How racism manifests in clean energy

June 5, 2020 by  
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How racism manifests in clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 06/05/2020 – 00:00 As our institutions strain under the uprising in cities across the country, I’ve been struggling to comprehend the depth of racism in America. I understand why these moments of police violence, the senseless destruction of black bodies caught on tape, would spark a fire that rages across this country. I also know that the tinder has been building for generations and is about so much more than this one horrific moment. Every sector plays a part. Including clean energy.  It’s no secret that there are grave inequities in clean energy. In the spirit of this moment, I turned the microscope on my own sector to ask, how does racism manifest in clean energy?  Manifestation 1: ‘I can’t breathe’ “I can’t breathe” refers to more than police violence. Black communities have been struggling to breathe for decades.  “The right to breathe isn’t just related to surviving interactions with police,” said Alexis Cureton, former electric vehicle fellow at GRID Alternatives , an organization that works to bring clean energy jobs and access to low-income communities. “It pertains to surviving and being able to breathe clean air.” Dozens of studies document the racial disparity in environmental impacts, and I’ve linked to a number of those below. To name a few, consider that in America black people: Are on average exposed to 1.54 times more hazardous pollution than white people — regardless of income. Breathe 56 percent more pollution than they create. Are exposed to 50 percent higher rates of particulate pollution than the general population. Are more likely to live near highways, airports, refineries and other sources of hazardous air pollutants. Are disproportionately exposed to toxic air pollution from the fossil fuel industry. The impacts are also real. African Americans have higher rates of lung cancer and asthma , and are more like to have (and die from) heart disease . It’s no coincidence that African Americans are three times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people. To make matters worse, inequities in health care result in black communities paying almost twice as much in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.  In this way, the story of George Floyd is symbolic of many struggles in the black community.  We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. “A cop put his knee in the back of his neck and choked him to death, amid his cries for help. You can hear the dude calling for his mom,” said Bartees Cox, director of marketing and communications at Groundswell , an organization that brings community solar to low-income customers. “You look at black people in America and our journey, every opportunity that we’ve had to get ahead has been choked out, fully, over time. Every bit of progress gets choked out.” But here’s the thing: Clean energy technologies exist to reverse this problem. The missing piece is getting them deployed at scale in the communities most affected by dirty energy.  Manifestation 2: Paying more and getting less from energy  More than any other racial group in the United States, African Americans struggle to afford baseline energy needs, a state known as energy insecurity or energy poverty. As a percentage of their income, black households pay upwards of threefold more than white households for energy. They’re also disproportionately affected by utility shut-off policies , leaving them more vulnerable to dangerously hot and cold days.  Why? It’s expensive to be poor. Many solutions that save money in the long run — electric vehicles, rooftop solar, energy efficiency upgrades — require upfront costs or access to capital that exclude many black communities.  Paying more and getting less means black households are often playing catchup. According to Cox, in some places African Americans pay more for energy than for rent.  “We’re not putting people in a situation where they can succeed if they’re spending that much on their energy consumption,” Cox said.  That’s especially true for a community with fewer economic opportunities.  “We have a lack of jobs, we have a lack of access, we have a lack of money in communities,” said Taj Eldridge, senior director of investment at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator ( LACI ). “Economics are a huge part of it. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination.” Manifestation 3: Myopic clean energy equity programs  Well-meaning programs and incentives can go only so far if they fail to take a broader view of inequalities.  Take, for instance, a California program that aims to increase access to electric vehicles by providing incentives to install a charging station at your home — provided, of course, that you’re a homeowner. That does little to help African Americans who have been systematically denied homeownership through redlining and lack of access to capital.  “Inherently, that’s racist,” said Cureton, who worked with the program while at GRID Alternatives. “Programs like these aren’t targeted at black people. They’re targeted at people who always lived in California, who always had access to capital. Programs like that don’t help to alleviate the systemic racism that is not only within this country but within this industry.” Cureton says that in order for these programs to work better, it’s essential for those who work in clean energy and equity to be able to talk about the shortcomings of policies without fear of losing funding or negatively impacting the organization.  “This equity push, it looks good and it sounds good,” Cureton said. “But for people of color who are suffering right now, it doesn’t feel good. We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity.” All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. To be clear, this critique isn’t to marginalize the hard work of GRID Alternatives — or other equity organizations working to support underserved people, such as Greenlining Institute , The Solutions Project and New Energy Nexus . Rather, it’s a reminder that systems of oppression are intertwined and that support needs to flow to those that understand the complexity of the problem.  “I think people get that there is an issue here,” Cox said. “‘Equity’ and ‘intersectionality’ are, like, the foundation buzzwords of the last four years. It’s where the big-money people are moving with their strategies. I think the next step is making sure the money gets to the right people.” Manifestation 4: Lack of representation  Organizations that design policies, programs and products usually are controlled by white people. That lack of diversity around the table leads to a lack of diversity in solutions.  The clean energy sector and companies with climate goals have tremendous power to change this.  Cox, who grew up in Oklahoma, never considered a job in clean energy. His turning point was when professional peers told him about the sector and encouraged him to get involved. That type of proactive engagement is what is needed to change the racial balance.  “The onus is on these companies to do outreach,” Cox said. “Not just in the big cities, not just at Howard and Hampton, take it to Texas Southern. Go to Dillard. Go into the deep south, go into rural areas, recruit at these community colleges. Tell people about the jobs that are available, and push people into them.” Eldridge echos this sentiment, noting that white professionals are often disconnected from the deep bench of talent in the African American community. “There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue,” Eldridge said. “It amazes me when people say they can’t find people to interview or to have these conversations with, because I see them in the room all the time.” This isn’t altruistic. It’s well documented that companies that embrace diversity perform better and have a happier workforce.  It also isn’t tokenism. Getting the people in the room that understand the black experience is key to finding the policies that untangle the systems of injustice.  “As it relates to shifting power and creating change, your voice can’t be taken seriously if you yourself don’t have an entity that represents you,” Cureton said. “That’s extremely important.” Pull Quote We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue. Topics Energy & Climate Equity & Inclusion Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How racism manifests in clean energy

