Over D.C., Into Pittsburgh, Towards a New Country!

As we celebrate a government that is open, let’s take a second to remember that it’s ridiculous that the shutdown even happened. Let’s take a second as well to consider that the government more often than not is working against us even when it’s working. As Power Shift 2013 arrives in Pittsburgh today and tomorrow, let’s remember why we’re here, not D.C.

In 2009, even in 2011, it made sense to be in D.C. There was a climate bill on the table, we mustered the largest single-issue lobby day in history. Hell, Hurricane Sandy hadn’t happened. Fukushima hadn’t been dumping 300 metric tons of radioactive waste per day into the Pacific for two years. Things were looking up!

Then Barack Obama has a press conference saying natural gas is clean energy. Then Keystone XL becomes a bargaining tool in the budget negotiations, as if it is at all negotiable! Then, we hear about TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, referred to as NAFTA on steriods, secretly negotiated by corporations and governments and up for a vote in just a few months.

Yeah, I’m over D.C.

Grand Aspirations as a whole is mobilizing in Pittsburgh with other activists from around the country because we just don’t have time anymore. We just can’t wait any longer for the stodgy and corrupt Congresspeople to start giving a damn about everything from the American indigenous populations to the Gulf of Mexico. We just don’t have time anymore to negotiate sub-par energy bills and pollution standards. We need to STOP. We need to ORGANIZE. We need to DISOBEY. We need to BUILD SOMETHING NEW.

Power Shift is a challenge because it is not the end, it is the means. Many of us organizing the conference have been pouring effort into what will happen there because we want to structure the next steps, not just have a great conference. The Green Economy Working Group, a function of the Energy Action Coalition, has the goal of setting up 100 new Green Economy projects after the concert, and I’m hella pumped to say that these are on the way! The network is in place, the flyers are printed. We’re ready for Pittsburgh.

We’re not going to be lobbying, we’re going to be planning. We’re not going to be marching on a deaf White House with an ambivalent climate traitor inside, we’re going to mobilize against fracking at the heart of its dirty soul. We’re going to Pittsburgh because, to lift a term from undercover climate activist Winnie the Pooh, we could give less than one bother about Congress at this point.

I’ll be at the Green Economy Hub. Let’s hug and congratulate each other on being a part of the most important people’s movement in history: the movement to save our planet and each other from the stained and greedy fingers of corporation and government alike.

See you there!
-Anthony Peregrine Betori

LETS GO Chicago Mini-Documentary

Late last month, we teamed up with independent filmmaker Brendan Brown to produce this short video about our work building up the green economy in Chicago. The video was made for our online fundraising campaign on the FunderHut website, but also tells our story in general for those who are curious.

Watch the video and help us spread the word by sharing the links below on Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media. Here’s some suggested Facebook messages:

Check out this new video about solutionary green economy work taking place in Chicago and pass it on to friends in your networks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0O43X1tFQQ

Watch the video and support the work of young Chicago solutionaries taking back the economy with gardens, storm-water solutions, and a worker co-op in the making: http://funderhut.com/projects/view/donate-to-summer-of-solutions-2013-with-lets-go-chicago

Good News, Bad News, and Lessons Learned

Greetings fellow Solutionaries and loyal readers,

Bad news first. The house we worked on throughout January, which we were planning to convert into a residence and community resource for sustainable home upgrades, is slated for demolition. There is much commotion with the city right now, other folks are trying to take ownership of the project and move it forward. It isn’t in the ground yet, but its future is definitively uncertain.

All’s going well with Soulardarity. We’re in the midst of a planning stage. After the first light went in, we’ve been revisiting our long-term planning and business model. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time driving around Highland Park, meeting neighbors, and planning community meetings to facilitate active involvement in the planning and implementation of this project. We’ll be developing our master plan, partnerships with the city and neighborhood association, and a design for the streetlights we hope to build right in Highland Park. I don’t want to give away too much detail right now, but the plan right now is to launch a Capital Campaign in the next few months with the goal of raising $1.5 million to install 200 solar streetlights all in one fell swoop.

I’ve also been working with Detroit SOUP to get the Highland Park neighborhood SOUP underway. Detroit SOUP is a crowd-funding event that’s been running for three years. Every month, they hold a community dinner. It costs $5 at the door, which gets you soup, salad, bread, and a vote. Four people propose creative projects that benefit the Detroit community, give short presentations and take questions. Afterwards, everyone eats and talks and votes and, by 8:30, someone walks away with the door money (currently between $1000 and $1500). With support from one of their grants, we’ve held two Highlanf Park SOUP’s at St. Benedict Hall, and are excited for the first SOUP to occur at Nandi’s Knowledge Café, which is a little easier to find. Continue reading

The Diner


In a booth at Red Hot’s, I think about the mechanics of a non-profit solar provider and eat what’s becoming my regular breakfast: eggs, bacon, home fries, coffee, and wheat toast. Jut once, I tried to order breakfast past 11am and have never lived it down. Red Hot’s is a family-owned restaurant; Carol takes your order, Rich works the grill, and while you eat they bicker, gossip, discuss their city, and catch up with their customers. This is why my breach of conduct, my post 10:59 breakfast order, will live in a small circle of infamy for the foreseeable future. The world of Highland Park is full of uncertainty, scarcity, and emergency financial managers, but Red Hot’s is somehow separate – a stable port in a storm.

