as white saviour) is also documented on the Ashoka website (Parish is an Ashoka fellow) founded by “social entrepreneur” Bill Drayton.
“Billy and his sister grew up in New York City, where their parents practiced law. He started out at a Montessori school, then went to a small private boys’ school from first grade through high school. He was “a golden child”—teachers loved him. He was a leader and moral compass in school, sports, and social groups. With a strong social conscience, he always stuck up for the underdog. His best friend Jawn was the only black student in his first grade class. The school kept the boys together year after year, because Billy always protected Jawn…
He founded The Climate Campaign to bring existing student networks together. Four hundred students from 100 schools attended the first conference. In 2004 Billy founded Energy Action Coalition, which is fiscally sponsored by the Earth Island Institute, an environmental projects incubator.” — Ashoka website (“This profile below was prepared when William Parish was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.”)
In 2002 Parish left his studies at Yale to pursue his campaigns full time. No time was wasted in the grooming of the oligarchy’s up and coming superstar. By November of 2005 Parish was featured in Rolling Stone magazine’s issue as their “#1 Climate Hero of the 21st Century” for his work in organizing environmental activism across the country. [Source] Other “climate heroes” chosen by Rolling Stone for this particular feature included CEO of General Electric, Jeff Immelt (“The Profiteer”), Jonathan Lash of World Resources Institute (“The Go-between”, aligning industry with green groups), Amory Lovins (“The Visionary”, key player today for the implementation of payments for ecosystems services), Tony Blair, Al Gore, James Hansen and Arnold Schwarzenegger among others.
“Anya Kamenetz argues that Millennials are working toward small and achievable goals, rather than pursuing radical, systemic change. She describes the efforts of Billy Parish, the 23-year-old leader of Energy Action, who co-founded the nation’s largest youth environmental coalition as a Yale junior in 2003. Energy Actions conducts national campaigns on clean energy and global warming and claims an email list of 30 000 and member organizations on 1500 campuses. ‘”The next generation of advocates are solution-oriented,” says Parish. “They’re interested in things like biodiesel, etc.” – instead of radical ecology of the ’70s. This pragmatism may seem alien with those that equate youth with uncompromising zeal,” (Kamenetz, 2005: B3) [Source: Dissent and the Failure of Leadership, 2008] [Emphasis added]
Taking the very privileged Parish’s belief system into consideration (as outlined by Kamenetz above), it is little wonder that 50 million dollars would be sought to promote (and more importantly guarantee) pragmatism (and the expansion of capitalism) over radical ecology. It is little wonder Parish was embraced, coddled and made famous by the oligarchs that funnel billions into the non-profit industrial complex.
In 2006 “Energy Action” was cited as having over 30,000 members. A decade later, Parish cites membership at 300,000, a tenfold increase (Parish “Founded and grew the Energy Action Coalition into the world’s largest youth clean energy organization (300k members)”. [Source]
“By the age of 21, Billy Parish was managing a $5 million coalition of college-aged environmentalists… By the time he was a junior, he had 80 employees and was working with the White House on promoting green jobs.” — Environmental Watch Website, Profile Billy Parish
“The coalition, which operates on a $5 million annual budget, is funded primarily by foundations, including George Soros’ Open Society Institute, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Surdna Foundation.” — Journal Sentinel, May 16, 2009
Bill McKibben who partnered with Parish in the Clinton-backed campaign Step It Up ‘07 (2007), cites that he first met Parish in 2002: “When I first met him, he’d just dropped out of Yale. Not because he couldn’t hack it. Because he didn’t think it was as important as fighting climate change. And so he built the Energy Action Coalition, the nationwide student mobilization against global warming.” [Source] (Side note: While at Yale Parish studied sustainable economic development.)
In the January 7, 2006 Grist (not coincidentally, an online website for which McKibben serves on the Board of Directors) article, it was noted that “over 150 activists send letter asking Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to reconsider position” regarding his support of a wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod. Of those activists, both Parish (identified as Coordinator, Energy Action) and McKibben (identified as author of End of Nature) are listed as 2 of the 150 signatories demanding Kennedy reconsider his decision. Of interest regarding the individual participation of members involved in the NGO complex is that 350.org’s Jamie Henn is also a signatory representing Energy Action. 350’s Jon Warnow (who glaringly has no affiliation listed) and 350.org’s May Boeve (who is listed in affiliation with The Climate Campaign/Middlebury College) are listed as also signatories.
