Systemic Change in Local Communities

8 posts / 0 new
Last post
Systemic Change in Local Communities

Below is a list of questions to serve as a starting framework for the discussion in this thread:


    • What would a systemic departure from dirty fossil fuel energy towards a socio-economically inclusive and sustainable future look like?
    • What tools and organizing strategies can we use to inform local populations about the negative impact and unsustainable future of fossil fuel models?
    • At the local community level, what actions can we take to transition away from corporate fossil fuel models that poison, displace, and extract wealth at the expense of community wellbeing?
    • Are the technical solutions designed against climate change working?
    • Share stories of success.
    A Just and Equitable Transition

    We (the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development) have been calling for a 'Just and Equitable Transition' that addresses the inherent injustices in the existing economic system. We've tried to elaborate what we think this transition requires through the concept of a 'Feminist, Fossil-Fuel Free, Future' (a tongue twister that we abreviate to 5Fs). You can read more about that idea here (

    A just and equitable transition would try and address the sexual division of labour and recognise that sustainable lives take time and work, work that is often expected to be unpaid for women. A redistribution of paid and unpaid labour should be key to the transition, Energy democracy can also be central to a just and equitable transition. Smaller, locally owned energy systems can put both decision making power and energy power in the hands of women, changing the amount of unpaid work women do as well as power between men and women and between capital and communities. Public spending will be essential to a Just and Equitable transition and has both climate benefits (i.e. public transport, public renewable energies, public common space, public water management that addresses climate predictions, public disaster risk and response investments, public health) and redistribitional effects for women. This kind of just and equitable transition would require significant changes to global economic governance given trade agreements and WTO provisions often act as barriers to both environmental and public interest regulation and investment. It would also requrie a shift from economies designed to grow profits of investors, to economies designed to redistribute and priortise environments. To achieve that we need cross movement collarboration (feminist, climate, Indigenous and labour movements for example) and clearer ideas around how to actively challenge power.  


    How can we utilize indigenous traditional knowledge and other alternative knowledge frameworks to focus on local solutions which benefit local communities?

    One of the most effective tools we have in crafting a more ecological sustainable future is examining traditional methods of locally-appropriate agriculture, water management, and building patterns—especially those that were developed before chemically-intensive industrial agriculture and before high levels of energy use became the norm. We shouldn’t assume that all traditional methods will be appropriate for current and future use, but some methods that have been discarded as being ‘backwards’ or somehow outdated or unfashionable may in fact be again useful or at least inspirational. In India, for example, traditional methods of water storage such as step-wells allowed communities to thrive in the same sort of water constrained future that climate change will bring to more and more places; traditional regional varieties of crops adapted to local conditions are a wealthy repository to drawn on in developing the climate-resistant varieties of the future; traditional buildings adapted to local climates, developed before air-conditioning to be be naturally cool inside, offer inspiration for architects today designing low-energy structures. These are but three examples. 
    And then there is the overarching issue of redefining humanity’s relationship to the rest of the natural world, where traditional Dharmic teachings have much to offer. At the center of all our current multiple ecological crises is a worldview that places humans above all other forms of life, that elevates human desires above the needs of all other species. It is a worldview founded on disconnection and a misconstrued hierarchy of importance. Many of our environmental problems would be that much more easily solved if we collectively take into our hearts, minds, and souls a teaching common to all the Dharmic traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism), as well as common to many indigenous spiritual traditions around the world, that the essential factor of life is dynamic, sacred, interconnectedness rather than separation and isolation.
    Hi Kate -- 

    Hi Kate -- 

    I'm interested by your comment regarding "smaller, locally owned energy systems can put both decision making power and energy power in the hands of women," and wonder whether there are any specific case studies that you can point to that demonstrate this transition? What were some of the challenges faced in implementing this kind of local, systemic change? I wonder specifically about how language about the 5Fs was used or adapted to be culturally accomodating and sensitive? 

    Members tagged in this comment: 
    I think there are a number of

    I think there are a number of examples worldwide but examples from our membership include Indigenous women in the Philippines collectively managing a micro-hydro project in a community that opposed Chevron geo-engineering that would displace them. Women are part of decision making over the energy source and use. In Bangladesh micro solar grids connect women and some manage them. The barefoot solar engineers in India have now expanded regionally and can support women's knowledge and power over energy. Perhaps there are mire examples others know of.

    Solar mamas

    Adding to what Kate mentioned, I was also thinking of the solar mamas, from the barefoot college, as a great example of how woman can help foster the transition, while also acting ad key focal points of knowledge. The "Why Poverty" documentary has a chapter about them, available here and definitely worth watching. 

    Thanks for posting, I hadn't

    Thanks for posting, I hadn't seen that video before. Its a good example of gender transformative transitions.

    Nine ways to make U.S Cities equitably resilient

    What strikes me is that the most effective and justice-based enfforts to addressing energy access and Just Transition isn't necessarily coming from leadership in the energy sector. But, instead from people who are first and foremost concerned about justice and the destructive exploitive economy.  I read everything that comes out of the Centre for Science and environment and other organizations internationally because they are so much more advanced than the conversation in the U.S. 

    The wealthiest nations, according to the Human Development Report, are responsible for “about 7 out of every 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) that have been emitted since the start of the industrial era". The U.S. was averaging about 18 metric tons (1 metric ton = 1 tonne) of CO2 per year at its peak, and still hovers at around 16.  In contrast, those countries on the bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index emit less than 0.1 metric ton per year.  This is directly attributable to the energy and economic infrastructure across societies. The human side of the climate calculus is equally stark. As we entered into the new millenium,  It was estimated that more than one-quarter of the population of developing counties, or 1.22 billion people, were living in extreme poverty making less than $1.25 a day. According to the World Development Indicators (2008), 2.4 billion of the world’s population lived on less than $2.00 per day. Clearly, Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain, from the Centre for Science and Environment,  were correct when they stated that global warming occurs in an unequal world. 

    Not sure if its the non profit industrial complex that has overcome justice work in the U.S., and although there is certainly activism, we seem to be floundering in real strategies. And unfortunately, those of us in the U.S. live in the belly of the beast and must figure out ways to turn the mammoth toward a new direction. Local action is imperative - not only because its where we live, work, play and pray. But also, because the absence of real action at higher scales of policy are less effetive. 

    In a recent report, with the Center for American Progress,  A Framework for Local Action on Climate Change: 9 Ways Mayors Can Build Resilient and Just Cities we outlined several steps that U.S. cities should be taking to address the problems of justice, equity domestically.

    1. Make equity, racial justice, and a just economy core goals of city resilience and climate action plans

    2. Collaborate with community groups and build neighborhood capacity to shape and implement climate solutions

    3. Expand economic opportunities and the availability of affordable housing

    4. Increase access to affordable and clean energy

    5. Ensure access to affordable and clean transportation

    6. Invest in resilient infrastructure and nature-based strategies to reduce climate risks

    7. Support emergency preparedness and resilient disaster recovery

    8. Support social cohesion and deeply connected communities

    9. Use innovative financing to strengthen community resilience and livability and prepare for more extreme weather