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By Candice Bernd
November 22, 2011
Caption : Organized by Solar Mosaic, Occupy Rooftops seeks to bring solar power to communities across the globe.     

We’ve occupied universities, parks, and banks, but not our rooftops—until now.

On Sunday solar advocates worldwide occupied the rooftops of schools, churches, and other community centers with solar panels in an effort to bring solar power to those rooftops through a crowd-funding model.

The event was organized by the community solar advocate Solar Mosaic, and the idea is pretty simple—community-funded solar power. Everyone chips in for the project and the community gains energy independence. It follows the Occupy movement’s ideals by taking the energy model out of the hands of the 1 percent and putting it back into the hands of the 99 percent.

It’s a movement that could prove critical to the First Nation band Xeni Gwet’in who reside in Nermiah Valley in British Columbia, Canada. The band is completely off the grid, but uses expensive generators for much of their power. Xeni Gwet’in is currently working with Solar Mosaic to go solar—not only to get off fossil fuels, but to maintain their independence and preserve their culture.

“[Energy is] going to direct how the culture ends up surviving because the Chief-in-council basically stated that if we don’t get an energy initiative in here and get industry, almost a micro-economy, which would probably evolve around the energy initiative, then they’re at risk of losing their culture because people are just moving out and not coming back,” says Xeni Gwet’in Enterprise Manager Michael Lares. 

The Xeni Gwet’in people have been threatened by mining companies seeking to mine their territory of Nermiah Valley. The band is currently battling with one of those companies for their claim to the land and their rights in court.

“There’s a bit of a tug-of-war there between technology and maintaining their cultural health here,” Lares said. “So creating jobs and bringing in power in different ways is important because if they let the mining company in here they would just drag power in … but they stand by their heritage and their culture and they fight against mining companies and keep them out, but the alternative to that is they have to be more self-supportive, and programs like this would be a blessing to them.”

In addition to the Xeni Gwet’in people, other solar projects launched on Sunday.

In Bucharest, Romania, a group of 20 like-minded people finished an inventory of several community buildings they hope to take solar-powered through Occupy Rooftops. In Jacksonville, Fla., Solar Mosaic helped a local Unitarian church make the effort to go solar. And in Yerevan, Ga., a team worked to install solar panels on top of a kindergarten for disabled children.

Solar Mosaic provides online guides, satellite solar assessments, and planning grants for solar projects in local communities to get off the ground.

Community Solar Day presented a simplified path for a clean energy future; the project comes just a week after the State Department announced it would postpose a controversial decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, likely until 2013.Climate scientists deemed the burning of the tar sands as a potential “game over” for the planet’s climate.

It’s critical to use the extra time to Occupy rooftops with solar panels and show that the only way forward is with a green economy.

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