“A diverse coalition of Americans, including forward-thinking CEOs, evangelical leaders, and college students, is building a hopeful future of clean-energy sources, cutting-edge technologies, and rewarding and high-paying jobs. The installation of the Cape Wind farm will be an important turning-point for this new grassroots movement.”— January 7, 2007, Grist [Emphasis added]
The focus of Parish’s Energy Action Coalition conceptualized in 2003-2004 would become the mobilization of students into a force utilized to implement the annual campaign Power Shift: “the first-ever national youth summit to address the climate crisis” (November 2007). This would be achieved working in partnership with Step It Up, and a cash injection of millions (this is according to the Clinton Global Initiative that announced “working with partners 1Sky will raise $50 million”):
“On November 2, 2007, this commitment hosted thousands of young adults converging on Washington, DC for Power Shift 2007, the first-ever national youth summit to solve the climate crisis…Power Shift 2007 will occur in coordination with over 1,000 actions in communities across the country for Step it Up 2, as well as the first major public launch of the 1Sky campaign, calling for a major governmental mobilization to address global warming.”
The focus on electoral politics (as well as loyalty and obvious ties to the democratic party) is demonstrated in the following paragraph as found on the Clinton Foundation website:
“Provide each participant with comprehensive training and tools to develop campus-wide youth voter coalitions and mechanisms for running large-scale voter registration and mobilization programs around the 2008 elections… For Power Shift, Clinton Global Initiative is an opportunity to think even bigger and expand the scope of its planning, and a platform to tell the world that young people are rising to the climate challenge in new and unprecedented ways and will be a critical force in the 2008 election cycle… Over 200 Workshops and Trainings: Conference attendees will learn best practices for organizing, including: campaign and event planning, voter registration, recruitment, communications and media, public speaking, lobbying, leadership development, and coalition building.” [Source ]
“Financial Support for Power Shift 2007 focused on a 2008 strategy [to] allow for the opportunity to work collectively with Rock the Vote, The League of Young Voters, The Student Pirgs New Voters Project, Campus Camp Wellstone, Black Youth Vote, and the Hip Hop Caucus amongst other groups to help expand and grow the power of the youth vote.”
Financial support from unidentified private entities (as suggested in the unspoken, generalized source of the aforementioned $50 million dollars) would fully fund “Power Shift 07”.
“For the last five years, Powershift has been organized by a consortium of large and medium sized environmental organizations. Looking through the list of attendees gives you an idea: WWF, NWF, EDF, NRDC, Common Cause. All of the PIRG’s represented (WISPIRG, WashPIRG, CalPIRG, NJPIRG, MassPIRG) are regional chapters of USPIRG, which by way of the Fund for the Public Interest is connected to the various Sierra Club chapters.” — The Intent of Powershift, 2011
Above: 2007 Power Shift poster
“Global Power Shift was initiated and is being led by 350.org, a youth-led network co-founded by environmental writer Bill McKibben. We teamed up with a wide range of friends and allies (listed below) from across the international youth climate movement and climate movement more broadly to prepare for the global kickoff event in Istanbul, Turkey in June of 2013, and also to spark rolling national Power Shift events and new campaign mobilizations around the world throughout 2013 and 2014.” [Source]
Here it should be noted that the 350.org (also established in 2007) website domain belongs to that of a Jay R. Halfon. Halfon, who serves on the 350.org board of directors, was executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), with over 25 offices throughout New York State, for a decade ending in 1997.  An associate of Rockefeller, Jay R. Halfon is also listed as the executive and Director & General Counsel of Sustainable Markets Foundation (SMF). SMF would go on in 2011 and 2012 to help finance the book and film project The Message (now know as “This Changes Everything).
“The Energy Action Coalition comprises 44 member organizations and almost 400 allied organizations and companies.” — Clinton Global Initiative Press Release, September 28, 2007
The Energy Action Coalition (EAC) is said to be comprised of 44 member organizations and almost 400 allied organizations and corporations (2007). Yet, who these members organizations and corporations actually are must be considered unknown by most, as only 18 coalition partners are identified/disclosed on the EAC website. Included are Greenpeace, Green for All, Groundswell, Generation Progress and Responsible Endowments Coalition. [Full list]
In the 2005 document “New Energy for Campuses”, EAC coalition members are identified as: Black Mesa Water Coalition, California Student Sustainability Coalition, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Climate Campaign, Dakota Resource Council, Education for Sustainability Western Network, Energy Justice Network, Envirocitizen, Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, Free The Planet!, Global Exchange, Greenpeace, Indigenous Environmental Network, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund: Project Democracy, National Association of Environmental Law Societies, National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology Program, the student PIRGS, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Student Coalition, Sierra Youth Coalition, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Southern Energy Network, Student Environmental Action Coalition, Students United for a Responsible Global Environment, Sustainable Endowments Institute, and Youth Environmental Network.
