Archive for the 'Summer of Climate Solutions' Category

Thoughts following Midwest Powershift

Cross-posted from by Ruby Levine

I spent the weekend at Midwest Powershift in Cleveland. Among the rallies, trainings, and speeches, I was able to catch some downtime with fellow Summer of Solutions program leaders and participants from around the Midwest. Especially valuable was a conversation I had with members of other Midwestern programs on Saturday night.

500 young people applaud Joshua Kahn Russell's keynote poem at Midwest Powershift in Cleveland. Photo credit Ben Hejkal.

This conversation helped me articulate two things: one, the “good environmentalists vs. the evil polluters” framing I saw a lot of other places during the conference makes me deeply uncomfortable, and two, if the green economy is going to work it needs to be the whole economy, not a side industry.

Continue reading ‘Thoughts following Midwest Powershift’

Apply to Start a Summer of Solutions Program in Your Community!

Cross-posted from by Ruby Levine.

The Summer of Solutions is a program for young people who want to build just, sustainable economies in their communities.

We want to invite YOU to be one of those young people building those solutions. Apply here by October 22 to start a program in your community or to join an existing program leader team.

Running a program gives you the opportunity to create and support green economy projects that build power for people who currently don’t have as much access AND to empower young people from your community and beyond with the skills and strategies they need to do the same thing wherever they go next.

Past Summer of Solutions programs have:

  • Built community gardens and farms on vacant lots
  • Taught neighbors how to use bikes as an effective form of transit
  • Run summer camps for children to help them learn about healthy eating and growing their own food
  • Founded and partnered with energy businesses to create a community-based clean energy system
  • Created community spaces, from mini-golf courses in the coal fields of West Virginia to a playground in Detroit, MI
  • Designed and organized for green manufacturing at a closing car factory in Saint Paul, MN
  • Continue reading ‘Apply to Start a Summer of Solutions Program in Your Community!’

The View from Four Years Out

Cross-posted from, where you can find more stories of young people building the green economy.

When I helped close the 2011 Twin Cities Summer of Solutions three weeks ago, I knew something amazing was happening, but in the flurry of it all I wasn’t really able to identify it. I started to get a sense of it when I first sat down at the Grand Aspirations August Gathering two weeks ago, when forty people from all over the country streamed in with wondrous stories of their work creating the green economy. By the end of the Gathering, last week, the full depth of the change was starting to dawn on me and was brought to the front of my attention when Ethan Buckner, a friend and Oakland Summer of Solutions Program Leader, said smiling at the end of a big group hug, ‘you know, we’ve created something really remarkable in the past few years’. Now, after a week of catching up and taking the next steps forward back in Minnesota, I’m finally seeing the view from four years out.

Four years ago was about 6 months after the events that got Cooperative Energy Futures and the Alliance to Reindustrialize for a Sustainable Economy off the ground – the seeds of my green economy work in the Twin Cities. It was about 6 months before the vision for the Summer of Solutions and Grand Aspirations emerged. Four years ago, there had been no national gatherings of thousands of youth activists, candidate Barack Obama was barely a competitor, and the economy had not yet tanked. The dream of a green economy was barely starting to be voiced, and the idea that we could sustain ourselves, our communities, and the future of our world by creating new ways to feed, house, power, and transport our society was an exciting but utopian ideal.

So what has changed?
Continue reading ‘The View from Four Years Out’

Youth Forge Solutions Nationwide – All Are Welcome

At a youth climate meeting in Minnesota in January 2008, a neat idea emerged from discussion:

‘We need to start training young people, not just FOR green jobs, but TO CREATE green jobs. We should start in the Twin Cities this summer.’

