[Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications…]
When i imagine society for my daughter, because that is my frame of view as a mom to a curious and energetic 9 year old, i tend to fall off the fence in one of two ways…On a gray day, one where my energy is low, where deplorable violence fills the front page and a corporate villain wins a round as Congress caves to the power of money, I fear that potable water will be scarce even here in the mid-atlantic, never mind access to food or appropriate housing, and that her ability to have even a moderately acceptable quality of life will be elusive in an ever more unpredictable climate punctuated by increasingly destructive storms.
On a good day, one where my energy has been boosted by some positive news on one of the environmental or social justice campaigns that occupy my time, where the weather is vaguely reminiscent of what i remember as ‘appropriate’ for the season, and my garden has gifted us with a luscious kale salad, my pragmatism allows a view of a future society that has chosen to work together to harness local human and energy resources and equitably distribute them to provide the best possible quality of life for as many as possible.
It is this day, achingly icy in winter or humidly still in summer, that brings clarity on how to get to the greener side of the fence. As an organizer and an activist for going on 30 years now (how did that happen?) it has become very clear that the path to this verdant, equitable future is bedrocked on an old, simple adage….thinking globally, working locally. Specifically, re-localizing our control of political and physical resources to ensure the "right/best" use of our resources so as to include currently externalized costs– that would be the costs to the all the neighbors of the Coal Plant and the mountain top removal site and the transportation routes, whether they are humans, rivers, or air.
We have to simultaneously engage on the political stage as well as on the energy platform. Luckily, the framework/process for both is essentially the same: empowerment of impacted folks(each other), and, re-skilling in the art of community organizing & control. The specifics of content differ, but within our world, we have the competency for all that is needed: from planting the seeds of vegetables & basic energy structures, to planting the seeds of ideas; from tending garden seedlings & solar panels, to tending inclusive decision-making structures.
This is critical because the current climate crisis brought on by the corporate dominated fossil fuel economy and the corporate dominated political system needs the people themselves (that would be us!) to rise up and take leadership to transform business (& politics & energy utilization!) as usual.
Only through securing localized progressive political control , eg: the ability to control energy sources and forms of harnessing energy, will we be able to move to a more just and equitable society based on sustainable practices. *Note: The term "localized" needs defining by the user: a parameter that will be variably dependent on population density, for example, and tempered by bio-regional realities of resource availability.
It is essential that the decisions that are made on energy source, capture and distribution need to include the impacts on all affected communities ( all living things, cradle to grave /end-users) as well as eco-system services—for example, oxygen production (plants) and water filtration (wet-lands). Unless we internalize all the costs of ‘doing business’ we will not be able to reach equitable energy solutions, guaranteeing conflicts over siting, capture and distribution.
The path of re-imagining society, or really of re-building society, can only be paved with the building blocks of green, sustainable, locally controlled energy sources…. which will come about only if supported by local political decisions.
It is a moibus loop, in some sense, that allows us to break in where ever we can: Our work can start in the boardroom, with shareholder resolutions;it can start in an elementary school with a young activist club replacing styrofoam trays with a dishwasher; it can start with support for a green party candidate; it can begin in the City Council chambers or through wind turbines on the roof of the community center. We must work from where we are, and from what we love. We can start with tools and strategies we are comfortable with, and branch out from there. The essential element is the organizing unit: building a working group, a support network, an affinity group or cell that can build skills, competency, empowerment, education, redundancy, accountability and therefore resiliency into the work we do. Again, back to a bedrock principle: making the means as important as the ends, while keeping the big picture in mind.
We need to re-invigorate, re-tool, share our skills, re-vitalize and educate on truly inclusive decision making — so that we can develop localized support networks that will be able to equitably address basic human needs for energy, food, water, education, health care, and more.
Solutions to the current climate crisis brought on by the fossil fuel economy will likely rely on localized/regional harnessing of a new mix of sustainable energy sources. It will be a different mix of green energy, variable and dependent on resources in the communities where the harnessing is sited. Hydropower near the coast or rivers; wind on the plains.
So, simply put : The path to resolving both our energy / climate crisis and the crisis of our political system is the path to re-localizing our control of political and physical resources.
And energy is on the top of the list… Because of the immediacy of the climate crisis, the issue of peak oil, and the amount of political control the fossil fuel industries wield…. We must break free of our fossil fuel addiction in order to be able to move forward on any of the other basic human needs in any kind of equitable and sustainable fashion. And in this moment of conversation about the crisis of the climate and the crisis of our current energy system, there is the opportunity to change paths and put our money into greener energy capture for the future.