EAC, an incubator project of Earth Island Institute would be classified as an independent501(c)(3) as of July 2014.
“Activist” Clearing Houses
Many activists will be fully indoctrinated long before they have a chance to fully develop their own thought processes, ideologies and identities. The Green Corps Field School for Environmental Organizing” is where non-profits send their recruits to groom them for “a career in environmental organizing”. Launched in 1992 by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), which is funded in part by the Tides Foundation, Alumni/alumna includes Bill McKibben (350), Phil Radford (Greenpeace), Lisa Archer (Friends of the Earth, an NGO which has been represented on the Ceres Board of Directors since inception) and even Ceres senior associates such as Eleanor Fort. Green Corps is explicitly for “college seniors and recent graduates.” Seasoned activists need not apply. It is of interest to note that the aforementioned founder of Power Shift, and Green Corps Alumni, Phil Radforth, serves as a board member of Green Corps.
“No older, more mature people–who might ask questions, or who might know more than their trainers–need apply. Green Corps has become the de facto frat house for millennial enviro-staffers. There’s an interesting story to be told here, in terms of understanding where the movement is today and where it’s headed.” – David Orr, long-time environmental organizer
Tides: The Opportunity Agenda:
Another example of a well-established grooming institution is The Opportunity Agenda (“Building the National Will to Expand Opportunity in America”), another project of Tides Center. “Moving Hearts, Minds, and Policy for Lasting Change” is polished linguistics for what amounts to behavioral change/modification projects:
“To advance the impact of the social justice community, we shape compelling narratives and messages; build the communication capacity of social justice leaders through training and resources; and engage with artists, creatives, and culture makers as powerful storytellers to shift the public discourse. We believe in the power of communication and collaboration to drive lasting change. Let’s work together to move hearts and minds to drive lasting policy and culture change, and to expand opportunity for all.” – The Opportunity Agenda: “Building the National Will to Expand Opportunity in America”[Emphasis added]
The “Creative Change Alumni” of The Opportunity Agenda (through 2014) includes those such as Jamie Henn, 350.org (2013), Eli Pariser, Upworthy, MoveOn.org, Avaaz (2009) and Open Society Foundations Advisory Board Member, Andrew Boyd, Beautiful Trouble (2011, 2012 and 2014). The process is akin to gold panning with prospective recruits representing “material” and those cherry-picked as the gold: “The process basically consists of placing the material that you want to process into your pan and shaking it in a left to right motion underwater to cause the gold, which is heavy, to work its way down toward the bottom of your pan. At the same time, the lighter materials, which are worthless, are worked up to the surface of the gold pan where they can be swept away. The process of shaking and sweeping is repeated until only the heaviest of materials are left-namely the gold and heaviest black sand.” Artists and those with interest in social or environmental justice who may exude charismatic appeal to the mainstream are discovered and molded by programs and training created/financed by our dominating oligarchs. The “Creative Change Alumni” is comprised of those who it is believed can be successfully developed, nurtured and fostered by those at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex. The strategic cultivating of neoliberal ideologies is carried out under the guise of empowering tomorrow’s leaders.
“The Opportunity Agenda is pleased to recognize the philanthropic and volunteer contributions of foundations, corporations, and individuals who have helped us during our launch phase. We also want to thank the many communications and media consultants, social justice leaders, and nonprofit organizations who have agreed to partner with us as we advance our mission to build the national will to expand opportunity for all.”
The Opportunity Agendas’ Foundation and Institutional Supporter list is extensive. This demonstrates the vital importance (thus ongoing extensive commitment) in overseeing the development of “activism” and said “movements”. Institutions who finance this particular clearing house include Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations. [Full List]
Bower Youth Awards:
Another “activist” clearing house venue is The New Leaders Initiative (NLI) home to the aforementioned Bower Youth Awards (“the premier North American awards honoring bold young environmental leaders”) created by the Earth Island Institute in honour of David Brower (“NLI honors the legacy of David Brower – firebrand environmentalist, community activist, and founder of Earth Island Institute.”) As of 2010, Earth Island Institute’s total net assets were $7.1 million. Previous selection committees have included Bill McKibben and Thao Pham, executive director of the Clif Bar Family Foundation.
