Written by Lloyd Alter
August 20, 2017
It’s not a big deal but it could become a big symbol.
In 1979 President Carter installed 32 solar thermal panels on the roof of the White House, generating hot water for the showers and the kitchen. They were flat plate panels and were not installed optimally because they couldn’t mess up the look of the White House. They were also pretty high maintenance.
In 1986, during the Reagan administration, the panels were removed to fix a roof leak and were not reinstalled. The administration explained that “putting them back up would be very unwise based on cost.” But thirty years later, everyone remembers that Ronald Reagan pulled the solar panels off the roof of the White House. In fact, for all the cutting and gutting of the environmental accomplishments of the Carter Administration that Reagan and James Watt did, this is the thing that people remember most.
I wonder if, 30 years later, people will remember this as a Reagan Moment, a relatively minor action that goes against the tide of history and becomes a meme. During the Obama administration, a bike share station was installed on the White House grounds, described as an unofficial “secret” station that was only accessible by White House staff. According to Benjamin Freed of the Washingtonian, it was recently removed specifically at the request of the Trump Administration.
Like the White House solar panels, it’s just a symbol, really minor compared to the more significant actions by the administration, like killing Obama’s TIGER grants for bike and transit infrastructure in Trump’s proposed budget. According to People for Bikes,
Among the many high-profile bike-related projects that have benefited from TIGER funding are Atlanta’s Beltline Trail, Arkansas’ Razorback Greenway, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Chicago’s bike-share system, and dedicated bike lanes in Boston, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. Tens of thousands of Americans use these facilities every day. Eliminating TIGER would unwind years of bipartisan congressional support for this program.
Pulling out a little-used Bike Share station that wasn’t even open to the public for sharing is pretty minor; it’s hard to figure out why they bothered. But I bet it will be remembered; it’s a symbol.
This post originally appeared on TreeHugger