Roll up your sleeves and get cranking



Common Cause, the nation’s good-government nonprofit, celebrated its 40th anniversary recently at a party in Denver, helped mightily by the humor and smarts of Pat Schroeder. In 1972, Schroeder was the first Colorado woman to be elected to Congress, where she spent a dozen terms focusing on fiscal accountability from the military and workplace parity for women. (She tells some memorable war stories in her book, 24 Years of House Work … And the Place is Still a Mess.) Schroeder said her recent election-season tour of the country was a slog: “It’s poison out there. … I’m having almost as much fun as when I get to empty the vacuum bag.” But the now 70-year-old Schroeder, who used to sign letters with a smiley face, remains upbeat, reports the Colorado Statesman: “I found in my life there’s two kinds of people: the kind … who wring their hands about how terrible it is, and the kind of people who roll up their shirtsleeves and say let’s go get it, let’s fix it.” In Colorado, she added, the people who want to fix things abound, and “I don’t know anybody who can wring and roll at the same time.”


Imagine driving along a highway of glass that’s powered by the sun. Its solar-panel surface melts snow and lights signs from within, not to mention providing power for local utilities. The road would also feature pipes that capture storm water, sending it to filtration systems for re-use. That’s the dream of a Sagle, Idaho, couple, Scott and Julie Brusaw, who recently won the “people’s choice” award in GE’s $50,000 Ecoimagination challenge, which asked participants to build the “next-generation power grid,” reports the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Brusaw may be on a roll. Last year, he won a $100,000 Federal Highway Administration contract to build a prototype of his solar roadway, and now a 12-foot-square model is laid out in Brusaw’s shop. His website,, reveals the complexity and some of the challenges of his design, which incorporates LED lights, solar cells and heating elements hermetically sealed inside layers of glass. Still-unresolved problems involve texturing the road surface so that vehicle tires can get purchase and strengthening the glass panels to withstand the weight of 18-wheel trucks. Meanwhile, Brusaw is looking hard for more funding and dreaming big: “This is the beginning of the end of fossil fuels, we hope.”


In the good-news department, a 30-pound African turtle that escaped from its backyard in suburban Denver was found two weeks later at a feed store, having plodded for 14 miles. Her owner told that the tortoise, known as Lucy, chose a feed store because she was smart: “She’s like, ‘I’m not eating that outdoor crap.’ ” Seven-year-old Lucy had lost some weight during her hike but was otherwise fine.

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