“The New Leaders Initiative (NLI) grows environmental leadership by raising the profile of young emerging environmental leaders in North America, celebrating their achievements, and providing them with the skills, resources, and relationships to lead effective campaigns and projects.” — Brower Youth Awards Website
In addition to a $3,000 cash award and an all expenses paid trip to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend the awards ceremony, winners receive ongoing support and mentoring from Earth Island Institute staff and other environmental leaders.” — National Education Foundation Grants and Awards
“Since 2000, the Brower Youth Awards has recognized 86 exceptional leaders with a cash prize, a high-energy week of activities in San Francisco, and ongoing leadership support. NLI also offers mentoring and project sponsorship to rising young leaders.” — Brower Youth Awards Website
Past Bower Youth Award winners include 350.org’s most recognized staff members, such as previously mentioned Billy Parish (2004, age 22) who would go on to serve on 1Sky’s Board of Directors as well as 350.org’s U.S. Advisory Council, John Warnow (2007), 350.org Web Director and Co-Founder, and May Boeve (2006), 350.org political strategy and partnerships coordinator, as well as a co-founder and current executive director.
Above: Boeve follows in the footsteps of her 350.org counterpart Naomi Klein, appearing in the November 3, 2015 issue of Vogue. Incidentally, Mindy Lubber, president and founding board member of Ceres (350 divestment partner) is also featured in the same issue. “But what appears as a natural property of the charismatic celebrity is actually produced by discourses of celebrity. (Matt Hills, 2005:151) The capitalist system uses celebrities to promote individualism and illusions of democracy (the ‘anyone can do it’ myth) […] capitalism retains its hold on society, by reducing all human activity to private ‘personalities’ and the inner life of the individual.” (Giles, 2000:19 and 72) [Further reading: McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XIII of an Investigative Report] [The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse]
Above: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio (C) poses for a photo with May Boeve, executive director of 350.org (L) and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (R) following a Divest-Invest new conference on September 22, 2015 in New York City. “In this, these markets of emotion and care come into their own: celebritis politicus is used to sell causes, contributions, concerns and socially responsible consumerism through a competitive market for poverty and enviro-tainment designed to develop, capture, and ‘use’ the fans of this poverty and enviro-tainment towards progressive ends.” — Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times, 2013 [Further reading: McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XIII of an Investigative Report] [The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse]
Past Brower Youth Award recipients demonstrate the transition from “discovered” activist to paid professional. Examples of this trend include 2000 award winner Ariana Katovich who went on to become Director of Operations at Cutting Edge Capital and Director of Restoration Initiatives at the Earth Island Institute; 2000 award winner Dave Karpf who went on to become an “advocacy expert”; 2000 award winner Matt Ewing who went on to become National Field Director for MoveOn.org.; 2001 award winner Jared Duval who would go on to become a 350.org advocate and author of the book Next Generation Democracy. On and on it goes. The nurtured youth of today’s clearing houses for 21st century environmentalism, which is merely a guise for full-blown anthropocentrism, are the well-intentioned albeit naïve foot soldiers for today’s most powerful oligarchs.
This is not empowerment. This is exploitation, manipulation, social engineering and co-optation – at its best.
Wall Street, Mosaics & The Era of “Enlightened Self-interest”
Photo: Mosaic co-founders Billy Parish (L) and Dan Rosen (R).
The divestment series has demonstrated that more than often the very “activists” hell-bent on the destruction of more nature in pursuit of so-called “100% clean energy” have also set themselves up to be the very benefactors of the “climate wealth opportunities” that the “green energy revolution” promises. Many of the “leading activists”, as manufactured by Rolling Stone and other “alternative” media (also a vital component of the non-profit industrial complex) have ties to the financial sector. Therefore, Parish’s extensive privilege is not an exception, but rather it is the rule which has become normalized as par for the course via neoliberal media.