Fast-forward three years, and over 250 young people have been trained over three years in Summer of Solutions programs around the country to create innovative and self-sustaining solutions around energy efficiency, green industry, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and smart transportation and design that advance job creation, social justice, and community empowerment. A network of over 70 youth leaders has coalesced to launch a national organization from nothing and develop 2011 Summer of Solutions programs that will support hundreds of youth in creating the clean energy economy in 15 cities nationwide. These programs have expanded rapidly in number, quality, and sustainability over the years without grant support, and with a major influx of funding and leadership in late 2010, we’re just hitting our stride.

As you read on, I’d encourage you to think of any young people (individuals or groups) who might be interested in a summer program based on community-based innovation in the clean energy economy. If so, please invite them to apply to any of our 15 programs nationwide by April 24th at

Continue reading ‘Youth Forge Solutions Nationwide – All Are Welcome’

Launch the Summer of Solutions: Change the Story

This is a call.

On the basic level, it’s very simple; it’s a call for youth leaders all across the country who are ready to dig down into the grassroots and work with people in their communities to create solutions. We’re looking for leaders who want to plan a summer program next summer that will start, grow, and expand green ventures at the community level that meet the needs of our neighbors (food, housing, transit, energy, jobs), show the world what is possible, and start to out-compete the dirty energy systems that run our world.

You’re in? Just find a friend who agrees and APPLY HERE. Priority deadline midnight 10/24 – just give us a heads up if it will take a bit longer.

Need more background? Check out this video by my co-worker Matt Kazinka, read the background info in the application, or check us out at

But really, this is about a lot more than running a cool program next summer. This is  a call about changing the game for our economy, our communities, and our climate.

Continue reading ‘Launch the Summer of Solutions: Change the Story’

Redefining Development: Reflections from the Roadtour

It’s so easy to become swept up with life in India. There are so many stories here – inspiring and sad. So many people from all walks of life. Such stark contrasts of rich and poor, enlightened and corrupt.

marathi-medium-school-puneI want to take you all on my journey during the IYCN climate solutions road tour. I want to introduce you to the people I met; To see the landscape as it changed; To show you the different languages, music and dances. To introduce you to the farmers, village women, and the labourers, to introduce you to the cleaners on the street, to the vice chancellors, politicians and CEOs. I wish you could see the fired up students who want to create a revolution and overthrow the corruption, to the idealistic children wanting to protect the environment, and to the masses who want change. I want to introduce you to the social workers and brilliant minds that are transforming the world. Continue reading ‘Redefining Development: Reflections from the Roadtour’

Take Charge: Energy for Everyone

Hello,  I want to update you all on what I’ve been doing this summer.  I created my own green job and got hired by a community non-profit in North Adams, MA, to create a campaign based on the ideas of a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty, and re-thinking energy as an opportunity to improve our quality of life.  My town is predominantly working class, with high unemployment.  We had no town-level group working on any sort of environmental issue and ‘green’ is regarded by some as a dirty word.

Our common concern si the price of energy, especially home heating oil.  People are worried about the home heating crisis.  Many people on fixed incomes need to choose between paying for food or medication, but this winter heat has been added to the list.  I talked with many people to develop energy saving points that were most effective, most understandable, least intrusive and not tied to any income bracket (i.e. solar panels).  Then we looked at how information spreads – how do we reach thousands of people (as high as 50% or more of the population) instead of the social circles connected to environmentalists?

The result is Take Charge: The North Adams Campaign to Save Energy:

Continue reading ‘Take Charge: Energy for Everyone’

On Movement Transformation

[The author is currently part of The Summer of Solutions, but views are personal]Movement Transformation

Over the past few days, we have seen a lot of contention on Its Getting Hot in Here over the critiques posed by the Breakthrough Generation fellows. On the one hand, recent posts call for open and collaborative discourse so we can more carefully evaluate our strategies and tactics, sentiments with which I generally agree. Conversely, responding comments took offense to the frequent posting of Breakthrough fellows, the perceived attack on certain tactics like “Direct Action”, and the privilege of a group whose alleged central organizing strategy is to think, talk and message (check the comments on the above linked posts to review these critiques). I have close friends on both sides of the argument, and I agree with much of the Breakthrough philosophy as much as I feel that many of its recent tactics are not in alignment with their frame. Far from seeking objectivity, I’m simply pointing out that as we start operating under an interest group mentality we lose the ability to appreciate the truth in the other person’s voice, obscuring participants’ internal conflict – as powerfully expressed by a recent Breakthrough Generation post. A friend here in Minnesota introduced me to a new term yesterday after we read all of the critical back-and-forth: “flame war” – something that happens on blogs and other internet sites when everybody’s well-reasoned arguments turn into fiery antagonism.

