Students at Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri, built this solar house for a national competition. Students are also participating in a race of solar-powered vehicles across the country.
Photo: dwclaborn

We did not celebrate “Independence Day” on July 4th. Our society is too dependent on corporations like Wal-Mart and Exxon for that.

So on the holiday, I took my friend, Don Horton, to Neosho, Missouri, where we caught up with some kids at Crowder College who had entered the Solar Car Rayce. The contest of solar-powered cars begins in Plano, Texas, later this month, runs through Neosho, all the way up to Calgary, Alberta.

Don’s worked with the Solar Rayce since its beginnings in 1993. He lives high on a bluff over the Eleven Point River, adjacent to the Irish Wilderness. He fishes, hunts and grows a humongous garden. He shares his 10 acre farm with Missouri orchids, whippoorwills and cougars. He hasn’t held a steady job for 20 years and has no running water or grid electricity. He does have a phone and four solar panels that supply him with lights, radio and a TV. Don, in so many ways, is ahead of the curve and ahead of his time.

So, for my part, I took him to Neosho where he’ll meet up with the Crowder College Rayce team. The best of our universities’ students will take their attempts at free solar transportation on a race…again. General Motors still doesn’t “get it” and literally we are going to have to do this ourselves. GM used to sponsor the Rayce but pulled out when George Bush took office. The kids at Crowder College now build solar-electric golf carts. (I want one to drive around here!) They also send portable modular homes to the Solar Home Decathlon in Washington, DC, where these energy efficient homes sit on display for a week while our “leaders” try to figure out how to stick their heads deeper in the sand.

Lately, this couch potato has been watching DirecTV’s Channel 286, Planet Green. It is totally dedicated to “green” technology and has many good programs. Ed Begley, Jr.’s “Living With Ed” is not only a hoot and entertaining but imparts tons of information on how to live independently. Begley’s visit to Jay Leno’s car collection revealed an 1896 “Ladies Electric Shopping car.” He and Jay rode out on the streets in total silence on 19th century technology that our society passed by. Jay’s 1930 Doble Steam car got 50 miles to the gallon in 1930!!! Where has our society gone so wrong? We left innovation and energy independence behind when we let JP Morgan destroy Nikola Tesla and John D. Rockefeller steer us into an oil economy.

So…you won’t hear these stories on NBC, owned by another General…Electric which is pushing “clean air nuclear” or CNN which is brought to you by the coaly men blowing up West Virginia’s mountains. The oily boys and coaly men don’t seek the salvation of our country or our planet. They only seek the continuation of their money-making. As I’ve reiterated till I’m blue: Burning got us into the glacier-melting business and burning will not get us out. Necessity IS the mother of invention and it IS happening, whether it’s the windfarms dotting your farmland or a simple guy off the grid in Oregon County living in paradise.

As we drove to Neosho through Springfield, we were both struck by the lack of traffic on the 4th of July Weekend and the boarded up businesses along the way and in Springfield. Don said we can tell the health of the economy by the number of trucks and cars for sale by their owners along the highways.

Those in charge have succeeded in running our ship of state into a shoal, but we can turn their actions into a success if we stop to think while stranded. My twenty-something children are all riding bikes…again. Old men are riding golf carts in town and the farmers’ market in town presents us with fresh, home-grown and mostly organic fruits and vegetables. I’m growing a modest but serious garden. We can turn this sour lemon into the nicest of lemonades! Our country can no longer make shoes or our own daily necessities but we will learn to do those things again. We don’t have to go to Wal-Mart for our lead-tainted toys and contaminated food.

Happy Future Independence Day!

Tom Kruzen has worked on environmental issues in Missouri for years. He is volunteer for the Sierra Club’s Water Sentinel Program and is active in the Missouri Farmers Union. Tom and his wife, Angel, raised their three children organically without electricity or running water near the Jacks Fork National Scenic River in Missouri.

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