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A Holiday Message To CleanTechies — Let’s Lead The Way To Justice

Rise up! Celebrate the gift of cleantech by caring and sharing with others.

We cleantechies crave and savor everything about solar, clean transport, wind, energy efficiency, grid connectivity, and energy storage. We also recognize the unique backdrop of 2020, in which enormous stories — a pandemic, a national election, a racial-justice movement, and the climate crisis — have dominated the news.

Image by Zach Shahan, CleanTechnica

This year a confluence of clean energy technologies and industries alongside a growing sense of urgency and youth movement around the climate crisis has created a new generation of cleantechies. We’re keenly conscious of the need for change in a world of constrained resources for 9 billion people by 2050. We see before us the interrelationships among the environment, the economy, and human well-being as necessary efforts to meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations.

During this holiday season, we’re all making concessions to traditional celebrations. Last evening at sunset, I saw a multi-generational family move to an outdoor space, unfold their chairs, open up coolers, and distribute individual boxes of food. Was that their ideal way to come together for the solstice holidays? Probably not, but, as in all trying times, we’re finding new ways to express commonality, identity, and culture.

Now more than ever, we cleantechies must transcend our own sense of normal as we consider how social movements, market intermediaries, and environmental entrepreneurs play roles in decarbonization. We see before us the opportunities to foster transformative, justice-oriented ideas and implement institutional change through the actions we take on an everyday basis. We can rise together so that eco + social + racial justice merge into more meaning for all.

Years ago, when I was an early career teacher, I attended a national conference where I sat in on an eco-justice workshop. The presenter described how eco-justice and social justice were very similar inclusive moral and conceptual frameworks. That message has stuck with me over the years.

Students of all ages need to understand the political behavior of Exxon, Dow Chemical, and other corporations as well as to address the causes of poverty and the barriers to wealth creation at the local level. A regenerative sense of responsibility and mutual support is essential to make a community thrive, and we cleantechies have the wherewithal to do our parts. As we make conscious decisions to challenge and reprioritize the value and place of fossil fuels in our lives to insure the health of the natural world for this and future generations, we must fight constantly against a view in which disproportionate economic advancement works as an expression of progress while also quietly devastating communities.

An eco-justice approach must take into account fundamental, structural realities as well as social and racial constructions. As eco-educator Bowers outlines, “Fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals are changing the biology of life, increasing illness and premature death in humans, and contributing to the extinction of more than 10,000 species a year.”

Isn’t the “environment” really a totality of conditions in nature and our communities? Aren’t clean air, water, and soil part of the same picture as equity and justice? The attainment of environmental justice requires the participation of residents who are affected by land-use decisions, as well as the equitable distribution of environmental resources, including access to clean air, land, and water.

Contaminated neighborhoods have been described by environmental justice advocates as “sacrifice zones” because the health of the environment and its proximate residents may be sacrificed to drive profit. Poor, marginalized, and politically weak communities necessarily offer less resistance to environmental damage. A “not-in-my-backyard” (NIMBY) attitude allows urban fresh food deserts, lack of access to educational and employment opportunities, toxic water supplies, polluted air, cancer deaths, and debilitating illnesses that lead to illness and early death. Residents of sacrifice zones may experience other social inequities including crumbling infrastructure, deteriorating housing, inadequate public transportation, unemployment, high poverty, and an overloaded healthcare system, all of which can exacerbate environmental health impacts.

An eco-justice perspective diverges from a linear view of progress in which anthropocentrism is all. We use critical inquiry and discourse to consider the social processes around us, participating in the non-commodified aspects of community life with rigor. We pay attention to ways that our lifestyle habits ignore environmental racism and the marginalization of different cultural approaches to community. In our love of all things cleantech, we strive not to be so oriented toward dependency upon modern technology and consumerism that we miss out on opportunities to do our parts to create better lives for others.

Holiday Promises to Self — A Cleantechie’s Hopes for the Holidays

We each choose how we move through holidays. This holiday season may be the time we as cleantechies can practice the act of giving — not gifts as symbols of our familial love, but, rather, unexpected exchanges that can invoke happiness or bestow opportunity. Maybe this is a bit more like altruism — practices that involve unselfish concern for the welfare of others.

Investments: Maybe we cleantechies can start by extending beyond ourselves in ways that are consistent with our views on efficiency, technology, and clean energy systems. Impact investing can put capital behind businesses that generate social and environmental benefit.

Investing in a small, struggling, but promising cleantech company could help produce innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. What about last mile gender equity initiatives? How about cooperative solar?

US pandemic aid payments:  Soon the Congressional stimulus haggling will be over, and relief checks will be mailed to most US citizens. I’m all fired up about this, as I don’t need a payment. I’ve worked remotely for several years now, my family and I have been maskers since the very beginning, and we’ve survived with very few inconveniences during the covid-19 shutdowns, all things considered.

So I don’t need a stimulus check! If I receive one, I’m going to donate it to a local charity, such as the Boys and Girls Club of St. Lucie County, Houses of Hope, The Inner Truth Project, The Treasure Coast Food Bank, or United against Poverty. What about you — can you help others less fortunate?

Final Thoughts about Cleantechies around the Holidays

Have you stopped to wonder who’s paying for the covid-19 vaccines? A portion of US federal funding will be used for COVID-19 vaccine administration, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized a vaccine under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). “Health insurers whose plans are subjected to the coverage of preventive services without cost-sharing requirement under the Public Health Service Act are not allowed to bill patients for the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Anh Nguyen, PhD, a health economics expert and assistant professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. Nguyen noted that this applies to both in-network and out-of-network providers; it’s also for individuals without insurance.

We’ve heard disparaging remarks a lot this year about socialism. We in the US should stop to think about the many ways that we enjoy socialistic aspects of our government, such as universal public education, road maintenance, military forces, police protection, and single payer health care for seniors, among others.

Perhaps we cleantechies during this end-of-year season of celebration and reflection can set examples for others by caring and sharing, using the gifts we’ve been given to raise the common tide of life and happiness.

If you’d like more ideas about the intersection of cleantech and justice communities, check out this classic: Educating for Eco-Justice and Community.

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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