Friends – and the pun is intended: its time for a break through. Continue reading ‘On Movement Transformation’

Does Unity Demand Uniformity of Thought?

[Written by Helen Aki, with contributions from Rachel Barge, Alisha Fowler, Lindsey Franklin, and Jesse Jenkins.]

Over the past few days, controversy has been stirred up on “It’s Getting Hot In Here” over a number of posts written by members of Breakthrough Generation, a new progressive youth organization founded by the Breakthrough Institute. While the controversy has focused on perceptions of Breakthrough’s agenda, it reflects a larger question, which is: what is the role of conflict and debate in terms of forming an effective movement for change? This post is my attempt to illuminate Breakthrough’s intent in sparking such debate, as well as to address this larger question. In the spirit of dialogue and growth, I look forward to your critical and substantive responses.

Here in Oakland, for the past week and a half, we fellows have been vigorously pointing out the flaws and weaknesses of the Breakthrough Institute: everything from time wasted arguing with environmentalists, who aren’t really our enemies, to insisting that Breakthrough needs to garner more public support, make the movement bigger, and clarify our mission statement. I think each of the fellows could speak at length about what they would like Breakthrough to do better or differently, and what things they take issue with.

To the credit of Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, the Breakthrough founders: they’ve welcomed our criticisms, listened to us, and done a good job responding to our various concerns. What has been curious to me since the beginning is this: the thirteen fellows who sit in the Breakthrough office every morning, reading and writing and engaging in dialogue with an intensity that astonishes me after two years of college classes, are all here because we resonate strongly with the message of “The Death of Environmentalism” and the Break Through book. We’re here because we believe in it.

So why are we so eager to critique Breakthrough: its strategy, its rhetoric, and its accomplishments? And if we are internally conflicted, how can we hope to convince those who might already be skeptical or downright disagree with us? Does it bode ill that the thirteen people most convinced by and committed to the ideas and visions set forth by Breakthrough are still full of doubts, questions, and concerns?

Absolutely not. Because we care, because we are committed, we are critical. When it comes to ideas, strategies, and paradigms, conflict—the right kind of conflict—is good. Productive. It’s probably even essential to getting it right. Continue reading ‘Does Unity Demand Uniformity of Thought?’

Making it Happen – the Summer of Solutions

Summer of Solutions– I first heard these words from my friend Ashley Trull, from across the table in the Clark University dining hall in late April, over plates piled high with mediocre vegan cafeteria food. Summer of Solutions sounded like an amazing program, designed by and for students, working on exciting, real projects for community-based solutions to climate change. She eagerly described to me the project descriptions she had seen on the website and promised to forward the email she had received with the application info attached. But she didn’t need to forward the email. By the end of the meal, it was decided.

“We’re going!” I said, so adamantly and with such force and intention that I surprised even myself, grabbing Ashley’s hand in excitement as we rose from the table, shouldering heavy backpacks and precariously balancing our dirty dishes. “We’re going! We will go! We will raise the money and make this happen. We can make this happen – we’re going to Minnesota!” I am not one to make impulsive decisions. Neither of us had ever been to anywhere that could qualify as the Midwest, and we didn’t know anyone organizing or participating in Summer of Solutions. We barely knew what we were getting ourselves into, but it was happening – we were making it happen.

Continue reading ‘Making it Happen – the Summer of Solutions’

Summer of Climate Solutions

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