Bioneers Inspires

By Jennice Rodriguez
Reno, NV
Posted by Casey Wojtalewicz

A few weeks back I was given the chance to attend environmental/peace conference, Bioneers, for the second time in Marin County California.  The event, if you haven’t experienced it already, is something beyond the power of words could describe.  A festival organized for enriching the mind and activating the activist deep inside the soul each attendee.  It’s a place where some of the most powerful people are united in the same place to talk about their work, the work of others, and the work that we as a society need to start engaging in.

It’s a place where lifelong learners come to be taught and experience all the different ways our mother is trying to get us to listen.  It’s a place where the hungry come to be fed the fruit of exposed dirty treason of the powerful forces in our country, but with as much information that is being shared, it is more enlightening than depressing, more electric than any festival I have ever experienced (besides Burning Man…which could totally be compared to this event, in another blog maybe).

Though it may sound quite terrifying–and it is!–Bioneers is a place where possibilities meet the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  Bioneers has been the root of so many ideas I have to make this world, to save this world, our world, a place I want to live in.

I walked away this year with so many contacts, I don’t even know what to do with them all. I made friends that I already know better than people I’ve known for years. One idea that hasn’t stopped flickering in the glass window of my memory shop: I was told to find something I am passionate about, and start from there.

But what am I passionate about?  I love my fruits and veggies, and I want everyone to be able to access only the purest food, sure.  I think green energy is something that our government needs to get in check with and make it happen already, sure.  I think marijuana should be legalized and the production of hemp products will save the land that has become ever so exhausted, sure.  But what am I really passionate about?

I have been overwhelmed with the numbers in which one person can dedicate their power to, and I want to do it all, but I can’t do it alone.  Until I find out what it is that I’m passionate about, I need your help, and she needs ours.

Reclaiming prosperity

“…it is impossible for most of the world to feed itself a diverse and healthy diet through exclusively local food production — food will always have to travel; asking people to move to more fertile regions is sensible but alienating and unrealistic; consumers living in developed nations will, for better or worse, always demand choices beyond what the season has to offer…”

James E. McWilliams “Food that Travels Well” The New York Times August 6, 2007

Say what?  I thought better of you, NYT.  While McWilliams does raise some valid points, this mentality falls short in two major ways.  His assumptions mirror outlooks about sustainability I have often encountered which also apply to clothing, building practices, transportation and more.  Good thing there are Solutionaries on the case.

1)      This view doesn’t look far enough back.  Transportation of food over long distances is a relatively recent phenomenon in the grand scheme of things.  There was a time when everyone ate food that was more or less local.  Then refrigerated transportation happened, and the industrial revolution and agri-business squeezing out small farmers and before you know it, local is a novelty.  This all happened in the course of a century or two.  Is inertia so strong we can’t get back to this way of living? Judging from past moments in history, such as WWII when many Americans started Victory gardens, I beg to differ.

2)      It doesn’t look far enough ahead.  Oil is what fuels our transportation system and alternatives like corn ethanol aren’t looking so hot.  Oil is running out, and fast.  Since 1968, the world has been using more oil than it has discovered.  Just this month after a cabinet meeting, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah answered a Zawya Dow Jones Newswires reporter’s question: “I told them [the cabinet] that I have ordered a halt to all oil explorations so part of this wealth is left for our sons and successors, God willing.”[1]

One projection of peak oil from

McWilliams doesn’t think about all the subsidies that have made oranges and coffee beans in New York City cheaper than swiss chard from a Hudson Valley farmer. The subsidies and the artificially suppressed cost of gas for transportation all create a false sense of economy in far-flung production.  When the U.S. starts paying an arm and a leg for the last dregs of oil fields, local won’t look so much like a “choice”.

A big part of being solutionary to me is a type of long-term thinking that McWilliams sorely lacks.  I’m not just in this for my generation.  If I were I might focus on R & D of energy resource extraction.  And I’m not just in it for my kid’s generation.  I’m in it to figure out a way that humans can co-exist on this earth alongside all the other species we haven’t wiped out yet, indefinitely.  This takes looking way back in the past before looking too far into the future.  Humans have lived without fossil fuels for all of our history except the tiny blip of the last two centuries.  I’m not saying we have to go back to the Stone Age, just that the Earth can support a human population that doesn’t suck it dry.

One of my neighbors kept apples and potatoes all through last winter in her basement, no fossil fuels required.  Local apples in a Minnesota February; it can be done, no science degree required.  I’ve spun and knitted wool from Maryland sheep into hats and mittens that never left their state of origin in production or use.  I joined St Paul high school youth, the Lily Springs Farm crew and other Solutionaries working on a natural fence in Wisconsin this past weekend.  Just pine trees, brush and some hard labor will keep rabbits out of the crops.   Summer of Solutions is helping Sibley Bike Depot get bikes to people so they can get around without fossil fuels.