To manage plastic waste, you first have to measure it — here’s how we did it for one Caribbean country

February 7, 2020 by  
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Measuring the problem is often challenging for plastics, due to lack of data on where they come from and end up.

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To manage plastic waste, you first have to measure it — here’s how we did it for one Caribbean country

Episode 185: Word games, cool planes , Nori’s blockchain-driven carbon removal mission

August 23, 2019 by  
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Plus, many of those food waste stats you’ve heard don’t include what’s discarded at the farm. Tune in to hear about both the problem, and potential solutions.

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Episode 185: Word games, cool planes , Nori’s blockchain-driven carbon removal mission

Can climate change be made simple enough to solve?

July 2, 2019 by  
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If people don’t believe a problem is solvable, they’re more likely to deny the problem’s existence. How do we overcome that?

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Can climate change be made simple enough to solve?

The massive emissions-cutting and cost-saving potential of chemical reuse

July 2, 2019 by  
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The circular economy and digitalization will be the two most important trends employed by Germany’s chemical industry as it moves towards 2030.

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The massive emissions-cutting and cost-saving potential of chemical reuse

What do the plastics and climate crises have in common? The same someone profiting from the status quo

May 27, 2019 by  
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There’s a variety of solutions and innovations to solve them — but key players are missing among the problem-solvers.

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What do the plastics and climate crises have in common? The same someone profiting from the status quo

Solving the plastic pollution crisis requires focus on another ‘R’ — responsibility

February 21, 2019 by  
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Companies must tackle the problem by reducing and reusing first, rather than skipping straight to recycling as the bests solution.

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Solving the plastic pollution crisis requires focus on another ‘R’ — responsibility

The Poo Problem: Pet Waste

November 6, 2018 by  
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For pet owners who are conscientious about the environment, the … The post The Poo Problem: Pet Waste appeared first on Earth911.com.

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The Poo Problem: Pet Waste

Trick or Eco-Treat: Halloween Candy Quandary

October 23, 2018 by  
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You don’t want to be part of the problem of … The post Trick or Eco-Treat: Halloween Candy Quandary appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Trick or Eco-Treat: Halloween Candy Quandary

New study finds food waste will increase to 66 tons per second if left unchecked

August 21, 2018 by  
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A new analysis from Boston Consulting Group (BCG)  has found that global food waste will increase by more than 30% by 2030 if no action is taken. The figures themselves are even more alarming: a total of 2.1 billion tons of food is projected to be thrown away or, in the case of perishables, lost; this amount equates to a colossal 66 tons per second. Related: Dairy farmers’ excess milk gets a second life feeding the hungry Currently, about 1.6 billion tons of food goes to waste each year, which represents $1.2 trillion worth of food and accounts for 8% of yearly global green house emissions. And, while food loss awareness is on the rise, global attempts to deal with the issue are not. According to Shalini Unnikrishnan, a partner and managing director of BCG, attempts to deal with food waste are “fragmented, limited and ultimately insufficient given the magnitude of the problem,” In fact, the probelm will only get words as countries continue to industrialize. “As population grows rapidly in certain industrializing parts of the world, like in Asia, consumption is growing very rapidly,” Unnikrishnan observed. Related: The Agraloop turns food waste into sustainable clothing fibers One possible solution, according to BCG, is the creation of an ecolabel, such as those found on fair trade products. This ecolabel would let consumers know which companies have committed to reducing waste and make it easier to buy responsibly. However, “The scale of the problem is one that will continue to grow while we’re developing our solutions,” Unnikrishnan said. The UN hopes to halve food waste by 2030, but if governments, companies and consumers don’t make significant changes in the way they approach food – and work together to do it – there is little chance of this happening. According to Unnikrishnan, “It’s not an easy problem, no single country, no single entity can solve the entire problem on their own.” + Boston Consulting Group Via The Guardian

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New study finds food waste will increase to 66 tons per second if left unchecked

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