Create the Action by Acting on Your Passion by Naoto Inoue


Create the Action by Acting on Your Passion

By Naoto Inoue (as told to Sharon Tracy)

 Do you remember 1976? The anti-nuclear planning was happening and I was living in Newburyport. I had dropped out of UNH and was looking for direction in my life, not really knowing what to do. I was working as a carpenter. On Water St there was a natural food store called Corn Mother, and Katrina who owned the place showed me a poster about a Clamshell organizational meeting in Hampton Falls, NH, at the church. So I went to the meeting. At the time, I was so numb I did not know where electricity came from (in 2007 I am finding that is still the case). But if I can learn anybody can.

 So I am listening to Renny and everybody and there is talking about consensus and how we are trying to stop construction of Seabrook through nonviolent civil disobedience. It really intrigued me. I saw the connection between politics, the environment and energy. It awakened me to a purpose.

At the time I was building a couple of geodesic domes for my shelter (back to the land). I was halfway there, but it was very personal. It never felt like I was part  of a group effort.

We did the 1414 action. I saw how incredibly powerful we were as a collective, a group and during two weeks’ incarceration, how the political machine of Gov. Mel Thompson could deny us our rights. The wrong people in the wrong place. It has not changed.

It was a political awakening to many people, not just me.

June 24 in 1978, it was hard organizing work, Berri and I and Brie went to meetings 2 times a week to get that together. We had 5 or 6,ooo coming to occupy. 10 days before, Rath comes to us to say Mel is coming in with the National Guard. Remember it was only 5-6 years after Kent State and Berri had been there. As I remember, the Rath offer of a legal occupation for the weekend was only supported by 7 of us—Gunderson, Gustafsons, a little bit older than us, they were the landowners, Tony Rome, etc. There were about 30 of us all. They were the landowners and if they pulled out, we would have no staging. So I remember at Gustafsons house in Hampton Falls, the day we had to decide, Renny walked in about 45 minutes late. He was the 1st from the majority who wanted to go on. He was one of the original organizers. He had to face the dilemma of what to do. From 18 to 6000 in 2 years was a huge momentum built. Then Rath threw a bomb into it all.

Renny said, “ I’ve been walking around for 45 minutess and I’ve been trying to pull a rabbit out of the hat and I can’t find the rabbit.” Everyone knew what he meant. Even though there was only 7 of the 30 who thought we should accept the offer from Rath. We knew if we kept going and provoked violence on the part of the state, it would have meant it was about us, not about stopping the nuclear power plant. It turns out the point is proven to be so. When the CDAS tried to take the fence down, the media took the violence to be the news, not the nuclear power plant.

At the end of the meeting, it was amazing to see the true consensus process I witnessed. The minority opinion was honored. Once the decision was made all the nationally and internationally know people were behind it. We turned it into an enormous rally and people like Helen Caldicott, Amory Lovins, Barry Commoner, Michio Kaka all came. Frankly they were at the professional level. We gave them a forum in a major globally covered event. In a certain sense it was like American Idol, a boost in the national media. Anti-Nuke Idol. The whole point I learned from the process was that it started because everyone who was committed from the beginning was committed to making a nonviolent, consensus seeking organization. It is far more enlightened democratic process than just voting. The 23 could have outvoted us. It would have completely changed.

It was at that rally I met Peter Talmadge who would have not gone if it had been an occupation rather a legal rally. So Peter put up a windmill and Fred Gunderson and I put up a geodesic dome, 2 structures that gave a renewable energy landscape. Of course I had Brie in my backpack with a poster that said “Do You Know what Plutonium Is?”  We had friends from Alaska who sent us clipping of Brie from their local paper. It was clear to me that it was a local issue, because one of the principal premises is Home Rule, whether residents want a nuke in their backyard should

Gather 20,000 and make a media event. In 1978, nuclear power was a sleeping dragon that no one was paying attention to. So that changed. You also have to remember that part of the big change was in the utilities that planned to build 1,000 more nukes. All of those, by the end of ‘79 were cancelled or stopped. Not because of what we did but because of Amory and Hunter Lovins making the argument that it doesn’t make economic sense to build these things.