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 http://grandaspirations.org/connect/positions.

Leo Qin, Advisory Council.

Do the Math: Author Bill McKibben Visits Minneapolis


The turnout was astounding: 1296 in attendance (fire code limit: 1306).

This post is by sustainable community organizer Patricia Lamas. You can read her last post here.

This past Friday night, environmentalist, author, and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben came to Minneapolis as part of his Do the Math tour through twenty-one cities across the country. His message? A call to action in response to his July 2012 article in Rolling Stones Magazine, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”  

In his article, McKibben pieces together a stark picture of our present reality. To summarize, the fossil fuel industry has in its total known reserves five times the amount of coal, oil and gas we would need to burn in order to cause a global climate catastrophe. The numbers are fairly simple. Though not much else was decided at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, it was agreed that a 2ºC rise in global temperatures is the absolute highest that we can “safely” allow (see a breakdown of scenarios here). We have already raised the global temperature by 1°C. To raise it one more degree, we would need to emit 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Sounds like a lot, but we already have 2,795 gigatons at our taking. So much for peak oil, right? Continue reading

Alternative economies in the Twin Cities

This post is by sustainable community organizer Patricia Lamas. You can read her first post here.

With the MN350 Barter-to-Cash Network project well underway, we’re now beginning to reach out to the community in search of talent, time, and underused belongings here in the Twin Cities. We have set November 30th as the official launch date for the online platform, just in time to give it a publicity jumpstart when Bill McKibben comes to town for his “Do the Math” Tour on the same day. (He’s touring the whole country! Do you have your ticket yet?) Continue reading


Been waiting to start growing your own food?

Start today! Track down some healthy soil, exchange some change for seeds at your grocery store, and find some old newspaper. Tony will show you were to take it from there.

A Time of Transition

By Casey Wojtalewicz

My introduction to Summer of Solutions was in 2010, when I was a full-time participant in the Twin Cities program. As it has done for hundreds of other young people, the program and its model of cyclical empowerment transformed my self-identity from something akin to “just another student” to an organizer / agent of change / Solutionary.

Me reading goals as a participant in the 2010 Twin Cities Summer of Solutions program.

Fast forward two years: I’m sitting in a classroom at LA CAUSA (Los Angeles Communities Advocating Unity, Social Justice and Action) in East LA. I’m helping lead the LA CAUSA Summer of Solutions program. We’re at week two, having wrapped up our training launch last week. I’m sitting in on a meeting of our clean energy team as they lay out the groundwork to bring community-owned solar panels to this area. Several weeks ago, I knew none of these people. Now we operate together in well-constructed and organized teams. We’ve created shared visions, set goals to help us achieve our vision, and outlined steps to get there–literally.

Pam, Maite, Tony & Miguel during LA CAUSA SOS’s training week.

It’s a sunny day outside in this industrial part of town. A lot of trucks pass by on the roads. It’s busy. Everything’s moving. The crosswalks usually don’t give enough time for one to walk casually across the streets. Concrete is everywhere. But there’s a cool breeze. I can see the San Gabriel mountains in the distance, and large white clouds are slowly moving across the sky to the north. Inside LA CAUSA, we are laying out plans to create a healthy environment that works for everyone. Everything’s moving.

It feels to be a great time of transition for our planet. I recognize the conflicts and challenges we face today as profound opportunities for transformation. I can feel the potential and momentum building up for change across the city, the state, the country, the world; just like I can feel it building in this very room. And as a Summer of Solutions affiliate, I feel connected to people feeling and doing the same things across the United States right now.

Some LA Solutionaries

Surrounded by these other young people who are turning ideas and visions into reality, I feel the completion of a cycle. Two years ago, I was given the inspiration and skills to become an agent of change. Today, I have given them, and the cycle continues.

This is what the world changing looks like. There’s a feeling of transition, of momentous energy. Like clouds moving on a windy day. People are coming together, working to make changes in their lives and their immediate surroundings.

It feels wonderful to be a part of it.

Thoughts following Midwest Powershift

I spent the weekend at Midwest Powershift in Cleveland. Among the rallies, trainings, and speeches, I was able to catch some downtime with fellow Summer of Solutions program leaders and participants from around the Midwest. Especially valuable was a conversation I had with members of other Midwestern programs on Saturday night.

500 young people applaud Joshua Kahn Russell's keynote poem at Midwest Powershift in Cleveland. Photo credit Ben Hejkal.

This conversation helped me articulate two things: one, the “good environmentalists vs. the evil polluters” framing I saw a lot of other places during the conference makes me deeply uncomfortable, and two, if the green economy is going to work it needs to be the whole economy, not a side industry.

Continue reading