The Occupy demonstrations have raised a central issue that we must confront: how does capital get invested and who is controlling the process?

A new video by Annie Leonard addresses this issue in a powerful and convincing way. It’s called The Story of Broke: Why There’s Still Plenty of Money to Build a Better Future, and it’s out today, November 8th.

The evidence is mounting that the global economy has been allocating way too much capital to investments that destroy the environment. Every biological system on our planet is collapsing, largely due to the way we have been running the global economy, putting corporate profits ahead of saving natural resources.

Hundreds of species of plants and animals are being wiped out because we are destroying their habitats. Every year, billions of tons of the topsoil that grows our food is disappearing. We are rapidly destroying the forests that absorb carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we need to breathe. The glaciers and polar ice caps are melting, which will raise ocean levels, threatening the very existence of major cities such as Miami and Houston.

Everywhere you look, severe weather events are Mother Nature’s way of telling us that we cannot continue on our current path.

Now the new online video by Annie Leonard, author of the popular video and book, The Story of Stuff, lays out a well-researched case for changing the way our society decides how to invest its wealth. Instead of investing in the military-industrial complex that pollutes the earth and does not produce enough jobs, this entertaining video explains how we could redeploy our money in ways that will lessen environmental destruction and reduce the growing inequality that is prompting protests all around the world.

The Story of Broke points out the contradictions between the response we get from our political leaders when we want better schools and environmental protection—“Sorry, there’s not enough money”—and the way they always seem to find money when it comes to waging war, subsidizing big corporations that move our jobs overseas, and bailing out financial institutions that gamble our money away.

The video makes a very strong case for shifting our capital away from the destructive “dinosaur economy” to the newly emerging green economy sectors that are developing renewable energy, green building, resource recovery, grassroots education, and environmental restoration.

As Jim Hightower says: “Capital is like cow manure, if you concentrate it in a big pile it stinks, but if you spread it out evenly it makes things grow.”

Watch the video teaser here:

Watch the full video here!


Global Exchange staffers share what they love about their work in these short n sweet videos. We invite you to add your comments!

Kylie starts things off:

Next, Kirsten Moller encourages activism:

Chie Abad talks ending sweatshops & the power of global community:

Jocelyn Boreta loooves Fair Trade!

Corey Hill is giddy about GX members…

Behind the scene with Zarah:

Ted loves solidarity and presence:

Shannon loves BIG ideas sprung from Global Exchange

Paula loves Green Fests!

Carleen is a fan of our holistic approach…

Kevin Danaher sums it all up for us:


Written by our partners at the Michigan Suburbs Alliance:

Jordan Eizenga is framed by the house's metal structure

A barn-raising in the heart of Detroit? That’s certainly what it felt like as activists from across the region gathered in Highland Park on Sunday, June 26, to construct a 2000-square-foot hoop house from plastic sheeting and metal tubes.

This solar-powered greenhouse can grow food year-round—even in Michigan winters. Armed with the right equipment, it doesn’t take more than a day to construct one. As UniverCities Energy Data Intern Jordan Eizenga and other Suburbs Alliance staff found, it does take a number of willing hands.

Jordan (not to be confused with Energy Policy Intern Jordan G.) found lending his hands easy enough. He moved to Ferndale this summer to be near the Suburbs Alliance main office, and biked the few short miles along Woodward Avenue from Ferndale to help build the house. The site was behind the Green Economy Leadership Training (GELT) house near Woodward and McNichols. A branch of a national youth network organizing for solutions to global climate change, GELT seeks to give young people a holistic understanding of the transition to a sustainable, community-scaled economy through neighborhood projects like the hoop house.

Things heat up in the hoop house's interior

By late morning, most of the metal hoops that formed the hoop house’s structure were already in place, and the lot was a hive of activity. Builders included master hoop-house mechanic Jeff McCabe, co-founder of Ann Arbor’s SELMA Café, Margaret Lewis, publisher of the Highland Park-based Legacy News, and scores of others from the block, the neighborhood and the greater region. Now that’s metropolitan cooperation in action!

The plastic sheeting has been hauled into place

While at rest, the group traded farming tips and enjoyed impromptu rapping from the youngest attendees.

“Billow it!” As the sun sank lower, the team gathered on either side of the curving metal frame to push and pull the plastic walls of the house into place, sending ripples through the giant sheets to carry them over the top. Slowly, under the careful hands of Jordan and two dozen others, the double sheets slid down to meet the wooden frame near the ground. What had been empty space open to the elements at dawn became a warmer interior where plants will grow come winter.

