The Question of Sustainability

James Goebel, Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Literature
April 2019

In October of 2010, during the groundbreaking event for BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stated, “Some people look out into the desert and see miles and miles of emptiness. I see miles and miles of goldmine.” This statement was but the apogee of an ongoing and complex set of debates surrounding Federal and State plans to site and develop large-scale solar facilities on public lands throughout the Southwest; plans made possible after Congress, hoping to mitigate the domestic effects of the 2007/09 global financial crisis, enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which devoted approximately $90 billion in direct spending and tax credits to the renewable energy sector. These developments were by and large represented as an essential turning point in how the United States imagined its role in addressing the mounting environmental crises of the present; a promise, as former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar put it, that the “creation of an American clean energy sector of cutting-edge firms … will create millions of jobs, restore America’s role as a leader in the clean energy industry, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and cut carbon pollution.”

To read the full piece, please click here.