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!

A Year of Solutions

This post is by Kwame Ntiri Owusu-Daaku, program leader at Iowa City Summer of Solutions.

I can’t believe I have changed this much in a year. I can’t believe I’ve stayed involved this much for a year either. What started out as a the need to find a summer internship in Iowa City has turned into an amazing journey of discovery from which I’m moving on to a PhD in Geography in which I plan to focus on development and climate change adaptation.


Kwame learns to caulk a window.

I came to Iowa City in August 2011 to begin a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa. Before then, climate change for me was something Americans and Europeans rambled on about. Coming from Ghana, I was more concerned about social and economic sustainability than environmental protection and preservation. For me then, the tensions inherent in environment versus people and economy saw an obvious winner – I wasn’t about to let people continue to be impoverished while the ground lay fallow. I’ve expanded my thought processes since then and now I have no clear cut solutions. Continue reading

Local Solutionary Stories

Eli Shepherd’s Story

As is the tradition, many folks like to use the beginning of the year to reflect on the past year, and also to look forward, to set, if you will, their Grand Aspirations for the year ahead. As a 2013 program leader with the Iowa City Summer of Solutions program, I am just too excited to keep my Grand Aspirations for the program from the rest of the world.

I stumbled into Summer of Solutions in June of 2012- rather, I came across a Facebook post soliciting “solutionaries,” and subsequently walked over to a church basement in downtown Iowa City in June of 2012- and at first had no idea what to think. There was one really excited person who greeted me at the door, one person who I later discovered was also in high school, several people who attended the University of Iowa, several people who were studying engineering, and enough chairs and pumpkin muffins for the whole lot of us. By the end of our training week I knew I had found a home but it wasn’t until early August that I became truly invested in the work.

Continue reading

Asheville Summer of Solutions: An Invitation

To the restless young person who wants to spend their summer collaborating with a community to usher in solutions to our planetary woes,

You are invited to join Summer of Solutions Asheville for a summer of extraordinary possibility. Unique to the city of Asheville, and yet tied to the other Summer of Solutions programs, SoS Asheville will work within our community to strive towards sustainable community development. This summer program, led-by and geared towards youth, will offer different levels of participation with some participants living together, while others work on projects for short term or part-time durations. Projects will focus on things, which are, or can become, solutions to the underlying global, regional, and local challenges we face, whether that is our fossil fuel dependency or our fractured local communities.
As this is the first year of the program in Asheville, every participant can have a hand in shaping the outcomes and creating the projects that will define our Summer of Solutions. We will live and work together on at least one large-scale project and several smaller projects through the summer that will challenge us to develop new skills.

Asheville has played host to adventurers, artists, and visionaries throughout its history and provides a fertile ground for a program like Summer of Solutions to emerge. Building on generations of this experience we will collaborate with partners from city council to art collectives. We are initiating SoS Asheville with a listening project in order to become more keenly aware of the possibilities for our place within the community. As the listening project continues we suspect that projects will come out of the countless conversations and public dialogues we have. Currently though, we are beginning to develop potential projects that will support an integrated understanding of the community, alternative economic models, and energy efficiency and conservation.

Tiffany Frye and JC Brew, who spent last summer with Summer of Solutions in St. Louis, are bringing Summer of Solutions to Asheville. JC, a student at the University of North Carolina Asheville, has been working in the Asheville community for several years now on many projects that have ranged from supporting green job creation with Asheville Green Opportunities (Asheville GO), to developing campus gardens that integrate permaculture techniques. Tiffany, a recent graduate from Washington University in St. Louis, is currently working with an afterschool program for middle school kids where she is helping to draw connections between their food and the land with gardening projects. Both JC and Tiffany are also helping to build the national organization, Grand Aspirations, which Summer of Solutions is a project of.

So, to the restless young person who is ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work, come to Asheville, for a summer of solutions (or continue to work from where you are) to truly “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Apply HERE today!

We are also seeking funding for our program. If you are in a position where you can give, please help sustain our program by contributing here.  For any questions, suggestions, or ideas that need digestion, please send us an email at