“If we don’t do it, who will?”

That’s the question we asked earlier this week when discussing who should research possible alternatives to the high-voltage transmission line slated to cut through the neighborhood we work in.

Transmission lines are necessary, you may say. For the most part I agree. There have been a few brown-outs in South Minneapolis, and the utility claims there is a significant shortage. (Although no independent studies have confirmed this) It’s true: we need to get energy from where it’s captured to where it’s needed.

What I’m thinking about this summer is: What if neighborhoods could produce, consume and manage their own energy, and grow to be independent of private and public utilities who often ignore their needs and experiences? There has has been little to no consultation of the people who live in this mid- to low-income, diverse neighborhood.

Why aren’t new highways, transmission lines, railways,  power plants planned in Mac Groveland? Northwest Portland? Why are they in South Minneapolis, in Vanport? I won’t go too far into the environmental justice implications here.

An example of high-voltage transmission lines

Some of us attended a meeting about the possible alternatives that included state representatives, non-profits, state university researchers, community groups etc. At the end of the day, none of the well-established entities would accept the task to research alternatives. The funding has been unalotted for the research, and no one will accept the project A) because there is no money for it, and B) pitting oneself against one of the largest private utilities is (“potentially”) political suicide.

Who better to take on the project than a bunch of enthusiastic, naive college students? Exactly.

In this case, (and perhaps others too) youth is an asset. Keep you posted.

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