Monday, September 22, 2008

Struggle is the Voice of Dissent

So I spent the weekend camping out in spectacular weather in Kempton PA and hanging around in the Transportation Tent at the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Festival.  Thanks to the tireless and gifted oversight of Phil Jones of MAREA there were upwards of twenty alternative fuel vehicles on display and a full roster of lectures and workshops going in two tents (plus the waste veggie oil conversion sponsored by Fossil Fuels, which took place outside).  The EV contingent was well-represented, primarily by members of the Eastern Electric Vehicle Club

On Friday I talked to three different student groups ranging from sixth grade to high school (sharing center stage with Steve Savitz and Perry Del Rossi from Methacton High School's Electric Car Club -- they were proudly displaying the newly-rebatteried Lorax, previously described in this blog).  

On Saturday morning Bill put on a 3-hour workshop for folks interested in pursuing an EV conversion, and in the afternoon informational session I moderated a panel featuring Alan Arrison, Ken Barbor, Bill Kirkpatrick, Paul Kydd, and Oliver Perry answering questions from an audience wanting EV conversion pointers.  These folks offered up a wealth of  conversion experiences, purposes, and opinions; it was so great  that I recruited the same group to join us at the end of Sunday morning's 3-hour workshop (Dr. Kydd was gone but Don Young came on board to talk about his production Mars Electric vehicle and the Ford Ranger conversion he's just completed).  We did one more panel in the afternoon and then dispersed, well satisfied with the weekend.  Lots of people came through,, and they all seemed to go away happy.

What a grand time it was!  -- and it was just the tip of the iceberg, since all over the festival people were crowding into tents to hear about wind and solar power, sustainable agriculture, home funeral practices, conservation, recycling, food preservation, socially responsible investing, community organizing to stop polluting energy plants, and more.  

I'm waiting for pictures of our little corner of the festival, but I couldn't wait to post this.  In a different context earlier this summer (at a week-long institute concerned with an approach to education that is equally as radical as the notion of battery-powered vehicles is) I heard Pat Carini, who has been involved in the progressive school movement since the early 1970's, speak.   She gave an amazing talk to the 20 or so of us there -- mostly public school teachers -- and basically said that things have never been worse, but she encouraged like-minded individuals to keep meeting and discussing the issues.  She said,  "Struggle is the voice of dissent."  

She went on to say that when people give up and stop talking about an issue,  the language of that discourse falls into disuse and starts to sound kind of funny or quaint.  So that those who continue to wield that language are really doing something quite vital, even though (and here I am perhaps putting words in her mouth, but this is what I came away with) it is basically impossible and ridiculous to conceive of how to actually manifest change on the scale which is necessary.  

I hope you can see my point -- whether it be changing the presumptions of US education or shifting our personal transportation over to primarily electric-powered, the struggle is the voice of dissent. One car or person or weekend festival at a time, each articulation of it keeps the idea alive.  From Oliver Perry and Paul Kydd, who have been advocating and working on EV's for decades and have transmitted their enthusiasm to countless students, to Ken Barbor, who saw Who Killed the Electric Car in November, started building his Geo Metro conversion on January 1, and has been riding back and forth to work in his home-brewed EV since April 1, every EV enthusiast present was a passionate and articulate voice for the cause.  

And did I mention it was tremendous fun and the weather was beyond perfect?!?!?

Pictures coming, I hope.  I kept leaving my camera in my car and the ones I took are fairly execrable.