3105 members

Climate Justice Is Racial Justice Is Gender Justice

What is a “just transition,” anyway? Bill McKibben asks Jacqueline Patterson, the director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.

There’s nothing like the giant oil companies to provide us all with lessons about power and prejudice.

The climate crisis offers a lens to understand many of the inherent injustices on this planet: There’s an almost perfect inverse relationship between how much of the problem you caused and how much of the pain you’re feeling. Furthermore, it offers the best chance to actually right some of these wrongs: The economic rearrangement that must accompany any successful effort to fix the planet’s climate system is an opportunity to make sure that the people who’ve always been left out won’t be put at the back of the all-electric bus.

“This is the kind of conversation I hope people are having all over the country.”

Jacqueline Patterson is the director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program. She says she recognized environmental injustice decades ago while working in Jamaica, where Shell Oil contaminated community water supplies. Then later, while volunteering in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, she saw another side of the inequity in climate disaster response. Patterson co-founded Women of Color United and has served as a senior women’s rights policy analyst for ActionAid, integrating a women’s rights lens for food rights, macroeconomics, and climate change.

I spoke with her about how we can broaden the idea of a “just transition” and meaningfully address the issue of marginalized communities. In the economic shifts, will there be opportunities for healing and righting wrongs? And what is “just,” anyway?

This is the kind of conversation I hope people are having all over the country and, indeed, the planet.

Bill McKibben: Tell a bit of your story.

Jacqueline Patterson: I got into this—well, long story short, my first conscious experience with environmental justice was when I was in the Peace Corps, living in Jamaica. And one of the communities I was working with, they had their water supply contaminated by Shell Oil. It was this very typical David and Goliath situation—the community had been drinking this stuff for some time, and when it was brought to light, a bunch of community leaders got together to get justice from Shell. And they just wanted to fund a few ventilated pit latrines and give some money to the school. It put in stark relief the imbalance of power, what little justice there is for communities if they don’t actually build and wield power against these entities that can act pretty heartlessly.

At a later juncture of my career, when I was doing gender justice work, I was noticing there wasn’t a gendered analysis around climate change in the U.S. when there was such a well-understood conceptualization of it internationally, and a set of interventions and policies and so forth. So I got a grant to go around the country and focus on the Women of Color Climate Justice Road [Tour]—I was doing video, lifting up women who were disproportionately impacted by climate change, and looking at people who were working on climate justice, explicitly or implicitly.

From there I connected with NAACP. I said, “Surely, you must have some women I can interview?” And they said, “Well, not that we know of, but we have this grant we got six months ago on climate justice. You interested?” I said I’d do it for one year to get it off the ground, but that of course was 2009.

McKibben: Eight years developing the NAACP’s climate justice program. What have you learned?

Patterson: There’s been so much evolution, but there’s so much left to do—I like starting things up, and it gets less stimulating once it falls into the maintenance stage, but this work has never really reached the maintenance phase as it is ever evolving. It’s critical to get new folks engaged, to puzzle through how to speak to folks around climate. How does this resonate with folks in ways that are compelling, what are the solutions that are truly transformational? That’s the evolution I’m seeing.

The first couple of months I was doing these intro-to-climate-justice workshops at these regional trainings the NAACP has. The first one I did was “Climate Justice 101,” covering topics like, here’s how climate change is a multiplier of injustice, how even the way our society is constructed exacerbates climate change.

But many people had little framework for hearing it. Climate was so hard to fit into what NAACP usually did. People see this word “climate” and didn’t see how it fit into our bedrock civil rights agenda.

“People see this word ‘climate’ and didn’t see how it fit into our bedrock civil rights agenda.”

But now we have a cadre of folks who readily and deeply get the connection—unfortunately because of their lived experience, because of the pattern of changes climate is causing. We’re having more and more conversations about intersectionality, about how the entities that are paying into ALEC [the American Legislative Exchange Council] to push back on air quality regulations are the same ones who are pushing back against our voting rights, pushing forward on these restrictive voting policies.

People are seeing how it’s all fitting together in ways that weren’t as apparent seven years ago. More people anyway. I wouldn’t generalize it, but it’s making more sense to more people.

McKibben: So what’s the best way for people to pitch in?

Read the entire interview in YES Magazine by Bill McKibben

hmm right

ohh okay

More to read in Climate
Facebook And Voters See The Benefit Of Clean Energy In Ohio

Facebook And Voters See The Benefit Of Clean Energy In Ohio

by: Environmental Defense Fund Energy Exchange Blog

Last month, Facebook announced its new $750 million data center will be located in New Albany, Ohio, just north of Columbus. Why did the social media giant choose this particular spot? Apparently, Facebook likes clean energy, stating, “The availability of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and hydro, was critical to the decision.” And Facebook isn’t clean energy’s only fan in Ohio. A new poll from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) shows that voters in the Buckeye State overwhelmingly support developing more clean energy – like efficiency, solar, and wind – over more traditional resources, like coal and natural gas. And perhaps surprisingly, even voters in coal country are on board, saying policies that promote renewable energy will benefit the state’s economy. Encouraging results Conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, the nation’s largest Republican polling firm, the TNC poll reveals strong statewide support for increasing the use of efficiency and renewable energy. When asked whether “as a state, Ohio should put more emphasis, less, emphasis, or about the same emphasis as it does now on producing domestic energy from each of the following sources,” voters vastly preferred the clean electricity options. In Southeast Ohio, where coal customarily played a role in local economies, three-quarters of voters would like to see more efficiency and over half would like more of the state’s electricity to come from wind and solar. Moreover, over a quarter of Southeast Ohio voters prefer less emphasis placed on coal. And four-in-five voters in this region would like their elected officials to support policies that promote renewable energy. Where policy differs Clearly, Ohio voters recognize the economic benefits – like jobs and investment – that clean energy brings. According to TNC, “Poll respondents agree that state policies promoting renewable energy development in Ohio sends a clear message to investors that we are open for business.” Voters across Ohio want their lives to run on more clean energy and less coal. Yet, some state leaders want to halt the growth of renewables and energy efficiency. Last year, Ohio’s legislature tried to pass a bill that would have weakened the state’s clean energy standards and blocked investment. Fortunately, Governor John Kasich stepped in and vetoed the bill, vowing to protect jobs and the economy. Specifically, he was thinking of large tech firms – like Amazon and Google – who value operating on clean electricity. Facebook’s decision to locate its new renewable-powered data center in Ohio shows that Kasich was spot on. Despite last year’s defeat, state lawmakers introduced legislation in early 2017 to weaken the clean energy standards – again. The bill passed the House and may be taken up in the Senate in the fall. Voters across Ohio want their lives to run on more clean energy and less coal, and recognize this move will enhance the state’s economy. And by transitioning to low-carbon efficiency, wind, and solar, Ohioans will breathe cleaner air and live longer, healthier lives. We hope state legislators will follow Gov. Kasich’s lead and reject efforts to block clean energy growth. Why not give Ohioans what they want? By Dick Munson Originally Published on September 15, 2017 The Energy Exchange Blog is a forum where EDF‘s energy experts discuss how to accelerate the transition to a clean, low-carbon energy economy. Follow them on Twitter here: @EDFEnergyEX