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The Counterculture Had it Right

rainbow colors, white doves, pink guitar, pink and yellow butter fly in an eccentric mosaic.

Our business' founding inspirations sparked during the cultural maelstrom of the 1960's. We questioned the status quo, the Vietnam war, racial injustice, and gender inequality. We rejected materialistic consumerism, began experiencing nature more directly, looked for ways of creating more just and equitable societies.

Almost every historical period and culture has balanced the conservative, herd - instinct conformity of the 1950's with the innovative, creative, almost revolutionary approach that exploded during the 1960's. For almost all of history (mainly up until very modern times) external circumstances changed extremely slowly and therefore the appropriate balance tilted heavily toward conservatism. With the extraordinary rate of change in today's world, this balance began quickly shifting away from the animal realm, conventional approach. Unfortunately though, evolutionary forces haven't had much time to make this important transition and the pendulum swung back; "hippies became yuppies."

The 60's featured the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Kennedy and King, a shocking environmental awareness, and the exposed corruption of Nixon and friends in Congress. These and the many other examples of egregious cultural and political corruption fueled the rise of The Beat Generation, the Civil Rights, Women's Liberation, and Hippy movements; the counterculture in general.

Frequently underground and always in very small numbers, this subculture matured, became more and more scientific, more and more in harmony with nature. Now, as perhaps no other time in history, our planet and our survival depend on a return to this kind of pioneering, innovative, dedicated spirit; respect for the sacredness of nature, for practical wisdom and experience.

From this reaction grew most of the positive trends in the culture today: solar power and renewable energy, organic gardening, natural food stores, interest in yoga, medical and recreational use of marijuana, modern music, anti - war protests, anti - materialism, equal rights, Native American rights, and greatly increased concern about the environment, pollution, and sustainability.

When our companies first started to design and sell solar systems, the cost of PV was more than 52 times higher than today - it went down from our wholesale cost in 1980 at $39/watt to 75¢/watt today. $1.7 trillion dollars worth of solar and other clean energy sources sold during the last year worldwide. Not as dramatic but since 2009 the cost has gone down 83%. In the last 10 years, renewable energy’s percentage of the total U.S. went from 13% to 23% and has become the least expensive source of electricity. This may have never happened or it would have taken much, much longer without those early pioneers in northern California’s "Emerald Triangle."

And things are getting better: though most may believe the opposite, during the last 50 years, poverty in the world decreased from 65% to less than 10%, illiteracy from "58% to 15%", and infant mortality from "132 to only 31 per 1000 births" [Stephen Pinker, Enlightenment Now]. Lao Tzu, Emerson, Thoreau, Scott & Helen Nearing, The Whole Earth Catalog, and Mother Earth News all helped promote the Back to the Land Movement that inspired almost 1 million people to leave urban environments in search of more wholesome, sustainable, and rewarding lifestyles.

Jobs for these urban immigrants were almost non - existent but self - sufficiency was one of the core values and the lack of jobs led to a surge in marijuana farming as one of the only ways of making an income. According to research done by Solar Roots, our company was the first to sell solar modules retail. We're not sure which one though. We bought the panels through our business, Real Goods, but shared the order with our store in Garberville, Open Circle. They both sold this first batch of photovoltaics but not sure which was first.

To make marijuana illegal was totally stupid and involved incredible corruption. As with almost all negatives though, a positive hides under the surface. In this case, the so called "war on drugs" made farming cool again. In short and expensive supply, growing your own became very enticing for both personal use and business. A new kind of farmer arose.

This unique cultural time period began many of the best and most beneficial trends continuing today. John Lennon described the sixties as a window into possibilities and an awareness of the big responsibilities we all share. He didn't believe that the era answered all the questions but felt it had a major inspirational impact. We not only agree with this but recognize how this inspiration motivated our business' beginning, guided it through all these years, and now defines our future.


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