Cross posted from a www.solutionaries.net post origianlly posted July 18, 2011 during Minnesota’s budget crisis.
As the federal government eyes a shutdown and Minnesota cautiously creeps towards the end of its state-level closure, the underlying questions remain unanswered:
- How do we balance budgets and live within our means by raising income and cutting waste without sacrificing the essentials, whether at the government level or for people already living on the edge?
- How do we create lasting jobs and economic opportunity when the costs of living keep rising and people have less money to spend?
- How do we bridge traditional divides (partisan, ideological, socioeconomic, and cultural) to work together creatively for public health, geopolitical stability, climate and energy solutions, community resiliency, and social justice?
For the neighborhoods around Midtown in South Minneapolis, where the recession has left unemployment edging towards 40%, foreclosure running rampant, violent crime rising, and neighborhoods and community organizations struggling with funding cuts, these questions are at the fore. Things have always been challenging here; absentee landlords control much of the housing, and a large portion of people’s income leaves the community to pay for goods and services elsewhere. Many local residents (the area is primarily low-income, people of color, and has many recent immigrants and non-English speakers) feel they have little agency in corporate and governmental decisions affecting the neighborhood.
In times of crisis, communities can turn against each other in a desperate attempt to protect what remains, or towards each other to work together to create new opportunities and long term solutions. In the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions, we’re helping the community use the opportunities that clean energy and energy efficiency provides to make the latter choice. Scaled up, we hope this work may serve as an example for a world facing challenging times.
The seven neighborhoods (over 13,000 households and over 500 businesses) we’re focusing on together spend over $63 million each year paying for electricity, heating, and gasoline – that number will only go up as prices rise. That money is creating few local jobs – the majority of it pays for coal mining, oil drilling, natural gas extraction, power plants, natural gas pipelines, and more. I don’t need to recite the list of problems these things create for both the local community already plagued with asthma and other respiratory illnesses and for our broader nation and planet. 30-80% of this $63 million/year can be avoided through behavioral changes and available technologies that pay for themselves, reducing the negative impacts created. Collectively implementing these practices cuts the cost of implementing them (opening access to people and making it easier to finance) and dramatically increases demand for local green business and green jobs, putting people back to work (or into it for the first time). Eliminating those costs helps individuals and businesses balance their own budgets and create new jobs and income. This in turn reduces reliance on public subsidies and increases public income, making economic recovery and fiscal responsibility connected instead of opposed. In doing so, we help create a win-win-win scenario for residents and businesses and across cultural and socioeconomic groups; building community and helping people unite across difference for a common goal.
We believe energy efficiency and clean energy can be a driver for stronger communities and a renewed economy. And more than our belief; we’re making it happen.
So here’s the low down on what’s happening around energy in the Twin Cities …