Natural building at Lily Springs Farm

And what’s so beautiful to me is these changes feel like anything but sacrifices.  It’s taking our future out of the hands of corporations, institutions and bureaucrats and into our own hands.  To me, being Solutionary means transforming the world so my life is more prosperous than it ever could be in our current, broken and unjust system.



Last week, editors at The Nation asked their readers to answer the question, “What Does Patriotism Mean To You?” in 200 words or less.  Some Twin Cities Summer of Solutions folk responded to voice their feelings about our country, promote our vision, and spread the word about SOS.  My entry and those of a few others are posted below.

Patriotism is proactive. It is seeing and believing in a better America, and working to make that vision a reality. Patriots are not sticks floating down the stream of society, shifting and responding to each push and pull of the current that carries it. They are trail blazers pushing forward along the banks and through the valley. It is a difficult yet necessary role, for when the stream encounters a dam, it is the Patriots with the vision and grit to take on the challenge and the allegiance to see it through. They do not balk at, deny, or flee from our nation’s problems.

I am blazing trails in Minneapolis with the Summer of Solutions program.  We see the problems of our hollowed economy, divided communities and degraded environments as inherently connected, and our remedies seek to address them all. We are working hands on to create green jobs, promote energy efficiency, and empower communities across the country. What we are doing is unchartered territory, but we are pushing forward with passion using the assets we have to create a better America. And we won’t stop.

– Casey Wojtalewicz

This is the first Fourth of July when I can safely say that I’m proud to be an American.  I think this realization of my unique brand of patriotism is a result of the past few years I have spent abroad. I chose to attend university in Scotland with the assumption that outside the US, people would be less materialistic, or more earth-conscious and community-oriented. However, I realized that everything I was looking for could be found in my very hometown. Patriotism does not mean loving the political views and lifestyle choices of every citizen. Rather, patriotism is finding the pieces of your country that bring out the best in you, and caring about your country enough to make it a better place. In my hometown of Minneapolis, I am working alongside other youth to create community sustainability and build a green economy as part of a program called Summer of Solutions.  As I work the land in community gardens, talk to community members about energy efficiency, or bike around the Twin Cities, I feel patriotic for this piece of my country, and even more so, for what my country has the potential to become.

Elana Bulman

Patriotism demands that we find an America powered by dirty energy – which funds terrorism and destroys Gulf Coast livelihoods – unacceptable. It means that we lead smarter pathways for our country as car companies and banks and housing markets and energy suppliers that are “too big to fail” start taking our communities and our livelihoods down with them. Patriotism means embodying the entrepreneurial, can-do, team spirit that exemplifies our nation’s best moments as leaders in our workplaces, schools, churches, and neighborhoods. It means walking resolutely towards the dawn of a sustainable, socially-just, and prosperous economy powered by local entrepreneurs, strong communities, and clean and efficient energy.

This summer, I’m helping a new generation of leaders create their own careers in the green economy, empower their communities through collaborative solutions, and help others do the same. They are helping neighborhoods convert hobby gardens into viable urban farming businesses, recapture value from utility bills through energy efficiency, develop green manufacturing centers on abandoned industrial sites to create jobs, and create access to clean transit options. Here in Minneapolis and nationwide, the Summer of Solutions ( is helping nurture this type of patriotism – the nitty-gritty on-the-ground leadership to take America forward.

– Timothy DenHerder-Thomas

Itching for some solutions…

I’m itching for some solutions. My teachers are itching for solutions. My classmates are itching for solutions. Everyone is itching but can’t seem to find the spot.

These past five weeks I’ve been in a class called Energy Systems and Climate Change and have gotten to know an incredible amount of amazing people with unique perspectives on the state of the world. Many of them represent people I know outside of school and I usually spend most of my time day dreaming about how I can express my excitement in local solutions to the class. Ive tried the emotion draw of rebuilding communities, I’ve gone at it from an anti-authoritarian perspective by advocating for the elimination of government, and finally I tried talking about social capital and people as a part of complex interlocking systems, as a way to create self-sufficient communities.

But none of it has had its desired effect. The teachers destroy my poetic visions of local economies with local energy production by saying that it is impossible and will get us no where.

That stand has really highlighted the need for concrete examples and solutions to demonstrate the effectiveness of what we are trying to envision.


We have no time, we have negative time, stuff should have been done yesterday!

Summer of Solutions/Grand Aspirations is us. We are it. Our futures are so entwined that one cannot survive without the other! What is my identity? Am I even human anymore, if my soul is somewhere else shouldn’t my body follow? Live our dreams today so we can live them tomorrow. Who wants to sit on a train when you can steer it.

I send you all my love, and a belief that you can do TRULY AMAZING things everyday that empower people to take their lives into their own hands and help in creating the world that we want to live in!

With love from the rainy (but amazing) Pacific Northwest,

A person that cares about everything!