Collective celebration with the help of a timpani

There’s much more to be done before the hoop house produces its first crops. For Jordan and the other six Suburbs Alliance staff on hand, though, the day was an inspiring confirmation that people from all over the area can come together to build a healthier, greener and tastier future.

Working cooperatively, the group built in one day what a single person couldn’t have constructed alone. Metro Detroit needs to bring that lesson to a regional scale: we’re stronger together.

The following post was written by Global Exchange’s G.E.L.T. (Green Economy Leadership Training) program participant Kate Powers:

Today, Matt, Lauren, Mike, Dan (a resourceful new addition to the program), and I went over to Grove Street determined to gut the whole house. Our biggest challenge: the feces-covered basement. It was decided that since we were in this together, we would all work on the basement together. All five of us, armed with our shovels, attacked the basement full force. Once we completely scraped up the floor, Mike, Matt, and Dan began disassembling the musty couch and moving the washing machine and other large items upstairs while Lauren and I swept up the dirt and threw away all the trash. The task of cleaning the basement seemed difficult but it took us less than an hour to complete. It’s true when they say many hands make light work.

Next, we tackled the second floor. The group cleaned out the back room, swept, and ripped up the remaining carpets. In a relatively short time we got a great amount accomplished. As inspiring and enriching the G.E.L.T. workshops and lectures are, the physical gratification that comes along with the Operation We Squat group project is unmatched. We had a sense of accomplishment driving back from Grove Street. Having the house gutted was a morale boost… However, there is still much to be done.

The top three issues that need to be addressed are as follow:
1)   Replace foundational support beam in the basement
2)   Repair roof
3)   Plumbing/Bathtub

Making the house functional is an intimidating task, but in the face of this challenge I just think about how daunting of a task gutting out the house was and how we were able to accomplish it. All we can do is face each challenge as it comes while supporting one another and the community.

Until next time,

Written by GELT Participant – Dan Tompkins

It was an afternoon in summer. Me, this guy James, and a girl named Marion walked down the middle of the road. We were in a rough area. It’s called Highland Park.

The three of us were working with GELT, a project of Global Exchange, an international human rights organization based in San Francisco that focuses on social, environmental and human rights. In Detroit, Global Exchange wanted to take local action to get some energy efficiency to houses that needed it most. The GELT project had local headquarters just down the street. (more…)

GELT participants striking peaceful poses

The following post was written by Global Exchange’s G.E.L.T. (Green Economy Leadership Training) program participant Kate Powers:

Ready for community input, O.W.S. (Operation We Squat) canvassed earlier today. Our original vision for the home on Grove Street was to create a community space for Highland Park, potentially a youth center or library. We were very focused on the specifics of the house rather than the basic, functional elements and what the community really needed. As a result, canvassing was a major reality check.
We received three kinds of responses:
  1. Negative. The first house Marion and I approached consisted of a woman who was skeptical and, frankly, very angry with the G.E.L.T. program. She said that last year GELTers went around Grove Street making promises to the community that were not fulfilled. She felt like outsiders invaded Grove Street with lofty goals but left once the summer was over with none of the goals met. She made it obvious that some people on Grove felt betrayed by the G.E.L.T. program. Many of these “broken promises” were due to miscommunications between the program and the community last year but that doesn’t change the fact that there are trust issues present between G.E.L.T. and Grove Street that need to be addressed.
  2. Apathetic. Other people we talked to said they didn’t care what was done to the house as long as the yard was taken care of. They were more worried about the potholes and lack of streetlights than the renovation of 76 Grove Street.
  3. Positive. Some people supported our efforts. Families with small children were responsive to the idea of having some kind of youth center where kids can go after school. Other community members liked the idea of having a garden in the back where the food grown can be distributed to people who tend to the garden. One community member in particular was a great advocate for our cause, Ms. Walker. Now she even has a date with Mike to go to the city council meeting on Monday and is going to go to church with Lauren one upcoming Sunday. Ms. Walker cares about the Grove Street community and wants to see it prosper.
As a result of our canvassing, we have determined three issues that need to be addressed on Grove Street:
  1. Trust. The outside of the house is a very important part of its transformation as many people in the community will not believe or support us until prominent physical change has occurred. Keeping our promise to renovate 76 Grove Street is very important in building our trust with the community.
  2. Security. Multiple community members have told us that the house is not safe to leave alone overnight. Squatters can easily take over or illegal activity can occur. Therefore, we plan to definitely have a residency aspect integrated into our renovation plans.
  3. Community. We are starting to realize that simply creating a youth center or library on Grove Street does not make it a community. We can help the area more by fixing up the home and renting it to people who care about Grove Street and Highland Park. We do want some community aspect involve with the home, so we have been playing around with the idea of forming a garden in the backyard where fresh produce can be distributed to community members who tend to the garden.
After the canvass, Mike made a good point that maybe we had misunderstood where the value of the project should be placed. In the words of Marion, our idealist bubble had been popped. We still believe in this project but we have to take it one step at a time. To achieve our goals, we must rebuild the broken relationships between G.E.L.T. and Grove Street by following through with our promises.
Until next time!

