Guest Blog: TPP and the Climate Struggle!

Imagine this: you spend years organizing with your community to stop the destructive practice of fracking that is poisoning your water supply. The power of the people pulls through and you win! Your local government passes a moratorium on fracking. Time to celebrate, right?

But wait– you just got news that a foreign oil and gas company is suing your government for $250 million dollars for violating their “right” to frack under an international agreement that was signed 20 years ago.

Sound completely outrageous? Last month, Lone Pine, an American oil and gas company, filed an official lawsuit against the government of Canada for passing a moratorium on fracking under the St. Lawrence river in Quebec.  Lone Pine is pointing to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that gives transnational corporations the power to sue NAFTA governments should they pass policies that violate their potential profits.

Yes, you read that correctly. In the name of “free trade,” transnational corporations are being elevated to the status of nation-states through binding international free trade agreements. These agreements rewrite laws and regulations that act as “trade irritants”– such as environmental protections, labor laws, food safety standards, or financial regulations. And if any participating country attempts to move forward with policies in the public interest, corporations can sue for hundreds of millions of dollars if they violate their “right” to make profit.

And right now, the Obama administration is seeking to extend this power to 30,000 more companies under a new potential free trade agreement, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP includes 12 countries and would encompass 40% of the global economy, making it the most ambitious trade agreement in U.S. history. While 600 corporations have been given official “trade advisor status”, the public has no access to the content of these negotiations. Congress has had no say either, even as they rewrite important laws and protections that our legislators have passed in the public interest. The TPP will bring a wave of new corporate attacks including weakened environmental regulation, extreme increases in dirty energy exports like fracking, and work to undermine our movements by making it difficult to enact new regulations in the future.

The enemy is clever and stealthy. They have devised ingenious ways to quietly pass far-reaching, devastating policies through the back door and destroy what little democratic power we hold now. The TPP is the perfect example. Many of us didn’t see it coming, and worse, many still do not know what is upon us. But it’s not too late– we can still stop the TPP. There is still hope– we hold a tremendous amount of power.  It is times like these that require mass coordination and mobilization on an international scale. Not only so we can beat back global monsters like the TPP, but so that we may be move past positions of defense and take the power to determine our own future. While we work on local levels in our communities, we must also coordinate and communicate with our other brothers and sisters across the country that are fighting the same fight.

This month, join me at Powershift, where 10,000 young organizers from across the country will come together to connect and coordinate. I’ll be there to discuss current efforts to stop free trade agreements like the TPP, and learn from others how we can all work together. With globalized enemies, we need globalized resistance. Let us come together to celebrate our movement and find new ways to amplify our power through unity. Will I see you there?


Natalie Yoon is the National Organizer for United Students for Fair Trade. They recently launched their Topple the TPP campaign. Learn how to support the campaign here, and email Natalie at for more ways to get involved and where to find her at Powershift!

National Participant Application Open!

Calling all Solutionaries!  The National Participant Application for all Summer of Solutions programs is now open!

During the Summer of Solutions, you will receive training in community organizing and sustainable community development techniques. You will use these skills to demonstrate the promise of energy efficiency, community-based energy, green industry, local food production, and/or smart design as described in the locations you choose. Beyond the concrete skills you learn, Summer of Solutions will be a really fun community-based experience. It is a great chance to grow with, learn from, and work with other incredible young people and community leaders who are building a better future.

Not sure if you should apply?  Follow our new blog series, Alumni Spotlights, to hear from past Summer of Solutions participants about how their experience changed their life and prepared them for a life of solutionary work!

Now accepting participant applications: Arleta, CA; Chicago, IL; Hartford, CT; Iowa City, IA; Ithaca, NY; Johnson City, TN; Lexington, KY; Little Rock, AR; Middleton, WI; Oakland, CA; Raleigh, NC; Southern West Virginia; Twin Cities, MN; and Washington, DC!

Applications for the priority round are due on 3/3/2013 and applications for the final round are due on 4/14/2013. Some programs may keep their local applications open beyond 4/14, but there is no guarantee that any specific program will do so.

Find more details and the online application here!

January Gathering 2013: A Tale of Three Cities

Our journey begins on December 28th in our nation’s capital. A dozen young Solutionaries from all ends of the country are convening at the Steinbruck Center in downtown DC. From Arleta, California and Reno, Nevada in the west to West Virginia in the east, these intrepid travelers join up with hosts from the new Washington DC Summer of Solutions program to learn the skills they will need to empower other young people through their programs and produce real green economy solutions. It is the beginning of the first of the 2013 January Gathering trainings (yes, even in late December), where we will work together to transform our minds and get prepared to run incredible programs this summer.


Solutionaries at the DC January Gathering map their feelings of interconnectedness at the end of the week.

Continue reading

Grand Aspirations is looking for a National Administrator!

As I’m sure that many of you have heard by now, we are looking for a National Administrator to help us out with our national operations by overseeing the day-to-day administration of Grand Aspirations and keeping other national staff and support team members on track on their self-created action plans and timelines. This position is especially exciting, since it is a turning point for the growth of our organization and certainly the closest to a full time position that we have yet been able to offer!

This is an amazing opportunity to really help us get a step up on our annual operations, and start to build a career in the Green Economy! If you have experience with non-profit management, accounting, and personal and group facilitation, please definitely take a look at this opportunity! As always, we would love to hear from you. You can read more on our website at

Leo Qin, Advisory Council.

Introducing our 2013 Programs!

We are excited to introduce our 2013 programs, which include 10 Summer of Solutions programs (8 returning and 2 new), 5 programs that are both Summer of Solutions and Local Initiatives, 5 new Local Initiatives, and 2 Hubs.  Here is a map of all of the program locations, from New York to Arkansas to California.  And did you know that we have our first international program this year, located in Sofia, Bulgaria?

Take a look at the amazing work being planned below!

Continue reading

Lace up your trainers…January Gatherings are fast approaching!

Grand Aspirations’ January Gatherings are 5-days of intensive training to give program leaders the tools to run successful programs in their communities.  This year, we are hosting three January Gatherings in program locations across the country!

  • Washington, D.C. from December 28th-January 1st
  • Hapeville, Georgia from January 9th-13th
  • Chicago, Illinois from January 17th-21st

January Gatherings are an extremely important and effective part of the leadership development training that Grand Aspirations provides to program leaders.  In addition to covering topics from anti-oppression to project development, participants will also have the opportunity to learn from (and become friends with!) the other amazing program leaders running projects in other locations.  This is really the grand kick-off to our new year of projects, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Curious what past program leaders have said about January Gatherings?  Check-out last year’s blog post from the Middleton Summer of Solutions team as they reflected on their experience.

Continue reading

Solutionary energy business up for $5000

Cooperative Energy Futures (CEF) is a cooperative that has co-developed with the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions program over the last five years. Developing the legal structure and community organizing for CEF was one of the three projects that participants in the first Summer of Solutions collaborated on. The organization currently in the running for a $5000 online voting grant from Green America. Read about the project  and then vote for CEF once during the month of November! The top three vote-getters win.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about CEF, it’s an energy efficiency cooperative helping Minneapolis neighbors work together to make energy efficiency and clean energy accessible, easy, social, and fun. CEF helps communities make the biggest positive environmental impact possible by working together to lower energy bills, generate energy revenue, improve home comfort, and create a healthier community and planet.

Continue reading