It was synergetic—unorganized collaboration between us, the footsoldiers who were interested in deeper change than just stopping Seabrook, and the Lovins, Helen Caldicott and others who would never have shown up if it were a potentially violent confrontation. Ultimately the reason for me personally I was so convinced that I felt right to be saying no nukes. We all felt it was not the direction to move in. We did try to keep going—the wave actions, Wall Street. There was the Boston Clam that totally changed the whole street theater to put the attention on nukes, changed to a focus on the violence. In the beginning with the Portsmouth Clam, we had the training and the affinity groups, creating mini communities and building an organization from that. The Boston Clam lacked that.

It gave us, the working people, (Helen  or Amory etc

So Berri and I continued to work. We did some fundraising for the effort, but at the personal level it felt really odd to say no nukes, go solar, and only be able to act on the side of protest and not be able to actually deliver in go solar. All we had to offer were the hot water heaters.

This did not answer the question, “What are we going to do about electricity?”

So in 1994, Peter was getting tired and frustrated with running a solar business for 20 yrs and wanted to sell it to me. I realized the business was not mature, it was still too early for the general public to embrace solar produced electricity. At the time it was purely for off the grid systems. So I proposed I join him as a 50-50 partner to try to make the business  grow. We slowly started doing it. We quadrupled the size, the volume we do. It turns out I have still not paid myself, but I’m on the verge.

The point here is, once again I feel like I am part of the early adapter, I am second string, coming in to keep it going. I have been able to bring the buisiness to a different level in that the clientele is no longer back to the land. I even have 1 or 2 Republican clients. They are not getting into solar power because of environmental reasons, they are getting into it for economic reasons. This is a huge change. This is a selling job,  andI never sold anything but  t-shirts. So I have to develop the reason for people to believe in solar. In the ‘80s and ‘90s we didn’t have much to sell and it was very expensive. We said it’s the right thing to do, it will make you feel like a hero in front of other people who aren’t doing anything. But the number of people who are willing to buy into those arguments is extremely small…they say how much is it going to cost me to feel good, then they say okay and walk away.

For example the Common Ground Fair in Union, ME, is one of the premiere organic farming, environmental fairs in New England. The clientele is not like a Republican convention. Our first year, back when we were extremely hippie dippie, I told Peter we had to get better. The 7-10th years we did it, we got the best booth award. We had the argument to do it right. Every year 50,000 attended. We talked nonstop Friday to Sunday night. People come up and say they loved it, would call. Close to half a million people we communicated with. We got zero clientele. They said it’s the right thing to do—no sales.

What I do now is sell $180,000 systems is because the language I speak is changed. I say now, “Look, we live in America and we all have certain standards we like to keep. We all like hot water, heated buildings, a TV, all this equipment to sustain us, to give us this lifestyle. Out of all the investments we make to sustain this lifestyle, is there anything you need to sustain that costs nothing to keep it going? No. The per unit cost of everything we accept to keep our life style going, all of it keeps going up. Investment into solar, per unit cost of kw hours used, keeps going down the longer you have it and the more you use it. You have a flat upfront cost. The longer you produce power, you divide that into the fixed flat cost divided by the amount of electricity you generate.”

We all have an opportunity to become an energy futures investor rather than being the energy purchaser without any future energy cost control. The final line is would you like to continue to have this incredible lifestyle, and if you want to afford to be able to have this incredible lifestyle…That is an economic reason why people are investing in solar power.

In 2004, the MA Technological Collaborative offered grants for solar development. Tannery Mall in Newburyport wanted to go and Solar Market applied and were awarded $150,000 for a 60kw solar installation. At the time it would be the biggest electric solar system in New England. Our CFO from Harvard, Charlie, said “Who is going to install this?” I said I would make the commute every day to install it. The day I drove down, The Tannery Mall is less half a block from Corn Mother was. What I realized—why am I trying to keep this business going (for 12 yrs), I realized, you never know the lessons life can give you. If you label it “this is good this is bad,” you lose the lesson. I never knew the lesson was that big. There is always a justification, why you value it, why you keep going.

For young people, me being 56, I realize that moment, that flash Katrina pointing out that flyer, gave me a passion…I was doing it as a passion. You talk to the corporate level solar, they don’t even have a system.

Having a passion and acting on it gives you a fullness…you gotta walk the talk. You have to create the action by acting on your passion.

Post a comment