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Students Across the U.S. Plan for Summer of Solutions
Sarah Kuck, 15 Jan 09

Minneapolis%20Skyline.jpg Building more sustainable cities is going to take a lot of work. Living a one-planet lifestyle, in a one-planet city implies that we’ve halted our outpouring of climate changing emissions and we are using our share of resources efficiently. This level of planning and organization will require us to imagine new programs and projects that will create the sustainable infrastructure of the future.

Young activists are already proving that they're hungry for jobs in these fields. Case in point: the Summer of Solutions, a two-month program created and run by a group of students at Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minn. Instead of leaving the Twin Cities, the students used their summer break to envision the city they wanted to live and work in. By the end of the summer they had created local partnerships, networks and projects dealing with issues such as energy efficiency, local food production and renewable energy.

One of the most successful projects that the students got off the ground last summer was called Cooperative Energy Futures. This energy efficiency project connected local contractors with neighborhood groups to insulate a large number of houses under one contract. Together, the homeowners bought all the necessary items in bulk, and then signed a group contract with an energy efficiency expert. Focusing on one neighborhood meant the contractor could serve more homes while reducing transportation costs, and it also ensured the contractor a consistent source of revenue. The volunteers at Cooperative Energy Futures conducted the research and development and assisted in helping the different groups find each other. The cooperative hopes to continue the project this summer, hopefully extending their services to low-income communities.

Many green economy jobs -- such as the ones a business like the Cooperative Energy Futures could provide -- don’t quite exist yet. But that’s not stopping these students from training for them now.

“We need to create the opportunities from the ground level, where there isn’t necessarily capacity to do it, Macalester student Timothy Den Herder-Thomas said. “To fix the problems, we need to figure out a way to build a society that works…Yet no one knows what that looks like.”

This summer, the program will continue and expand to include 13 more cities across the United States. Funded by local, regional and national grants, the students will begin working on projects that will help them develop their cities into places where local opportunities, climate and energy solutions, and social justice abound.

Den Herder-Thomas said that he hopes that the program will produce self-sustaining initiatives that could eventually offer career opportunities for those involved. In addition, he hopes that the Summer of Solutions 2009 can help to build a model for citizens and community groups who wish to do this type of work in their own communities.

Currently, the geographically separated organizers are using open source collaboration via Google groups and free conference call services to build models for the local programs to work from.

In Summer 2009, Solutions Summits will be taking place in the following cities: Ann Arbor, MI, Austin, TX, Burlington, VT, Chapel Hill, NC, Chicago, IL, Eugene, OR, Grinnell, IA, Omaha, NE, Portland, OR, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, St. Louis, MO, Twin Cities, MN, Worcester, MA. The team is encouraging any student who wants to help with planning, recruiting and fundraising to apply as soon as possible.

What’s Worldchanging about the the Summer of Solutions is that groups of people are gathering together to envision the city they want to live in. Perhaps one of the most interesting parts about the event is its organizers' long-term goals: to lay the groundwork today for the city and jobs of the future. These people know the need for these jobs exists, and the tools are out there to create them. We look forward to seeing where their motivation takes them.

Image credit: Flickr/CarbonSilver, CC License. Minneapolis Sunrise

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How would someone who has been A Peace Corps volunteer, Designer/Builder of furniture, owner of tree farm, and more become involved in one of these on-going projects? I am in the mountains East of Albany, New York and have been working in a variety of projects in Battery Park City and lower Manhattan for 30 years still active at 61. thanks. Joshua Hoffman

Posted by: Joshua Hoffman, Joshuas Trees on 16 Jan 09

Joshua, I'd say apply anyway. I'm sure they can get you involved somehow.

Posted by: sarah on 16 Jan 09

Two things:

1. Creating a "One-planet" city sounds great. The problem is that to live at a one-planet level would require sub–Third World conditions. Consuming less is great, but consumption and population play together. Unfortunately, with the global human population being so high, that one-planet level is really low.

2. (Related) In the article someone says “To fix the problems, we need to figure out a way to build a society that works…Yet no one knows what that looks like.” The problem is, we do know what that society looks like, we either don't want to accept it or we make up reasons for saying that lifestyle is "unrealistic."

In America that lifestyle was abolished as soon as the Europeans got here, and across the rest of the world the situation is much the same.

Posted by: Tony on 18 Jan 09

Leadership of a not-so-great generation passes into history on this day.

It appears that a single generation, my not-so-great greed-mongering generation, will be remembered for having first recklessly plundered and then ravenously consumed the lion’s share of all Earth’s limited resources. No generation before mine, and certainly no generation to follow, will behave so arrogantly and avariciously because the resources to do what my generation has done will have already been devoured and, therefore, unavailable to future generations. In the pernicious process of global plundering and conspicuous per capita over-consumption, many too many leaders of my generation will also have allowed the unhealthy pollution of the environment, the unrestrained depletion of natural resources and the unconscionable mortgaging of our children’s future. My generation’s leaders will have lead us to threaten the children and coming generations with the likelihood of dangerous ecological conditions…a situation for which my generation is responsible but for which my generation refuses to take responsibility. Many leaders in my generation have determined to “pass the buck” to the children, come what may. So grave and unfortunate a situation cannot longer be ignored just because the leading perpetrators of this ominously looming ecological wreckage choose to remain willfully blind, hysterically deaf and electively mute when called upon to account for their (and our) behavior.

If I had to put this colossal tragedy in a single set of sentences I would speak out in this way,

“Never in the course of human events has so much been given to so few consolidators of great wealth and power, who then did so poorly by everyone else and everything else but themselves. A tiny minority of supremely greedy, self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe in my generation have directed the human community toward the extirpation of biodiversity, degradation of the environment and the depletion of natural resources. The fitness of Earth as a place for habitation by our own children has been put at risk. The abject failure of so many of my generation’s leaders to assume responsibility for such incredible arrogance, poor judgement and stupendous wrongdoing is somehow not quite right and, at least to me, difficult to tolerate in silence.”

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on the Human Population,
established 2001

Posted by: Steven Earl Salmony on 20 Jan 09

Joshua, you can get involved through our Social Capital campaign. We have projects in Massachusetts and Vermont that could probably use your skills. Thanks for the enthusiasm!

Posted by: Timothy on 24 Feb 09

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