The following post was written by Global Exchange’s G.E.L.T. (Green Economy Leadership Training) program participant Kate Powers:

I am working with several other participants on a project that is part of Global Exchange’s G.E.L.T. program called Operation We Squat.

Our project is one of four G.E.L.T. group projects taking place over the course of nine weeks, the others focusing on solar energy, urban agriculture and waste repurposing, respectively.

G.E.L.T. aims to build a new, clean energy economy in Highland Park through education, training, and community participation. Major aspects of G.E.L.T. include permaculture, renewable energy, and infrastructure redevelopment. This program centers around improving people’s lives by creating a healthy economic and social community in Highland Park by using a sustainable model that can be repeated in other cities around the country.

Operation We Squat plans to address a major problem in post-industrial cities– abandoned, rundown houses. The usual response to this problem is demolition of the residence, dumping the materials into landfills. This process is energy-demanding and labor insensitive while preventing community advancement and adding little long-term value to the city. O.W.S. wants to demonstrate an alternative solution to abandoned homes in urban areas. The project plans to find the most effective ways to transform neglected houses into beneficial, sustainable representations of community.

The time frame of this project is June 7th to August 7th. The house: 76 Grove Street. The GELTers involved are Lauren, Matt, Mike, and myself (Kate). The team leads are Marion and Scott.

On Thursday, the group assembled and visited 76 Grove Street, for most of us it was our first time. Overgrown grass and weeds engulfed the yard while trash and broken glass filled the alleyway. Inside was not much better, the first floor consisted of discarded furniture and boarded up windows. After viewing the basement and the second floor it was evident that previous squatters had allowed their pet(s) to run wild.

For me, the most disheartening part of the house was not the dirt and grim or the broken windows and furniture, it was the deserted, child-made mother’s day card and the baby furniture and bottles left behind. The house was not completely vacated but rather it was almost as if, in the words of Marion, a hurricane came through destroying the inside of the home, taking the residents with it, but leaving traces of the family’s life. Lauren even found a film strip containing family photos– the family members that once lived in the house are now like ghosts, their abandoned possessions just glimpses of their past lives.

A few first impressions from the group are as follow:

  • Marion- Transformation through community and group cooperation
  • Matt- 76 Grove has a lot of potential
  • Mike- Great importance in having the home be a “community space with function”
  • As a group we decided that the first step of our project would be to cut the grass and have a bulk clean-up/trash pick-up as well as engage the community in some ways to include their input in the project.

Group Roles are as follow:

  • Marion: Timeline/Vision/Oversee
  • Scott: Resources/Oversee
  • Lauren: Community outreach
  • Mike: Find sources of inspiration/Similar models in the area
  • Matt: Internal workings of the house
  • Kate: Front and back yard/Story creation

If all goes as planned Operation We Squat will improve the lives and environment of Grove Street community members. However, in order for this project to have more than just an isolated impact on Grove Street, the steps taken must be repeatable and act as a model for the greater Detroit area, Michigan, and other parts of the United States. So as things progress, I’ll blog again about this project and the steps we’re taking to transform an abandoned house into something that can strengthen a community and create more sustainable systems within a city. Who knows, maybe sharing our story will aid others involved in similar conquests.

Until next time,

Written by Cory Connolly, aka, “the Finisher”

Why is it that the green economy, in many ways, remains intangible? Why must those who are passionate about people and the environment choose between doing what they want and between living comfortably? What does a green economy look like in the country’s most devastated communities?


A city that once pioneered a new economy for a new America is now passing on its legacy to 21st century entrepreneurs sculpting it’s rebirth from the ashes. The spirit is still here, it actually never left.  Hiding in the halls of historic automotive buildings and creeping into a declining, but indigenous, market place.  Highland Park has changed the world before, and this summer Highland Park will carry the torch once again.     (more…)

In 2 weeks, the Global Exchange Michigan team will embark on our second Green Economy Leadership Training (GELT) program.  GELT is a 9 week training program that brings together residents from the community of Detroit & Highland Park together with youth from communities throughout Michigan and the U.S. for technical trainings in the green economy and community organizing.

