Are we the Icarus? Have we flown too close to the sun?

In Greek Mythology, Icarus and his father Daedalus, escaped from the island of Crete by means of wings attached with wax. Although Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun he did not heed the warning, the wax melted and he fell to his death.  To be an “Icarus” is to fail or be destroyed because of lack of caution or excessive ambition. Stay with me here.

I had a friend. I say had, because she died of colon cancer as she turned 40.  I visited with her several times over the span of her illness as she struggled to make sense of how this came about. On one visit, we discussed that she grew up near a Superfund Site. In fact, four women on her street with whom she grew up died before the age of 40.  Three of colon cancer and one of breast cancer.

“A Superfund site is any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment. These sites are placed on the National Priorities List (NPL).”

In fact, you can search this link for a Superfund site near you.

I don’t know the nature of the polluter that was in my friend’s area.  What I do know is hazardous waste, whether it’s in the water, the air or the land fill is not good for anyone. The environment we live in matters.  More recently in the news is the Paris Accord regarding Climate change and our President saying we will exit the accord. 

I am disgusted we are still having the conversation over climate change. There is no disagreement that temperatures are rising.  It is WHY they are rising that causes contention.  Whether it’s methane gas caused by the volcanoes, the compressed carbon in the earth’s core or man-made emissions, the reality is the heat is rising. The consensus is man-made pollution is adding to the issue, in a significant way.  Yet, somehow many of us associate economic potential growth with old time polluting technologies such as coal.  This is just not true. The growth is in exploring and utilizing new technologies as evidenced by the numbers.

We live in a society that measures success by the amount of money generated for companies, their stockholders and individuals. Many times, this success is achieved with blatant disregard for the environment.   This translates into disregard and disrespect for the people living in that environment.  Maybe we need to rethink and measure success by the health of our nation, the health of our planet.   Our measure should include our ability to lead with ground breaking technologies and solutions to worldwide issues.   It bothers me when people say fossil fuels are the only way to go, because it seems narrow minded, it’s old school.  

 Now I don’t know about you but I would rather take a walk in Atlanta, GA than downtown Beijing. A friend of mine who travels to Beijing said he looked out his hotel window one morning and couldn’t see across the street. That’s how bad the smog is.  This is reality for parts of our world.

Check out Beijing below:


While China is one of the worst polluters in the world with fossil fuels they are racing to build sustainable, renewable energy faster than any other country.  They recently completed the world’s largest floating solar farm on a lake over a collapsed coal mine.  This solar farm generates 40 megawatts of power enough to provide energy to 15,000 homes.

What does the US do?  Our President unilaterally withdraws us (2020) from the Paris accord because its “not a good deal” for us financially.  This way we can create more coal jobs (not happening) and get people back to work in the US. We can get rid of EPA regulations so we are not enslaved by “rules” that hurt our job growth. Right?  It only hurts our health, our ability to function, let alone the political ramifications of this decision and our worldwide standing. Facebook's Zuckerberg responded to this withdrawal from the accord by saying any data center Facebook builds moving forward will use 100% renewable energy.  Apple's new worldwide headquarters uses 100% solar energy to power its facility. These are American companies and two of the largest in the world.  We have the ability to lead.

Get real.  In 2017 there were 50,000 coal jobs left. This includes miners, office workers and sales for the mining industry. Let’s put it in perspective.  In 2016 there were 260,000 Solar jobs. The bowling industry employs 69,088 workers.  The skiing industry 75,036, the used car business 138,000 and car washes in the US 150,000.  Those coal jobs aren’t coming back regardless of what Trump says and the people drinking his Kool-aide. Trump said while rolling back EPA regulation “The bold decision to tackle the growing regulatory state and identify rules that harm the economy and threaten American jobs.”

Growing regulatory state?  You mean the one where we are not permitted to dump sewage and chemical waste in our rivers/streams?  You mean the ones that cap carbon emissions so our children don’t have to breath the polluted air?  Why don't we just model ourselves after Beijing?  Why don’t we just tape our mouths to the tail pipes of our cars and inhale deeply. Let’s see where that gets us.  My point is let’s endure short term sacrifice while we transition for long term gain in health and in wealth.  Make no mistake the renewables are large, in charge and open for business. Those jobs are growing exponentially.  Follow the numbers.

“For wind power, the states with the most growth so far in 2016 were Texas, OK, KS, IA and CO.  Just those five states alone have added enough generation in the first six months to power an additional 3 million homes.  Iowa alone in 2017 may become the first state in history to generate a majority of its power from wind.

For Solar power, the states with the most growth so far in 2016 are CA, NC, NV, AR and GA. Just these states in the first six months of 2016 generated enough to power for 1 million homes.   CA, the state with the “Crazy” idea to have 1/3 of its power come from non-hydro renewable energy by 2020 is generating nearly 30% so far in 2016.  The future looks good for renewable sources of energy.”

-Daniel Fleischmann, Renewable Energy World

These are the numbers and we are just getting started.  We have proven ourselves to be a nation who historically, cannot self-regulate.    When we don’t self-regulate we struggle, our greed and gluttony bring us to our knees. We pollute unabashedly, we put together risky financial vehicles and we allow GMO foods to take over our stores.  We know better.  When we know better we should do better. When will we learn our lessons?

A healthy population focused on new technologies and better ways of doing things Thrives. Isn’t that what we all want…to thrive?

I was traveling with a colleague one day and met him at his home to start our trip.  I met his youngest son who is seven. I said, “Hey what are you doing this summer?”  Before he could answer I said, “Do you have a job?”  He laughed and said “No. But I do have chores. I take care of all the recycling, I keep all the shoes in the mud room lined up and neat and sometimes I empty the dryer.”   I wanted to hug him, not only because he was cute as button but because of what he said.  When we left for our meeting I told my friend what a great job he and his wife were doing teaching their son what is important.  Like having chores, like recycling and teaching him responsibility.  These seven+ year old children are the people that will inherit and own our future.  If we teach them when they are young, they will carry it with them.  Can we try to leave our world a better, cleaner place than we found it?  I hear from the millennial crowd they certainly care about these issues. 

If you know me, you know I drive a Prius, have solar panels on my house and have recycled since the first recycling dumpster hit the city of Atlanta.  I am a Greenie and I take my fair share of knocks and teasing from people because of my leanings.  I believe it’s my responsibility to do my part where and when I can.   Sometimes that means speaking out.   I know I am only one small voice, but its one small voice looking to thrive.  You have a voice—please use it to make the world a better place for us all to live.  Be a leader.  Set an example in your own circle of influence.

"There comes a time when silence is betrayal." "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." "Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

-Rev. Martin Luther King

Until Next time,

Sat Nam.