Solutionary Bliss in the Twin Cities

By Cecelia Watkins

Wake up. Bike from my home in St Paul over to South Minneapolis. Meet up with other passionate people to plan how to deliver 40 free workshops on home energy efficiency to local residents. Attend a fabulously raucous group lunch and engage in a vibrant discussion on how capitalism fits into our vision of the green economy. Learn about urban bee keeping, then bike back across the shimmering Mississippi to repair donated bikes and laugh with a motley crew of community members while learning how to distinguish brake from shifter housing. Bike home under blue skies, listening to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution TED Talk on my MP3 player.

Kirsten, Elena and Daria show off a rusty chain at Sibley Bike Depot

A year ago, I would have termed that a youthful fantasy born out of an head too full of wanting to do it all at once: biking and gardening and weatherizing—making a positive difference in the world while growing personally and maintaining personal well-being in the process. Now, I would call that description a Monday at Summer of Solutions Twin Cities.

In my final year at Brandeis University I grew increasingly restless to take action as I learned more and more about the teetering state of the world. The first obstacle was gritting my teeth and finishing up my degree. The second obstacle was that I had no idea what form this action would take. I hadn’t majored in environmental science like so many of my eco-activist friends and my interests simply refused to confine themselves to any one aspect of the world I wanted to help build. I wanted to grow food in cities and encourage cycling and weatherize homes and do advocacy work and create new green jobs and empower youth—and that’s not even mentioning all my passions specifically relating to social justice and international issues. So many of the jobs I found were focused on addressing just one of these issues, in fact many even argued that trying to address more than one at a time just wouldn’t work. Reading job descriptions online I wanted to shout back that the opposite was true: addressing these issues separately and without consideration of the others would never bring about the world I wanted to see.

And now here I am working for Summer of Solutions Twin Cities, and here I am able to address every issue I care about. Of course my time is limited and I can’t take direct action on every issue alone. However, through this program I am able to do three things. Firstly, I am able to take direct action on those subjects currently most at the forefront of my mind (for me that means bike advocacy and home energy efficiency workshops). Secondly, I am able to feel a deep sense of connection to the greater climate movement via the Summer of Solutions framework (in our program alone, others are focusing their energy on green manufacturing efforts and urban agriculture).  Lastly, I am encouraged and challenged—via group discussions, reflection and constant questioning of our own processes—to continually ensure that in working on these “green” issues we are also taking action on infinitely more issues of injustice in our world.

Of course not all days are so rosy, and I don’t think Summer of Solutions is The One Solution to the obstacles the world is facing. But it is one. I’ve always been struck by the quote, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.” I am so grateful to have found my way into an organization with a holistic view of the problems currently facing our world and a multi-faceted approach in creating solutions. This is an organization that empowers me and others to take action, to realize our individual and collective power, and do something to build the world we dream of.

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