What is the common thread between Concord, NH; Denton, TX; Norman, OK and a growing number of American cities? They all have a commitment to 100% clean energy within the next 30 years. The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is inevitable. What’s not inevitable is that this transition is just and, in the words of Bill McKibben, “people who’ve always been left out won’t be put at the back of the all-electric bus.”
To transition to a 100% fossil fuel-free world in a just way requires an intentional shift in the social pillars, worldview and government that drive our current economy: unregulated capitalism, euro-centric colonialism and non-renewable resource extraction. Through the exploitation of human labor, we dig, burn and dump our natural resources. The output of this shortsighted, extraction-based economy is the accumulation and concentration of power and wealth for the few and financially unstable communities, pollution and externalized costs for the rest. It leaves people exhausted. If we are not intentional about the way in which this transition takes place, large-scale renewable energy ventures will serve to consolidate and accumulate wealth and power in the same way the fossil fuel economy does today.
What is the future we want? Cook Inletkeeper envisions thriving and equitable communities in a resilient Cook Inlet watershed. While the path forward is not completely clear, we know we need to build a new, worker-centric economy that ensures all people have dignified work and livelihoods, affordable health care, strong and fair and accessible democratic processes, closed-loop production and waste cycles, lasting jobs, living wages, workplace rights, paid leave, and healthy environments and ecosystems. The output of this economy is happy, healthy communities.
So how do we get there? There is no silver bullet, nor BEST solution to create the future we want. The only way we get there is by enacting all the solutions, big and small. We need people using many different tactics simultaneously. Whatever your passion, we need your help and creativity to… 1) stop the bad projects, like Pebble which will harm people, communities, waters and lands; 2) build the new/good solutions for a sustainable economy that uplifts all lives and livelihoods, such as more local, salmon-safe farming and clean energy jobs; 3) change the narrative from “extraction” to “resilience and sustainable regeneration” using science, art, culture and new voices; 4) divert resources that perpetuate instability by lobbying investors to divest from the bad and invest in the good; and 5) change the rules so Alaskans (as opposed to corporations) have a greater say in what happens in our oceans and landscapes.
Honestly acknowledging the past and present harms of an economy built on colonialism, racism and extraction will help us make the shift towards an economy that is equitable, centers indigenous knowledge and life-ways, and ensures power without pollution and energy without injustice. We must move this transition forward in a way we can sustain, that brings us joy, and fills us up with fire and meaning to keep going. Pushing for better legislation, calling congress, taking direct action – all are important to do and are impossible to do non-stop. We have to rest, dance, eat, and love in order for this work to be joyful and sustainable – aligned with the world we want to see. Join us, collaborate with us. We’ll get there, shoulder to shoulder, by leaning into our skills and passions to create the world we want.