Since last summer’s bootstrapped project with 5 participants and no funding, our dream has grown from a start-up concept project to a full-fledged program.  Now we are anticipating the arrival of 25 young entrepreneurs from all over the country who will descend upon Detroit in 2 and half weeks to kick off the program on June 6th 

When we started out, our concept was simple: create a training program in Detroit  on renewable energy, energy efficiency and urban agriculture and directly apply the training to the community in Detroit.

We worked with our long-time ally, Pastor David Bullock, of Greater St. Matthews Church in Highland Park to find vacant property to use as our training grounds.  As a majority of Detroit’s once vibrant infrastructure is abandoned and in decay, the decision for where to start was mainly based on how we could most effectively deploy our energy and resources for a deep impact in the green economy. From there a localized training program, combined with direct application of what is taught, became the most logical move.

While most people may look at Detroit and see problems, when you look at the resources needed to build a clean economy, there really is no better place to start than Detroit.

After developing the initial concept and building foundational partnerships we then partnered with Energy Action Coalition and Grand Aspirations to recruit people to come be part of our training program.  Low and behold, 10 people showed up to participate when we launched the training.  We were ecstatic, but not everyone was able to stay with the program.  A few people took jobs for economic needs, and a few others had to move on to other opportunities.  But at the end of the summer 5 GELTers stuck it out for the entire program and over 20 people participated in some aspect of the training program.

GELTers received permaculture design certificates, weatherized over 50 homes in Highland Park, built community gardens, and mentored the neighborhood kids.  GELT was recognized as a cutting edge organizing strategy that was featured on the Huffington Post and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 (watch the segment below!) We felt like we were on to something.

Coming out of last summer we knew we were ready to take the program to the next level.  In January we bought an apartment building in Highland Park within walking distance of last year’s project and started recruiting people to come to Highland Park to start working with us.  Former organizers with the D.C. Project, the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition and the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network moved into the house.  We turned one apartment into an office and we started working full time on pulling together the best green economy training program the world has ever seen.

This summer we are adding trainings on installing solar panels, building economical greenhouses for 4 season urban agriculture, social justice classes and entrepreneurship.  Students in GELT will lead projects in the community that apply the technical skills they learn toward tangible business ideas relevant to Detroit, which will start to create economic opportunities and eventually jobs.  Students will also be mentored as they start their own project or business during and after the 9 weeks and will be plugged into a long-term support system to push their ideas into reality.

As with any program that is attempting something new and to break down the barriers of traditional activism, we are relying on supporters of all walks of life to lend us a hand as we get our program off the ground this year; this is where you come in.

We are reaching out to our community and network to help us build this program.  Right now we are looking to build a full-scale kitchen to cook and feed 40 people this summer for 9 weeks.  We put together this wish list to see if you may have resources you can contribute to help us build GELT from the ground up. This list is not comprehensive, if you have items you think would be useful to our program, or would like to arrange an in-kind donation, please contact Sarah Murphy: or 716-562-8211


Kitchen Equipment:

  • Refrigerators
  • Ovens
  • Shelves for food storage
  • Clothes washing machine
  • Toasters, Microwaves, Blender / food processor(s)
  • Large cooking pots & pans
  • Large plastic storage containers (approx 18 gallon capacity)
  • Knives for chopping
  • Colanders, large mixing bowls, cutting boards, etc.
  • Large stirring spoons, tongs, ladles, veggie peelers, can openers
  • Plates, bowls, mugs, cups, flatware
  • First Aid Kit
  • Ice cube trays
  • Stereo
  • Very large coffee maker

Food & Consumables:

  • Toilet paper
  • Fresh produce
  • Dry food, specifically:
    • rice
    • flour, white & whole wheat
    • sugar, honey
    • dried beans, lentils
    • spices, baking powder AND soda
    • pasta, lots of pasta
    • nuts, all kinds
    • cooking oil (veggie, canola, olive)
    • coffee and teas
    • canned vegetables and beans
  • Bleach
  • Hand-dishwashing soap
  • Sponges, scrubbies, Dish towels, rags
  • Rubber gloves for kitchen food prep

Other Equipment:

  • Bed frames – bunkbeds are ideal
  • General cleaning supplies (mops, brooms, soap, bleach, sponges, etc)
  • Dressers / drawers / shelves for clothing storage
  • Tables for dining
  • Chairs
  • Soil for raised bed gardens
  • Gardening supplies

CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 GELT Segment: