Heroes

More Americans will be able to afford solar energy in their homes soon. Thanks, Obama.

It's funny how only the richest people seem to be able to afford FREE energy from the sun, huh?

More Americans will be able to afford solar energy in their homes soon. Thanks, Obama.

Sunshine. You'd think — because it's free — we should all get a share.

But solar power seems to be one of those awesome things that only rich people can afford (like a shopping cart full of organic produce from Whole Foods or a Tesla).

It's awesome, but solar energy is expensive. Installations can cost thousands!

While solar panels can significantly slash homeowners' energy costs once they're installed, it's the installing part that's the problem: You might have to fork over something like $15,000 or more (yeah, we're not talkin' chump change) to get those suckers on your roof.


This baby will never throw enough money out the window to afford a solar panel. GIF from "The Little Rascals."

For those of us who aren't filthy rich, this might not be a viable option.

But! If the installation cost is reduced or cut out of the picture entirely, solar energy becomes a much more appealing option to anyone looking to save some money on energy bills.

In the long run, solar energy will help keep your wallet fat.

Earlier this year, Roy Rivera of California benefited from a program that helps low-income residents in his state access solar power. According to Grid Alternatives — the nonprofit that helped make it happen — he'll save $818 on energy costs throughout the year following installation.

"When you have a budget like ours, which is stretched just about as far as you can go," Rivera explained, "[The savings from solar energy] makes a big difference."

Sleek, right? A worker installs solar panels in Lakewood, Colorado back in 2010. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Also, solar energy is global warming's kryptonite, basically.

Climate change is real, people. The more greenhouse gas we emit, the hotter our world becomes. The good news? Solar energy is an emissions-free energy source that keeps people, animals, and trees happy, while not warming the planet.

The White House wants to help make sure people can afford to switch to solar if they want.

President Obama wants more Americans to reap the benefits of clean, affordable energy from above. So he's changing things. The White House just announced new measures that will help more Americans access solar energy.

Throughout the next five years, President Obama wants to triple the number of solar and other sustainable energy systems installed in federally subsidized housing.


President Obama chats about the awesomeness of solar energy. The panels behind him approve. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

The initiative is one of several the White House announced on July 7, 2015, that will up America's use of solar power.

The plan also includes:

  • Providing technical assistance to affordable housing organizations so they're in-the-know when it comes to installing solar panels (because who would know where to even begin?)
  • Creating a handy-dandy toolkit to help states understand how they can use federal funds in creating solar-powered communities
  • Updating an old school policy to make borrowing money for solar energy improvements easier

Solar energy is definitely a cause worth fighting for.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less