Progress is a beautiful thing

It’s easy to get frustrated when trying to make big things happen without seeing any immediate results. The long-term goals that we are trying to tackle as members of Summer of Solutions take many small steps to achieve. Sometimes when I am sitting in a meeting, discussing a minuscule detail of the overall picture, I can start to feel extremely pessimistic. I start to think there are so many small steps that need to be completed before we can even start to see a glimmer of our desired end result.

For example, I have been working on Cooperative Energy Futures where there are TONS of small tasks to get done, a completely daunting list to look at. Really, I have to give props to the leaders of this group (Ruby, Timothy, Jason, and Austin) for making sure that they covered every last thing that needs to be done for this project in order to be a success. We have community outreach, website design, grant writing, background research, and much more to get done. The end goal is to get communities organizing their neighbors to make energy efficient improvements to their homes. When you hear the end goal, one would think that this simply involves going up to people’s houses, giving them an LED light and a 5 minute talk about energy efficiency. But, oh no, it is much more involved than that. And it should be, because this project will do amazing things.

Right now I am working on research for all the tax incentives and rebates given by energy companies and at the city, state, and federal levels for homes that make changes in their energy efficiency. This basically involves my computer and me, Googling the Department of Commerce, a little bit of searching, and voila… I will find the information I am looking for. Do I feel like I personally am helping to fight climate change as I type “energy efficiency tax incentives” into my Google box in the Firefox browser? Most people would say no, these two things are completely unrelated. But I have made the connection, the connection between a small task and its role in the VERY BIG picture.

So this summer the VERY BIG picture, for me at least since I can’t speak for anyone else in Summer of Solutions, is kicking the crap out of climate change. I imagine “Climate change” as a big gray cloud with a mean face, maybe some angry looking eyebrows. As I search for tax incentives and rebates for energy efficient home improvements, or as I help plant a vegetable garden at someone’ s house, or even as I ride my bike to work in the morning, that cloud, the “Climate change” cloud, is reduced in size. Maybe just a small reduction of the big billowy cloud results after I do these things, but it is a reduction nonetheless. It is a start. And you can’t get ANYWHERE without a start.

The reality is, when all is said and done this summer, and the Cooperative Energy futures team has started to get communities excited about making energy efficient changes that will save them money, we will be making a SIZEABLE difference in the world. When I say sizeable I mean “noteworthy” or “significant”. Maybe your friend’s aunt will come to visit the Twin Cities and hear about the work that Cooperative Energy Futures did in the neighborhood. And maybe she’ll return to Iowa and start to look at weatherization improvements for her own house. That right there is change. It’s slow change, but there is progress in the right direction.

I can’t ask for anything more than progress. As long as I am working for progress everyday, even in such small quantities, and I know 25 other people in Summer of Solutions are working for progress daily just like me, we will get there. Eventually, American homes will be significantly more energy efficient than they are now. I don’t know how long that will take, maybe 10 or even 20 years, but I assure you it will happen.

So now I will email in the tax incentives I have found, soon we will make it into a friendly brochure for the communities, and progress will be made. I couldn’t have found a better way to spend my summer.

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