Billy Parish is son of Michael Parish, “a cum laude graduate of Princeton University and of Yale Law School”. Michael Parish has more than 35 years experience as a partner in several large Wall Street law firms:
“Although the work he has been involved in crosses the range of venture capital, intellectual property and advisory work for major financial institutions, his principal focus has been in the field of corporate and securities law with specialization in finance, mergers & acquisitions, public utility and energy law. He currently serves as the non-executive chairman of the board of Forum Funds, a group of 35 mutual funds headquartered in Portland, Maine managing more than $5 billion in assets… He has written extensively for business and legal publications on Sarbanes/Oxley, energy deregulation, and corporate governance.” [Full bio]
In 2012 Billy Parish released the book Making Good: Finding Meaning, Money and Community in a Changing World. (“Making Good was co-written with Dev Aujla, prominent social entrepreneur, and outlines a plan for young people to become problem solvers and capitalize on the opportunities that come from today’s global challenges.” Source)
The Green Game
“Our highest priority is to return capital with interest to our investors, so we only put projects up that we think are great investments.” — Billy Parish, March 26, 2013
“Getting into the Green Game”: March 23, 2014: Multi-millionaire and over-utilized “celebrity activist” Mark Ruffalo (yawn) & Billy Parish make guest appearances on Fox Business
“[Because] corporations must have physically impossible ‘endless growth’ in order to survive, corporate social responsibility is a myth. The only socially responsible act that corporations can take is to dissolve.” — Adam D. Sacks
Solar Mosaic (now known simply as Mosaic) was founded in May of 2009. It is situated in Oakland, California. The four co-founders are Billy Parish, Arthur Coulston (present at founding meeting of EAC in the summer of 2004, taking on role as Internet Director for EAC), Steve Richmond and Danny Rosen. Richmond, the former Mosaic chief financial officer has created software companies in the past, one of which was sold to Oracle. Richmond previously co-founded @SelectMinds and @DebtGoal. He has a background in strategy consulting and banking. The other partner Rosen is a “clean energy” entrepreneur working in Israel and rural native communities in the Southwest. He was recognized twice by Forbes as “30 under-30” for energy. Further, Rosen is the former VP of Solar Finance at Union Bank and fund manager for Citi Bank, with fourteen years of solar finance experience.
In 2012, Solar Mosaic raised $3.4 million from venture capital investors and received a $2 million grant from the Department of Energy’s SunShot Incubator Program.
On January 7, 2013, Mosaic made its public launch. Subsequently, Mosaic has been named a top-ten most innovative energy company by Fast Company in 2013 and 2014 and has received two Department of Energy SunShot grants, the Sierra Club’s Trailblazer Award and Verizon Wireless’ Powerful Answers Award. [Mosaic Wikipedia page]
“The shift from fossil fuels to clean energy represents one of the largest wealth-creation opportunities of our time… — Billy Parish, Fast Money, April 12, 2014
Mosaic’s Green Game Players
Bruce Ledesma is Mosaic’s Chief Operating Officer. Ledesma is the Former EVP/General Counsel at publicly traded global solar company (SunPower Corp which was sold to Total South Africa) and financial services company (Barra which was sold to Morgan Stanley).
Olaf Janke is Mosaic’s Chief Financial Officer. Janke is the former CFO of Aequitas Capital Management and Fairway America. Investment banker at GE Capital, JP Morgan and Credit Suisse. [Source: Mosaic Executive Team]
More recently, former SolarCity CFO Robert D. Kelly has been named a member of Mosaic’s Board of Directors. Interestingly as the company proposes that it is a socially responsible financial endeavor, SolarCity Corp, the top U.S. rooftop solar installer, purchases Suniva panels, which was discovered to be produced using prison labour. June 10, 2015: “It’s a good product,” SolarCity spokesman Jonathan Bass said in an email. “Suniva’s relationship with Unicor has never been a factor in our decision to use the modules… the mission to provide job training to prepare inmates for successful re-entry to the workforce is admirable.”
As the effort of Mosaic is seen as an environmental boon for the masses, if you peel back the layers, it is seemingly a windfall for the investors by way of institutional subterfuge. In the December 2013 article USA, Power to the People the author writes: “Upon signing the Act in April 2012, President Obama said, “For the first time, ordinary Americans will be able to go online and invest in entrepreneurs that they believe in.” But the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has still not adopted rules to implement the crowdfunding provisions of the JOBS Act. Until then, Mosaic is working with state regulators to allow the offer of securities to the general public. Currently, “accredited” investors (i.e., millionaires and institutions) from all over the country can invest with Mosaic, but its projects can be offered to “non-accredited” investors only in California and New York.” [Emphasis added]
This is not likely neither here nor there, and of little concern to Mosaic seeing as 1) Billy Parish’s father, Michael Parish, served for many years as outside Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) counsel to several large public utility corporations and as counsel to the board of those companies, and 2) this rule keeps energy/investment profits primarily in the hands of the wealthy few while “community owned” is the main thrust behind the marketing. The very crux of the venture is holistic branding in the era of “enlightened self-interest” where holistic linguistics frame our parasitic financial systems as new age ecosystems. (Parish: “If we want to see community owned clean energy, we’re going to need a new kind of financial system. We’re going to need to see a system that looks more like an ecosystem.”)
