“We must be kind and gentle gardeners with people and nature.” – Bryant McGill.

In the face of all that is wrong, cynicism seems an easy choice. Corruption in government defines our everyday news, hurricanes batter the southern coastlines one after the other, divisions amongst race and class grow deeper by the day, and genuine conversation with those on the other side of the ideological aisle become harder as we grow angrier. All of this is overwhelming, but this is far from being our entire reality. We are starting to see the disparity of our system, the pollution of our world, and in turn seeing new ways to live and power our way of life. When it comes to building a better, different future for our children, there are three crucial steps that humanity must take: we must practice stronger empathy, use cleaner energy, and in doing so nurture a healthier environment. With a stronger sense of empathy both towards ourselves and nature, we can begin to build stable communities united in the fight against climate change. With clean energy we can live in symbiosis with the environment, something a stronger sense of empathy will help us understand. Lastly, with a stable natural ecosystem, we can nurture future generations to live healthily and sustainably, leaving an earth for our children that is clean and safe. Though this path may sound daunting, we must remember that for every trouble sitting at our society’s doorstep, there exists a plethora of innovative solutions waiting to be utilized.

A lot of our young minds are turning towards renewables as a place to practice their ingenuity, and as a result giving way to a whole host of fascinating energy innovations. One of the most exciting of these inventions is the perovskite solar cell. This is a man-made solar cell that prints like ink on paper, while also being incredibly cheap and safe to make. Traditionally, manufacturing solar cells requires thin slices of crystalline silicon, a material that must be made at incredibly high temperatures using hazardous materials; the process is long and expensive. Perovskite cells, however, are minuscule crystals that can be melded into a liquid, which in turn may be applied to any glass, plastic, or metal. They are fused to the material with nanotechnology, and produce a substantial amount of electricity while also withstanding the elements of the outdoors. This means that any phone, skyscraper, car, or building can be painted with these perovskite solar cells, thereby creating their own energy like a plant through photosynthesis. Perovskite solar cells are not quite ready to turn our cities into energy churning machines, however, as the technology is still in its experimental stages. But recent tests have all yielded positive results, making the perovskite solar cell very promising.

Another innovation for the future is a local Minnesota company called Janulus. Janulus started off as a kickstarter campaign for portable wind generators. Now a successful business, Janulus manufactures and ships portable generators of various sizes throughout the country. One of the larger models can power every outlet in your home, while the smaller models can power your electric car, speaker systems, and other larger appliances. They are located in Clarkfield, Minnesota, started by two Icelandic gentlemen who saw renewable energy run a great deal of their home country, but nearly none of the United States. With its own converter you have no need to rely on large utility companies for electricity, something communities experiencing energy poverty need and understand.

In Minnesota, there are amazing programs that work at bringing renewable energy to people of all income levels. One program in particular is run by the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance(RREAL), a 501©(3) nonprofit in Minnesota that provides solar power to low-income families in an attempt to battle energy poverty. Often times, low-income families are more predisposed to health issues caused by environmental pollution, as their communities lie in what environmentalists call the ‘frontlines’. A local example is northern Minneapolis. Northern Minneapolis is a district with not only a high minority population coupled with higher rates of poverty, but also subjected to higher rates of asthma. There are two major reasons for this: the first is the large municipal garbage dumps pumping out huge amounts of pollution, and the second, most prominent reason, are the diesel locomotives constantly coasting through their community, spewing visible plumes of exhaust. Both leave families struggling with respiratory illnesses at higher rates than any other region in Minneapolis.  This points out an important relationship: along with climate justice comes racial justice, two fights that go hand in hand as we work to build a more empathetic world for our children.

Empathy is crucial in becoming a healthier society. When we truly feel and understand the illness we have bestowed upon the environment, we begin to see the illness in ourselves. We are a crucial part of the ecosystem, and we must learn to live with it, not use its bountiful resources as a means for our own wealth. It has been said that a tree with deep roots has no fear of wind, no matter how strong. This is true for all animals of the ecosystem, even humans. Our roots lie in nature, and the deeper we delve into that relationship, the more we can begin to understand about ourselves. Furthermore, a happy environment breeds happy people. Studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain known as the command center) is hushed by a walk in the woods. Stress hormones, heart rate, and brain activity all subside as you submerse yourself in some greenery. This works very similarly to meditation, a practice known for balancing the stress of daily life.  A healthy environment heals our tired brains, and that relationship could be beautifully reciprocal if used appropriately.

Fostering progressive relationships is at the core of Marnita’s table. At this fundraiser, we broaden the scope of our work to further include human’s relationship with the environment, not just the relationship with ourselves. We want to showcase the productivity of bridging the gap between climate justice and racial justice, emphasizing empathy, clean energy, and a healthy environment as keys to our species future. Through intimate, meaningful conversations, Marnita’s Table will foster thought provoking solutions to a multifaceted problem. Real people with real experiences, from all different walks of life, will share their story to reveal a bigger truth; progress comes in unity and empathy. Marnita’s Table has been known for bridging gaps between human differences. Now, let us build a stronger sense of empathy towards the environment, and explore the profound, beautiful connection we humans share with nature…

Written by Emily Griffin-Wetzel.
You can find more of Emily’s writing on her website www.writetorevenue.com