Creating the Space for Solutions

-from Summer of Solutions Omaha organizer and Midwesterner extraordinaire: Lance Brisbois-

Creating the Space…

This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the Omaha Summer of Solutions program. The Summer of Solutions began in the summer of 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota by an ambitious group of student environmental activists. Being from the greater Omaha area, I decided that I would love to get involved with something like that in Omaha for summer 2009. Planning began many months in advance and became a very inclusive process with anyone who wanted to help out…either from a distance or on the ground. Dozens of people expressed interest in the program. The possibilities seemed endless—we could work on energy efficiency, clean energy, transportation, local food, building community, and myriad other sustainability-based initiatives.

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…the Only Thing That Could Have Happened

Almost 3 months to the day since I arrived back home in Omaha, NE from school out East and started working on the Summer of Solutions Omaha with my great friends Lance, Tyler and Matt. I was a wide eyed visionary, believing I would change the face of my fair city with my bold and organized climate activism. I believed I would engage hundreds, if not thousands, of citizens and neighbors, empower them to create real climate solutions and establish a kick ass organization that would have me leaving the summer wiping my hands on my jeans, brushing my shoulders off and whistling dixie at having solved climate issues in Omaha. I expected to hop on a plane to head back east at the end of the summer and see solar panels on every roof, smile at the wind turbine production factory in low income North Omaha and notice waves of native prairie grass being grown for sustainable bio-fuel production. In short, I expected to make the sort of drastic changes that usually take years if not decades.

Needless to say this didn’t happen. But a lot of things did happen. Continue reading

The End is a Beginning, is a End is a …

Sitting outside of our (soon to be evicted) community house in Omaha, Nebraska I reflect on the Omaha Summer of Solutions.

By some accounts our program could be perceived as a failure. We didn’t mobilize a million, a thousand, or even a hundred to demand clean energy investments in Nebraska and we didn’t shut down a coal plant (yet). We lost volunteers and participants every month and by July we didn’t have anything substantial to put on paper and say we accomplished. But on closer examination we achieved much more than other campaigns that I have been apart of can claim.

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This is just the beginning…

Call me Tyler, (I’ve been reading Moby Dick too much lately)

Spring is just starting here in Washington. The birds are out, flowers are blooming and I can feel the Earth getting ready to jump out and say hello! The cycles of nature really amaze me. One day it can feel like winter will never end and then the next screams that spring is here!

For the past few months I’ve been working non-stop on building the infrastructure for a bunch of empowered youth to help facilitate community growth in Omaha, Nebraska. Unlike other organizing I’ve been involved in, this program – called Summer of Solutions – has not worn me out or stressed me to the point of breaking. On the contrary it has helped me fall in love with the people, places and things I am working with and for. Building sustainable forms of action (ways to be an activist with out burning or flaking out) seems far more important, in my humble opinion, than building sustainable communities, but if we can do both at the same time… wow!

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