It’s hard to believe that we’re nearly four weeks into Summer of Solutions. I’ll be honest–the world hasn’t changed yet. It is still powered by fossil fuels, the income gap continues to expand, hunger and poverty remain rampant in far too many places, biodiversity is quietly but rapidly stepping out, and what’s worse? The steadfast warming of the planet can only enhance these problems.
The world may not have changed (at least noticeably) in the last four weeks, but something has. There’s a mysterious energy I’ve been getting from the world around me that I’ve struggled to place. Something around me has surely changed. But what? For some reason, my perception of the world has become more positive. I have become more and more optimistic about the abilities of people to overcome the daunting challenges posed by ubiquitous, systemic failures. But why? I look for answers. Perhaps something has changed in US politics to warrant such optimism? The Minnesota state shutdown tells me no. The inability of our politicians to avert laying off 22,000 state jobs and losing tens of millions of dollars tells me no. The fact that the US has no meaningful bill to confront climate change and isn’t expected to have one anytime soon tells me no.
I look elsewhere, around me. The Minneapolis streets remain busy, with cars and city busses bustling by and gifting pedestrians with the sweet aroma of vehicle exhaust. Things are normal here. The birds, trees, grass, clouds, weather, taste of food, everything—it’s still the same. I’m still brushing my teeth, eating food, hitting snooze on my alarm clock, but still, I have this unexplained fresh perception of the world—a mysterious and seemingly unjustified optimism.
The answer lies within a mindset. Not just any mindset, but the mindset of a solutionary. The world around me may not actually look different, but it certainly feels different. To me, this feeling comes from a few basic understandings. That you, as any individual, can bring about systemic change. That you can change how the world operates and how you operate within it. That everyone is connected to a wildly complex web of resources, and these resources—both inherited and acquired—demand of us a great deal of responsibility to use them to create meaning and positive change in this world.
The resources available to us are vast and diverse. They not only include financial privileges, but also technology, relationships, networks, talent, skill, labor, culture, language, values, climate, the list is endless. You can call these non-monetary assets. You can call it social capital, or social inheritance, or whatever you like. Just remember that with these resources comes power, and as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
My optimism, then, is not necessarily corroborated by the physical world around me. It is instead in the solutionary mindset. Even if the world around me has not changed, my place within it has. The world is now a supply of indeterminate and invaluable potential. And that potential is thankfully within reach of my hands, as it is for the kind hands of my fellow solutionaries.
For this invigorating mindset I thank you, Summer of Solutions.
-Shane Sessions, Summer of Solutions Twin Cities