Last night we all got to stay up past our bedtime to watch “Fossil Free Fast”, a live watch party where we heard from a variety of speakers who are working for a just and rapid transition away from fossil fuels. Despite the late hour, we had a turn out of about 30 folks: Sisters, community leaders, retirees, and a student.
(As most are aware, climate change is well-documented within the scientific community, where it has been accepted for many years across many disciplines. The consequences for human communities and ecological systems vary, but from what we are now seeing, they are overwhelmingly negative with the potential to become quite catastrophic. I would encourage everyone to find time to read the executive summary from the 2017 Climate Science Special Report).
The full Fossil Free Fast video presentation can be found here.
The initiative was hosted by 350.org, but we heard from a wide-array of speakers. I was particularly impressed by the diversity of the lineup. For a long time, the environmental movement was overwhelming a white, upper-middle class concern. But as we’ve seen in NW Indiana and elsewhere, environmental racism is real.
Any movement towards justice is inevitably going to “intersect” with these other fractures in our society. A speaker from Puerto Rico detailed how the 2017 hurricanes compounded their long history of disinvestment and colonialism. A young women from Houston described how being undocumented made looking for aid after the hurricane that much more difficult.
The challenge to grassroots communities was simple and three-fold:
- Transform the energy system to 100% renewables
- Stop all new fossil fuel projects
- Divest our financial institutions from fossil fuel investment
In other words, Sun (solar energy), Sit (in the way of new fossil fuel projects), and Sell (divest our portfolios).
I’ll admit that’s a pretty clever little phrase.
These three points have been considered for many years as a hopeless pipe dream and the cause of many eye-rolls. There simply was no economic, technological, or cultural way to fulfill such an ambitious dream.
All that has changed in just the last couple years.
People are no longer discussing “If…” they are discussing “When…”. It’s now becoming abundantly clear that this transition will happen this century. The long and short of it is that you can’t beat free fuel. (See this article: Utility CEO: new renewables will be cheaper than existing coal plants by the early 2020s)
So the question is: will this transition happen rapidly? Or will the fossil fuel companies be successful in delaying the inevitable long enough to extract even more short-term profits at the expense of the health of the planet? It seems now that that is the question we are forced to ask.
After the presentation, our conversations turned local.
We reflected on the challenges we have in Indiana. We have some of the dirtiest air in the state, but it’s not really visible and not connected in people’s minds to the acute health issues like asthma, heart disease, and low birth weights. We produce a lot of food and manufactured goods, but these also have significantly impacts on our water quality and soil health. Our electricity is cheap, but it’s still mostly fueled by coal and the utility companies have no problem finding legislators willing to pass preferred legislation in the statehouse.
One local leader described her frustration at trying to access important environmental data on the EPA’s website. Lots of information had been simply removed during the recent change in Presidential administrations (more on the story broke recently). Just this morning I read about the administration’s desire to slash research into renewable energy, this at a time when it needs to be scaled up.
But I was also reminded of the wisdom, experience, and work that was present with us as well. And the hope and the energy we received from the event that evening.
In the end, I took a breath considered the deep history of the Poor Handmaids, who are celebrating their 150th year in the United States. I was reminded of the adage, “Rome wasn’t build in a day.”
I found online a clever addition to that phrase: “…but they were laying bricks every hour.”
How the 21st century looks may depend on how quickly we decide to lay these bricks.