Of course having friends with in high places with manufactured celebrity status and extensive outreach does not hurt one’s aims either. In 2011 350.org partnered with Mosaic Solar for the November 20 “Day of Action”. ” Greenpeace, Bill McKibben, Bloomberg, Forbes, CNN, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, Atlantic, USA Today, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Beast, Upworthy, etc. all lend to building Mosaic’s brand and sales. June 17, 2014:
“Among others, 350.org, The Climate Reality Project, Green For All, National Wildlife Federation, Reverb, The Sierra Club, The Solutions Project and World Wildlife Fund will be joining the launch to share Mosaic Places with their communities.” [Source: National organizations join to launch product for the first national #PutSolarOnIt Day of Action]
In April of 2013, Parish would again be given hero status by Rolling Stone in the feature “The Fossil Fuel Resistance: Meet the New Green Heroes” with an introduction written by Bill McKibben. Other “heroes” as named by Rolling Stone include the “who’s who” of the environmental industry: James Hansen, Tom Steyer (“Daddy Greenbucks”), Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. (“The Minister”, divestment partner), Jane Kleeb (“The Keystone Killer”, founder of Bold Nebraska), Michael Brune (“The Insider”) and Jeremy Grantham (“The Financial Crusader”). And of course no venture that sells the green economy new economy would be complete without the blessing of Avaaz/Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans:
“Community renewables projects are also being put together. Heimans cites the case of Solar Mosaic, a US group that attracts investors to invest in a community, and similar organisations are emerging in Australia. Heimans calls it “crowd funding,” and it is the sort of activity he is up to at his new venture Purpose.com. “Not everyone has a roof you can put solar panels on. But you can have a stake in solar without having it on your own roof – it can go on the library or the community centre. And you can get a financial return.” — Why Green is Such a Dirty Word, May 29, 2012 [Further reading: The “Purpose” of “Consumer Activism” & COP21 – “We Mean Business”]
Parish has outlined (March 26, 2013) that the decision to rename/rebrand Solar Mosaic simply as Mosaic is based on the decision to expand beyond solar projects alone citing wind and electric vehicle infrastructure projects to be considered/sought within the next few years. He adds that the name too has meaning: “It takes lots of different, small pieces together to make something beautiful. And that’s what we’re doing with Mosaic. Enable people to be part of something that can change the world and heal the planet.”
Unfortunately, green energy projects that predominantly serve the North are and always will be dependent upon exploiting those in the global south. The “100% clean energy” revolution (to save the capitalist system now flying “close to stall speed”) cannot and never will “heal” the planet, but only further decimate it. All the good intentions and wishful thinking in the world will not make this fact any less so.
Talison Lithium’s Greenbushes Lithium Operations, Australia
“Globally, the investment required to build out this clean energy capacity is $100 trillion….And that doesn’t even include the additional trillions we need to spend to build out our electric car infrastructure, and build out our public transit systems, and rebuild our grid. Simply put, building a new clean energy infrastructure is the biggest business opportunity on the planet.” — Billy Parish, Mosaic Blog, April 12, 2013
The brine pools and processing areas of the Soquimich lithium mine on the Atacama salt flat. This is the planet’s second largest salt flat, located in the Atacama desert of northern Chile
“In this generation we can shift to clean energy, and we can do it in a way that makes all of us richer, healthier, and happier.” — Billy Parish, Mosaic Blog, April 12, 2013
Business As Usual Photo Gallery
“2013 was the year that solar really became mainstream and the future looks primed for more growth. Across the globe solar panels have sprouted up on rooftops from New York to Fiji as people realize that not only are solar photovoltaic (PV) panels good for the environment, but one’s bottomline as well. From established companies like Wal-Mart down to the off-the-grid villager in Kenya or the nomadic herder in Mongolia, the promise of solar is an opportunity that no one wants to squander.” — The Mosaic blog
“To create solutions at the scale needed to stop climate change we need everyone to move their money out of fossil fuels and into clean energy. Mosaic is truly helping to make that possible.” — Bill McKibben, Founder, 350.org
Mosaic Solar installation on the roof of the Ronald McDonald House in San Diego – Courtesy Mosaic
Militarism? No problem: October 2, 2013: “Joining with solar project crowd funding pioneer Mosaic, the US Army, Navy and Air Force aim to fund 12.3 megawatts (MW) of residential rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) power across 547 homes at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, the first joint Army, Navy and Air Force base in the country… Tonya Johnson, who lives with her family on the base, commented on Mosaic’s partnership with the US Armed Forces: ‘Our nation’s energy sources and our national security go hand in hand. The military is at the forefront of developing and deploying clean energy technologies that support troop readiness and energy independence. I love having solar on my rooftop.'” Image: Credit: Mosaic, US Department of Defense
