Despite what the climate change deniers now sweeping through our federal government would have us believe, we do understand climate change: the mechanisms behind it, our role in it, and the threats it poses to our well-being. We also know that this climate crisis and the extractive industries fueling it impact economically disadvantaged and politically marginalized communities significantly more than their wealthier counterparts.
How do we shift our consumption habits close to home?
And although there is merit to President Trump’s calls for investment in our infrastructure and jobs, we know that buttressing the fossil fuel industry is not the answer. Renewable energy now accounts for more than half of all new electricity generation capacity installed in the U.S. annually, and employment in the renewable energy sector is quickly outpacing extractive industry growth.
We’re already seeing the transition. The question is: Can we recognize the opportunity to level the playing field and secure a future powered by clean, community-controlled energy that invests in local economies and upholds the rights of people and nature?
In its fall issue, YES! Magazine would like to cover:
Power shift: Making a just transition to a renewable-based economy presents a powerful opportunity to address deeply seated inequalities. How do we ensure that the voices of those who have historically been ignored and exploited are equally heard? Where are there examples of locally owned and operated clean power generation? And how did those come about?
Adaptation: Even if we were to completely stop extracting fossil fuels today, we would still see the impacts of climate change well into the future. People on the front lines of the environmental crisis—those who live off the land or on the eroding edge of it, those who are immediately or indirectly affected by extraction but don’t have the means to relocate—are already adapting. How are communities preparing for dangerously erratic weather patterns? When a culture is tied to a disappearing land, how does it stay alive? How can we address the adverse health impacts that are externalized by the fossil fuel economy? How can communities take advantage of the sustainable resources around them to bolster their local economics and maintain their independence?
Food sovereignty: Modern production and distribution of food is a significant contributor to climate change, as well as a polluter that causes widespread and damaging harm to ecosystems. How do we shift our consumption habits close to home? How are people whose cultural roots to food have been severed by industrialized food regrowing them? How do we feed a growing population sustainably?
Green jobs: It is essential that a transition away from fossil fuels does not leave behind the people who currently depend on the industry for their livelihoods. What kind of employment can we expect from the overhaul of our current infrastructure? How do we break the familiar bonds with extractive industry? What safety nets are needed to mitigate the losses of those affected? What skills will be most marketable in a renewable-based industry, and where are these being taught?
Clean technology: It won’t be long before alternatives to the now-ubiquitous combustion engine are the norm, but there are still significant hurdles to overcome. What technology is being developed to accommodate the comparatively inconsistent flow of sustainably generated electrons? Other than who’s developing the most efficient wind turbine, who’s developing a new way of manufacturing the most efficient wind turbine? How can workers be empowered by the coming technological advancements rather than be exploited by them? Are there models of how this new industry could effect workforce diversity and equality from the outset? And, ultimately, how do we ensure no one is priced out of the benefits of this new tech?
Transportation: Moving people and things around the country accounts for roughly a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Improved fuel economy and electric engines are already impacting the market, but they are still continuations of an old idea. How do we get all people from point A to point B without depriving them of their independence? How can new modes of transportation ease the burden of maintaining stressed infrastructure? Transportation subsidies for freeways drove our current patterns of personal vehicle-centric development. What do we subsidize now? How do we ensure transportation is accessible to all?
Resisting resistance: President Trump took office promising to revive the dying coal industry and open every possible avenue to the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels. This transition will not be effective unless it can provide a persuasive counter argument and command the imagination of those who can provide the initial investment. What has history taught us about effecting a paradigm shift of this magnitude? As we’re running out of time, how do we argue for a policy about-face rather than an incremental approach?
We’re looking for stories that address useful solutions at all levels, from policies to communities to individuals. We’re especially interested in stories that show creative solutions already in place. Do you have an idea for a reported feature, deeply researched think piece, or personal essay that belongs in this issue of YES! Magazine? Send pitches and leads to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “just transition” in the subject line.