Letters to the Editor
John and Yoko, Right?
Why does the cover of last week’s issue bother me so much? Is it the sense of déjà vu? Possibly.
I immediately turn inside to check photo credits. Nice photo, Matthew Thorsen, as per usual. Then I see the cover is “designed” by Diane Sullivan. OK, cute takeoff. I get it. Am I the only one? Even the backdrop is the same color, for God’s sake. But not even a reference to Annie Leibovitz’s iconic December 1980 photo of John and Yoko for Rolling Stone magazine? For shame. Unless I’m totally mistaken ... then, my bad.
At least reference the homage, as I believe the French say. Otherwise it’s just plagiarism, isn’t it?
Editor’s note: We debated whether to explain the cover reference. The less-is-more faction won out, but based on the reactions posted to our Facebook page, not everyone under 30 “got it.” Thanks for giving us the opportunity to say: It was indeed a nod to Annie Leibovitz’s photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono — one of the most iconic “couple” shots of all time, reworked as a “power couple,” which was the subject of our cover story. The story headline, “Double Trouble?” was a play on Double Fantasy, Lennon and Ono’s last album together. Even the Seven Days logo was slightly Rolling Stone-ified. Not explaining cultural references is certainly not plagiarism. Nor does it qualify as copyright infringement or intellectual property theft. An homage is an homage.
Paul Heintz’s article [“SunCommon Conflict? How VPIRG’s Solar Spinoff Company Went From Org to Inc.,” March 14] wishes it was scathing, but comes up short of an exposé. Instead, it conveys that the author is clearly angry, while nobody else had anything particularly condemning to say, and rightly so. As one of the 99 percent, I’ll confess it can be difficult to remember that all corporations are not evil. That said, I think very highly of ethical, local companies like the Intervale Center and Efficiency Vermont. It should not be shocking that mission-driven people who work at nonprofits would start mission-driven businesses. I respect SunCommon for separating from VPIRG to create a friendly but clear distinction between the two organizations. The folks at SunCommon are, in fact, resident Vermonters — our neighbors. They came up with a great idea and raised the money to do it, and I say, “Good for them!” Thank you for making solar so accessible! We need to make huge changes in Vermont’s electricity profile, and these folks will most certainly be a part of the solution. Why throw them under the bus? I’m curious about what motivated this reporter.
Alas, the consumer and the environment lose on this one [“SunCommon Conflict? How VPIRG’s Solar Spinoff Company Went From Org to Inc.,” March 14]. Folks like me who need help figuring out the process of installing affordable residential Solar PV and solar hot water need help from a nonprofit who is there for us. We do not need another for-profit company.
VPRIG’s community-organizing model to design and install residential solar projects by grouping people in communities and shepherding us through the process was brilliant and absolutely needed. Why, oh why, did they kill the golden goose?
I, for one, will not pursue home photovoltaics for now. Is any other Vermont nonprofit willing to step up to the plate on this one?
Paul Heintz set out to manufacture a scandal [“SunCommon Conflict? How VPIRG’s Solar Spinoff Company Went From Org to Inc.” March 14], but to those who know anything about VPIRG, it will come as no surprise that we support the development of renewable energy in Vermont.
We’re proud of our 40-year history of research, organizing, litigation and advocacy as we’ve fought to end the state’s reliance on Vermont Yankee and dirty fossil fuels and promote energy efficiency and the growth of local renewable resources like wind and solar power.
One of our chief goals is to make it easy and affordable for people to weatherize their homes and install clean generating capacity like solar panels. As we have in the past, we continue to support policies and incentives to encourage people to make these kinds of smart energy choices.
But we’ve also found that innovative policies sometimes aren’t enough. So we came up with a new way to make solar simple. As part of this program, we evaluated equipment, vetted installers, secured low-interest financing and engaged in a massive campaign of grassroots organizing to promote solar energy. In just one example of the program’s success, we helped more than 75 families in Montpelier go solar in just four months. In the previous 10 years, only 13 Montpelier families had installed solar hot-water systems.
We had similar success everywhere we went. But in order to reach as many consumers as possible, we decided that our solar organizing program needed to leave the auspices of VPIRG. Four of our staff then provided a foundation for what is now the solar energy company SunCommon.
Reasonable people may suggest that we had no business trying to make it easier to go solar. We think these critical times demand responsible new approaches, but we’ll also listen carefully to any concerns that our actions have raised. At the same time it’s important to note that Heintz’s article contained significant errors and innuendo. For more information on that please visit vpirg.org/7dresponse.
Burns is the executive director of VPIRG.
Location, Location, Location
I’m in favor of wind power, but why do we have to ruin our pristine ridgelines [“Blow Hard,” March 14]? I live in a semi-urban area and feel wind turbines would fit better close to Burlington than way out in our rural areas. I’m an amateur landscape photographer and hate to see our beautiful state ruined by these eyesores. Burlington International Airport has plenty of flat space but only one turbine. Plenty of turbines could be placed there that wouldn’t interfere with air traffic. Along I-89, there are existing wind turbines. Why not add some more at those locations?