On a personal note, there is a direct correlation between spending money and global greenhouse gas emissions resulting in rapidly accelerating climate change. This is why 1% of the planet’s population (meaning anyone who can afford to get on a plane) is responsible for 50% of the global greenhouse gas emissions (as noted by Professor Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) while the poorest 99% emit essentially nothing (Stephen Pacala). (In 2007, Stephen Pacala, the director of the Princeton Environmental Institute stated “The world’s 500 million richest people were responsible for a breathtaking 50 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.”). Under the industrialized economic system and the resulting civilization, the more money (backed by nothing) we spend, the more we tear up the Earth and turn her natural resources into products/capital. Unfortunately, as documentary filmmaker Jeff Gibbs has stated, “the only way to use less oil, is to use less oil.” This elephant in the room is documented in a 2009 paper by professor of Atmospheric Studies at the University of Utah, Tim Garrett. Nov. 22, 2009: ” In a provocative new study, a University of Utah scientist argues that rising carbon dioxide emissions – the major cause of global warming – cannot be stabilized unless the world’s economy collapses….”. Lastly, to put this into perspective, how many people are even aware of the fact that only 5% of the world’s population has ever flown? [Source] (And of course sentient animals, insects, tress, plants, etc. have no use for solar whatsoever, nor have they contributed to the environmental crisis, nor are they placed at the forefront of what is most vital to protect. The most effective but obviously unpopular solution to mitigating the climate crisis would be the eradication of the 1% creating the crisis.)
Above: Mosaic marketing advert. “Not only can you save on your electricity bill for the next 30 years, but you can also increase the value of your home $15,000. The average Mosaic customer saves $67,083 over the life of their solar system without even considering this increase in home value, or the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit. Add on the increase in home value and the average savings goes up to $82,083! Add on the Federal Solar Tax Credit and it goes up even further. It’s important to act quickly to maximize your savings, as the tax credit is due to expire in 2016.”
Mosaic’s business model is dependent on the borrower making payments, which in turn depends on the power produced and sold. Most solar business models offer no money down, up-front financing with low interest rates for loans as much as 50,000 – for up to 25 years. The truth is that a 25-year home equity loan (or even ten) at 3% could easily result in one losing their entire home if they hit a rough patch. And sooner or later (likely sooner considering the current economic situation), most average citizens are bound to do so. Further, it is highly unlikely this low rate would be locked in beyond a maximum of five years as a hike in interest rates could bankrupt the companies.
To illustrate the prevalence of these deceitful calculations on an industry wide basis, Sunpower advertises “you can save over $80,000 over the lifetime of your system-that’s almost 140 per month!*” (*Based on home in San Diego CA with $150 per month electrical bill. System financed with 25-year home equity loan at 3% interest.”) Mosaic advertises a similar calculation: “The average Mosaic customer saves $67,083 over the life of their solar system without even considering this increase in home value, or the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit. Add on the increase in home value and the average savings goes up to $82,083!”
I am highly doubtful about these claims. This is not because I am sanctimonious, but because I personally have a 12 panel, 2.3kW solar installation I installed many years ago when I believed doing so was “the right thing to do”. However, I’m not in California the sunshine state. I’m in Canada with cold winters and intermittent bouts of snow (proving solar is extremely ineffective in countries where sunshine is not all year around). However, I remain suspect of these “promises” in California and I will explain why.
First of all, consider that under the Ontario Green Energy Act, the contract I signed guaranteed my solar generated energy would be purchased at a rate of 80.2¢/kWh, for twenty years. I tied into the grid because the solar system itself, which cost well over C$20,000 would have cost an additional C$15,000 for batteries which I could not afford. The installation of panels alone was a financial burden I could not afford but went ahead stemming from the deep desire to start the green energy revolution, which was the principle the peers surrounding me at that time campaigned on. (Live and learn. As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20)
Now consider the average Utility-Scale Solar Price In US has fallen to 5¢/kWh (Clean Technica, September 30, 2015).
