Owens is undeterred. We in America, Owens suggests, may have more in common with the people in Iraq than we think. I realize now that like us, many Iraqis subscribe to the philosophy that a mans home is his castle. We are on their land. They are criticizing us the way we might criticize someone doing battle on our turf. There are many Iraqi citizens over there questioning our motives who are anti-American in their minds, but theyre not combative or violent people. In general, theyre trying to go about their lives, find jobs to support their families and take care of their kids. Right now, many of their days are spent simply trying to make sure their families are fed, he noted.
Back in Missouri, Owens, has embarked upon a campaign to educate folks from the Show Me state how the development of markets for (and use of) photovoltaic technologies can afford people here and abroad important solutions to escalating utility bills, falling home values, alarming unemployment, environmental concerns that come with the burning of fossil fuels and Americans dangerous dependence on foreign sources of oil. America currently uses 25% of the worlds oil supply, but this country holds only 3% of the worlds oil reserves.
The first leg in his educational tour of duty is collaborating with colleagues at the non-profit Columbia Climate Change Coalition (C4) to participate in the 13th Annual National Solar Tour. Sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society, its the largest grassroots solar event in the history of the United States. The tour he is helping organize is slated for October 18, 2008.
Last year, 115,000 people in 46 states participated in the National Solar Tour. Tours begin October 4 across America and run in 49 states and Puerto Rico throughout the month. Only North Dakota has yet to register a tour. For details on a tour near you, visit www.nationalsolartour.org).
Owens was inspired to join the renewable revolution in late Summer of 2006, after one of his physics professors introduced him to Al Gores film, An Inconvenient Truth. There he met a woman named Monta Welch and together they formed the non-profit Columbia Climate Change Coalition.
Theres so much thats been done in this country to bring solar energy into the mainstream, we just need to get past that tipping point, Owens said. Its good when people like Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens set high bars, he suggested. These goals are achievable. This is America. If we put our minds to it and have the right plan of action, we can succeed.
Just as he enlisted in the Army to do his part to defend America from the terrorists who perpetrated 9-11, he is working in the area of renewable energy to educate people about the benefits of solar, and to help develop a burgeoning domestic industry that will contribute to Americas energy independence.
One thing I learned overseas is how fortunate we are here in the United States, notes Owens. But in many respects, we are still pretty insulated from the harsh realities of the rest of the world. We have one of the finest qualities of life on this planet. We have freedoms that others only dream about. We have readily available electricity to power our homes and businesses, but were not acting responsibly.
No matter where we live, there are going to be people out there who put themselves first. But, Owens emphasizes, living in a free society isnt free. And its not free to damage the environment, or do things at the expense of your fellow man. You know I was going down that path until I saw Gores documentary, said Owens. I must admit, Ive always considered myself to the right of Al Gore, but hes making sense to me, particularly after my experiences in Iraq.
He says in the case of alternative energy, Americans could stand a lesson from the Germans. When I was stationed in Germany, I saw first-hand a standard of living completely comparable to ours, but theyre doing things so differently so efficiently, said Owens. Germany has the highest per capita use of solar energy in the world.
Im working toward my PhD with the hope that I can again be a part of the solution, said the 37-year-old veteran. We have important work to do, whether its here or as ambassadors of the better way of life energy independence can bring abroad.
You know Missouri is a Native American name that means people of the big canoe, he says. It might sound corny, but were all in the big canoe together. We just have to figure this stuff out.
Its about individuals wills -- and societys will. If enough people took the time to understand the situation and we took responsibility for ourselves and the impacts we make on this planet -- we might be doing things differently, said Owens.
When it comes to evangelizing the important realm of renewable energy, Iraqi War veteran and Individual Ready Reservist Jeffrey Owens is active duty.
Read more in the National Solar Tour series.
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