Green Industry Has Failed? Tell That to the Marines!

marines solar power

Camp Pendleton Marines.

Response to Jonah Goldberg Los Angeles Times Op-Ed  piece entitled “America’s green quagmire

In the opinion page of the LA Times, Johan Goldberg derivatively states that since 1977, “we’ve been hearing that green must become the new red, white and blue.” Mr. Goldberg is referring to the number of years that it has taken alternative energy to take root. He conveniently omits the president that immediately followed Carter was the same one that took down solar panels atop the white house.

At the time President Carter made it his moral imperative to move us away from foreign oil at a time when Middle Eastern countries held an embargo against us, literally choking our life blood. Over two decades later, instability in the Middle East have led to record high gas prices. Yet Mr. Goldberg states that it was all “nonsense,” adding that the U.S can drill its way out of energy dependence right here in America, somehow not mentioning that the “America” he is referring to includes Canada and Mexico. While Canada and Mexico are our friends, this would technically still be considered dependence on foreign oil.

Perhaps, had the nation taken a different path into alternative energy we wouldn’t have had the first Gulf War and the conflicts that followed. Instead, what we’ve heard since Bush senior and junior are proclamations of America’s power and status while ignoring environmental concerns worldwide and denying our conflicts in the middle east are over oil. However, the military doesn’t deny these concerns are real.

Goldberg states that the goal posts are continually changing when it comes to the “green revolution” and asks whether it has been good for energy independence, jobs, or global warming. Goldberg needs only ask the military, which is rapidly moving into green technology to not only save the environment, but to save lives. But Goldberg appears to be a “Johnny come lately” to these apparent truths. When you put everything in perspective, the military has been leading on this for quite a while.

Almost 18 years ago a young private checked out of Marine Corps boot camp and into his first duty station – Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow situated alongside the route to Las Vegas and where this young Marine would get taught a lesson, the lesson of a lifetime.

While stationed at the base my duties were in warehousing and supply. I then received training in hazardous materials and storage. Additional duties included working in the base recycling facility, which included picking up recyclables and then working in the base housing office.

In those days recycling was just a concept, but something that needed to be done in order to preserve the environment. These concepts were new in those days. Consider that residential recycling efforts were barely taking root in the early 90′s. I remember learning about sustainability and water saving techniques, along with the words “going green.”

These concepts may have been new for the military back then, but they are not now and it isn’t new to thousands of troops serving these days in our modern military.

Along with the combat training that I received in boot camp, the most invaluable training that I received didn’t involve weapons at all. One little known fact is that military installations are often stewards of the environment around them. Take for example Camp Pendleton, which has over 125,000 acres of land. Within this base roams buffalo and other wild creatures that include native plants. Barstow is much the same, in the vast expanse of desert, roams the desert tortoise and a fragile environment indeed.

After two combat tours in Iraq and duty in other locations I was curious. I went back on a visit to see the progress that has been made at the logistics base since I was stationed there and I was speechless. Along with the 60 foot wind turbine that has been built since 2009, which produces about 1.5 megawatts of electricity, are solar panels on buildings and on top of my old barracks. Driving along the base you’ll see desert landscaping and electric vehicles charging at stalls. I walked into a building and picked up a poster
proclaiming leadership in being the first to build a megawatt wind turbine.

Mr. Goldberg, you tell the Marines that the green revolution has failed and they’ll tell you that the Marines don’t know how to fail. All throughout military installations solar panels and wind turbines are being built saving and preserving the environment, while also reducing greenhouse emissions. This “can do” attitude is what is needed in America, an attitude where our public officials proclaim that leadership is installing the first solar panels on houses and buildings in their district. But, where is this leadership at?

I guess what is lacking in Mr. Goldberg’s assessment that the green industry is “nonsense” is the guts to ask the Marines why they proclaim that leadership is going green?

mario rivasWhile there is some leadership in the D.C. beltway by both parties, there should be more leadership on this locally, especially in small communities that could use a break on their energy bills. Maybe spending on energy could be replaced by spending at a local restaurant where the money goes directly into helping the local economy. Maybe, just maybe, this could be the solution to high unemployment and long protracted conflicts over foreign oil, and even world peace.

Mario Rivas
Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party

Mario Rivas is an Iraq War Veteran and is currently serving in the California Army National Guard. He currently works in the City of Huntington Park as an Environmental Specialist.   

Published by the LA Progressive on September 2, 2011
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About Mario Rivas

Mario Rivas is a former Marine and veteran of the Iraq War. He is an environmentalist and member of the Vets Voice Foundation, Operation Free and the Truman National Security Project. Mario is currently serving in the Californa Army National Guard.