About Lisa Curtis

A frequent blogger for Forbes and The Huffington Post, Lisa currently manages communications for Solar Mosaic and is working on starting a nutrition-focused social enterprise called Kuli Kuli. Previously, Lisa wrote political briefings for President Obama in The White House, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger and managed communications for an impact investment firm in India.

Renewable Energy > Nuclear!

In the aftermath of the Japanese disaster, politicians around the globe have been debating the necessity of including nuclear as part of the transition to a clean energy future. Unlike other leaders who have placed moratoriums on the licensing of new plants, American politicians have largely stuck by nuclear–a consensus that perhaps was aided by storm of nuclear lobbyists on Capitol Hill.

But, as of last month, the U.S. renewable energy industry has reached an important milestone: domestic production is now greater than that of nuclear power.

This milestone has been reached by important leaps in the renewable sector, particularly from solar-generated electricity which increased by 104.8 percent in the first three months of 2011 compared to the first quarter of 2010.

While renewable energy still has a long way to go before it catches up to fossil fuels, the recent jump in production could play a major role in a nuclear debate that has often denounced the ability of renewable energy to provide stable and sufficient power. While most people agree that nuclear carries inherent meltdown risks and poses the serious challenge of radioactive waste storage, support for nuclear power was at an all-time high among the American public before the disaster in Japan.

Last February, the World Wildlife Fund released a provocative energy report  of an future world run entirely by renewable energy, set in 2050. The report was quickly followed by two papers from professors at Stanford and UC Davis envisioning a similar future but one solely reliant on already existing renewables, mainly solar and wind.

The tide is clearly changing with more academics, politicians and activists agreeing that renewable energy is the way of the future. Whereas nuclear power plants go for at least $10 billion a pop, Summer of Solutions Oakland is partnering with Solar Mosaic to build community solar projects with investments as small as $100. I know where I’m putting my money…

Cross-posted at  the Solar Mosaic blog http://solarmosaic.com/blog/renewable-energy-nuclear


My 40 New Best Friends

Five days ago I remember sitting nervously around a bowl of cherries at a fellow program leader’s kitchen table. Our conversation kept switching with the tense energy of those with much to say but too many thoughts to clearly express any of them. Have we figured out housing for everyone? How much money do we still need to fundraise? What time are we going to start tomorrow? Have you emailed the group the address yet?

Now I look around at a sea of young faces, all different races, different backgrounds and with different reasons why we decided to spend our summer working to create ingenuitive grassroots solutions to Oakland’s most challenging environmental and social problems. Despite our differences, I can confindently say that there is not a single person in the room who I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to and confiding in. Moreover, there are many people in the room whom I’ve told more personal things about myself than I have to friends I’ve known for years.

This story of immediate friendship might be written off as “cute” just as Summer of Solutions is often written off as just another “summer camp.” But in many ways, I believe that the community we are creating is a model for how the rest of the world should function. Imagine if diverse groups of people, from all different income levels and racial backgrounds, came together to really think about the problems that their community was facing and then worked together to solve those problems? Sound idealistic? Maybe, but if you truly believe as I do that at some point all of these smiling faces sitting around me are going to take the knowledge that they’ve learned this summer to become even better leaders in their communities and country then perhaps a solutionary world isn’t that far off in the future.

Creating Our Own Jobs

Next weekend I’m heading down south to celebrate my sister’s graduation from college. Although the festivities are sure to be merry, they are slightly tempered by the fact that she will be joining my class, the “class of the great recession,”  and enter the labor force at a time when more than half of recent graduates have not be able to get a full-time, salaried job with benefits; nearly half of us find ourselves in jobs that do not even require a college diploma, and nearly one in 10 of us are unemployed. The worst recession in decades and the slow economic recovery has clearly punished those full of big ideas but short on work experience or skills.

And yet, as Rahm Emanuel famously said at the start of the Obama administration amidst the financial collapse,  “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

The dearth of employment in the formal work force has provided an opportunity for recent graduates to travel, volunteer or even take the risk of trying to create their own jobs. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal showed that a growing number of us are–at least temporarily–opting out of the labor force entirely, as measured by the drop in labor force participation rate among college graduates under 25. This summer, I’m joining that demographic as a volunteer program leader for the Summer of Solutions in Oakland, subsisting off of a meager stipend and the generosity of my parents.

While sometimes I wish I had the stability and salary of a formal job like some of my friends, most days I am incredibly exited not to have to sit in an office and instead have the opportunity to work at the grassroots level on the issues I truly care about  in my own backyard of Oakland. Summer of Solutions is a is a 2-month program that trains participants how to develop the green economy by creating hands-on, community-based solutions to environmental and social injustices. Throughout the summer, participants learn not just valuable leadership skills that will be useful no matter what they choose to do after the summer ends, but also how to make grassroots community change that integrates climate and energy solutions, economic security, and social justice.

For too long, I have been part of the youth climate movement that has been busy telling politicians what we don’t want–coal plants, factory farms, gas subsidies etc.–without showing them examples of practical solutions. Now, I am part of a new movement of over 250 young people around the country who are working in their local communities to create change under the umbrella of 15  Summer of Solutions programs. Although the program doesn’t officially start for another couple of weeks, I’ve already been impressed by the qualifications, enthusiasm and dedication of the other leaders and participants. While we don’t yet have specifics on all of the projects we’ll be working on since many of these depend on the group desires and community needs, we’ve already formed valuable partnerships with local organizations within our focus areas of food justice, clean energy, transformational media and thriving communities.

Of course, in order to successfully implement all of these solutions, we’re fundraising like crazy. We’re hoping to raise $8,000 in the next two weeks in order to provide stipends to low-income youth participants, subsidize food and housing for all program participants and purchase materials for our projects. If you or anyone you know wants to make a tax-deductible donation to support our program, please visit http://www.indiegogo.com/SoS-Oakland. Every penny really does count, particularly since there isn’t any administrative cost (remember, we’re all volunteers)!