What is a Just Transition?
A Just Transition is a process of moving away from an economy that extracts, and towards an economy that regenerates the natural world, human health, and democracy. How we do so matters as much as the outcomes. The United Frontline Table spells out four powerful principles of a Just Transition in a 2020 report (pdf): protect, repair, invest, transform. We’re inspired by the work of Climate Justice Alliance and Movement Generation, members of The United Frontline Table, to advance a Just Transition.
Why is anti-racism important in the context of a Just Transition?
There is no Just Transition without anti-racism. White supremacy, the belief in a hierarchy of human value, prioritizes the accumulation of resources through dispossession. It dehumanizes Indigenous, Black, and Brown people through colonization. Combined with capitalism, it exploits working class people for the benefit of a few mostly white wealthy people. This creates deep inequalities in all areas of life, including the environment. According to the NAACP, Black Americans are 75% more likely than average to live near facilities that produce hazardous waste; according to the EPA, Black Americans suffer from significantly higher levels of harmful air pollution than white Americans. In light of these inequalities, it’s clear that a Just Transition can’t just be about renewable energy. It must be about empowering communities of color on the front lines of the fight against climate change. This means dismantling white supremacy.
What is CSC doing to fight racism and promote a Just Transition?
Phew. We’re working on it. Achieving a Justice Transition and undermining white supremacy seem so big and daunting at times. So we’re taking it one step at a time, with resolve and patience with ourselves and our partners.
Our Board has compiled a list of actions we’ve taken and plan to take that we hope will move CSC towards being a force for anti-racism. We’re happy to share the full list with anyone who asks. We’re starting with humility: in August, we presented our progress to and asked for input from a group of national leaders at making a Just Transition. We’ve since begun an internal education series on environmental justice issues in Cleveland. We make decisions in a democratic way, with one vote per person. We are creating an outreach strategy that will prioritize extending the opportunity to join CSC to Black and Brown people. We are building partnerships with Black-led environmental groups in Cleveland. We are seeking grant money to subsidize the cost of membership for anyone tight on cash.
We want Cleveland Solar Cooperative to be an institution that fights inequality in all its forms. To achieve that, we have to identify and relinquish racism in ourselves, our cooperative, and our world. This work will last a lifetime, and it begins now.