Last Wednesday night, a group of about 15 Worcester Solutionaries sat around a community fire hosted by our local librarian, advisor, and spiritual teacher Rachael Shea, checking-in for the week after one of our delicious, abundant potlucks. Rachael and her fellow friend, shaman, and healer Dan Sprinkles, who was a special guest visiting us, posed the questions, “What motivates you to do this work for Summer of Solutions?” “What brings you together as a community in ways that seem so natural to you but yet take time and practice from so many others?” and “What gives you the courage to do what you’re doing?”, not necessarily expecting an answer, but just hoping to understand how and why we’re doing what we’re doing this summer. The last question struck me as particularly interesting and maybe misdirected because I did not consider what we were doing “courageous” per se; to me that sounded too gratifying or pedestal-deserving than what we were actually doing. After talking to Dan about it more and asking what he meant by that question, he told me that “courage” actually comes from root definitions meaning “action from the heart”. All of a sudden it made more sense to me, and I do see our work this summer as full of courage; not in a medal-deserving way, but in a way that we maybe don’t know exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing, but it feels right, important, and coming from a natural pull from our hearts to action.
I think the most memorable moments for me have been the great times we allow for thinking, talking, and connecting on a deeper level, whether that be through our community fires, council, potlucks, or even just in moments when I feel like we have reached a flow for working together. I think that even though this summer is about taking positive action towards solving some of the most daunting challenges of our generation, it is also about personal growth and stretching and challenging ourselves to think creatively, get involved, and grow as individuals. We have seen the community of people doing Summer of Solutions Worcester slowly but surely come together and it has been incredible to see the network of people working together expanding. We have just been inviting anyone we work with, talk to, and meet to join us at our weekly potlucks, join a project team, or come to any events posted on our calendar, and have been excited to see new faces all the time!
We Can Weatherize Worcester Info Session
The projects are headed in some exciting directions; especially now since we’re a few weeks in and have had time to get our feet on the ground. The Energy/Weatherization project is seeing an idea come to life as we prepare to build a grassroots effort to weatherization through organizing Energy Barn-raisings. The main purposes of the barn-raisings themselves are to reduce energy use and thus carbon emissions, to empower people with the tools and knowledge to understand weatherizaton and home energy savings through hands-on engagement, and to bring people together as a community. Beyond those reasons, the weatherization team is operating under the larger belief that energy opportunities and solutions need to be accessible and available to all and also they need to engage people and be participatory if we are ever going to mobilize the social change necessary to rise to the wide and broad challenges of climate change and energy. There must be a space for all in the new green economy, so together we decided that we must make social and environmental justice central to our work, as these values will bring in the heart of our work and the consciousness of solidarity.The weatherization team is hoping to really bring fun and a culture of “we’re in this together” to this new boom of weatherization work emerging from millions of dollars of federal funds of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
. To me this is absolutely key because I know that A LOT is happening really quickly as far as conserving energy, expanding the national Weatherization Assistance Program, and retro-fitting buildings to really tackle the efficiency piece of the solutions as we are working on figuring out how to supply our energy from renewables. Weatherization and energy efficiency are not sexy. But once you get past these terms that make you want to cringe or say “enough about CFLS!!” you can realize that there is a lot to be excited about with this energy work and the potential of it to save our homes, our wallets, and our climate. And if we can just find ways of doing this work in a way that is exciting for us and is community-driven, then I think it is a first exciting step toward energy-autonomy and community-owned energy.
Weatherization Barn-raising Training organized by Cambridge HEET
The Weatherization project has been my main focus since I stepped up as the coordinator for it back during our planning stages a couple months ago, but I have also been partially involved in the other two projects and have seen them really take shape over these past few weeks. The Green Jobs project has really been bringing in the components of thinking of the social justice aspect of the work we are doing and working to make sure that when people hear the term “green jobs” they immediately think of social justice, equity, and access. This project is really pushing us to be creative about messaging and media and to really think about the best ways of reaching new eyes and ears with this terminology and opportunity. We have been working with the Worcester Green Jobs Coalition
to think about images, materials, and messages that would be most effective for communicating these concepts about green jobs, what they are, when they’re coming, where they’re coming, who they’re for, etc. The hopeful end product will be a variety of media (DVDs, pamphlets, stickers, fliers, and even a zine!) to take many different approaches for communicating and encouraging broader discussion and exploration about green jobs and what they mean for Worcester.
The gardening group works on weeding in one of Worcester's community gardens!
The Community Gardening Project has been the project that most people got excited about, signed up for, and showed up for this summer! And at first I was confused because out of all three projects, this one is the most service-based, non-campaign desiged of them all. But after going to a couple gardening days in the first few weeks, I realized how important and refreshing and energizing this project is! We are working on four different gardens around Worcester to help augment efforts toward urban gardening, provide volunteer work for the Regional Environmental Council
and the YouthGROW
program set-up, and increase the growth and cultivation of local food. I think this project just provides a great balance of gets-your-hands-dirty, digging-in, physical work that is a great complement to the more organizing-oriented other projects. Being outside and working with your hands and seeing the wonderful success and products of your actions is really refreshing and empowering!
I think some of the most exciting parts of the summer are seeing where these three projects overlap! Hopefully we’ll see the weatherization barn-raising as a great forum for talking about green jobs and distributing materials and a place where the gardeners can bring food to the event to celebrate after the hard work of caulking and air-sealing with some fresh, local dishes. And it will be exciting to help the Dismas House
, an organization that is working with Summer of Solutions on starting a new garden, to save energy in their buildings! Also, people that come to help out at the gardens and at the barn-raisings can fill out the “asset cards” being distributed, collected, and data-based by the Worcester Green Jobs Coalition to connect people’s needs and skills to support local sustainability projects.
We invite you to join us in action any way or how you’d like; everything we do is open to the public and every person is welcome and invited! For more information about where to find us and what you can hop into, check out our calendar at www.summerofosolutionsworcester.org/calendar