Even at 80.2¢/kWh, the highest amount I have ever received for the energy produced by my panels over the years was just under $400.00 (a sunny month of July if I recall correctly). My recent payment recently arrived. It was C$27.17. The truth is I’ll be lucky if I ever make back my investment even over 20 years – even with the locked in high purchase rate per KWh. But what if I did have a climate like California with sun dominating my existence? At $C400.00 per month over 20 years the return equates to C$96,000. But again, that’s at 80.2¢/kWh. At 5¢/kWh, even in the sunniest of states, the return shrinks massively. Based on this information alone, could solar investments that promise huge such returns create a financial bubble?
My monthly report from January 2016.
My monthly report for July of 2015.
But far worse than having a poor investment (my motivation for the solar system was never driven by the desire for profit anyway since the system paying for itself in ten years, as was the promise, was merely icing on the cake), is the realization of what and where all the elements of my panels came from (the fact they were locally made changes little) and the decimation done to the Earth and her inhabitants to do so. For what? So we can watch Netflix for as long as we want? So we can Facebook 24/7? So my neighbours can plug in their electric leaf blowers to blow leaves off the lawn onto the street? So we can light the cityscape 24/7? Welcome to the machine. A machine loved and embraced by many, where people actually believe it is their “right” to pollute and freely consume without consequence. Also disheartening is the fact that every time I read my “monthly energy production report” stating “you have offset the equivalent of one tree” (2, 3, or 5 max…) all I can think of is why I didn’t plant 1-5 trees each month, while conserving my energy use as much as I possibly can, instead of installing a solar system. I should not have pummeled the Earth for more of her stripped away and declining resources. I am guilty. I regret.
The last thing I will say on my own solar installation experience is something of great importance to me that hovers over my every day thoughts. I live in a 1940s bungalow that, over the years, I have naturalized my property to create a fairy tale like forest (illusory or not) in an urban setting. I have rare endangered trees, fruit trees, frogs, toads, birds, and even some snakes as of last summer. It has been a labour of love. My trees (which I am humbled by) continue to interfere with the solar panels. Shade on one panel can result in the transformers (which are no doubt designed to become obsolete in twenty years time when new ones will be required, as will the panels) shutting down the entire system. For this reason, individual transformers were installed (more rare Earth minerals, etc.) But even so, a shaded solar panel is a complete waste of what was stolen/exploited in the making of the panel. So, continually… and ever so reluctantly, with much regret and sadness, I cut back my beautiful trees. I hate this. It makes no sense. Cutting back trees that absorb CO2, clean our air and provide shade, beauty and habitat – to produce solar to offset carbon- simply makes no sense whatsoever. My solution would be to envelop our houses with trees to provide shade that would render air conditioners useless. This is a solution that makes much more sense – but it will never be pursued at scale because it does not accelerate economic growth.
Nature will not negotiate regardless of our wants and desires. Movements built on collective anthropocentrism, privilege and insatiable western consumptive lifestyle will only drive us further, and faster, toward our own annihilation. We ignore our predicament, and attach ourselves to deadly illusions, at our own peril.
 The US Public Interest Research Group known as PIRG is a political lobby non-profit organization. The first PIRG was a public interest law firm started by Ralph Nader in Washington, D.C. and was far different from the modern conception of PIRG. The State PIRGs emerged in the early 1970s on college campuses across the country. After students organized on college campuses for nearly 10 years, the different State PIRGs established the D.C. arm, the US PIRG, to advocate for change on the national level. Nearly simultaneously, the PIRGs founded the Fund For Public Interest Research (FFPIR), the fundraising and citizen outreach arm of the PIRGs. Since the early 1990s, the fund has also canvassed for other groups, working very closely with the big green Sierra Club, and many others institutions within the non-profit industrial complex. In the book Activism, Inc: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling Progressive Politics in America by Columbia University sociologist Dana Fisher, Fisher writes that the outsourcing of grassroots organizing by groups like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace to organizations like the Fund has led to the decay of grassroots infrastructure and opportunities for involvement on the left. In response to the criticisms by Fisher and others, the PIRG Fund created a website, Canvassing Works. The site includes testimony by former fund staff who have moved into leading roles in other institutions within the non-profit industrial complex and testimony of big greens within the elitist circles, such as Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope and Randy Hayes of the Rainforest Action Network. PIRG also receives Rockefeller foundation money while at the same time stating that they avoid any funding directly from corporations, stating that such funding would restrict their autonomy. No one is in a better position to tap into and influence the impressionable youth across North America than that of PIRG.