What is climate justice? How do we come up with solutions that not only recognize that climate change disproportionally impacts marginalized people, but amplify the voices of those in frontline communities?
We sit down with Lisa Young, the Climate Justice Partnerships Organizer for the Better Future Project and discuss the evolution of the term “climate justice”, and the ways in which those who contribute the least to climate change suffer the most.
We discuss how not only the solutions to environmental justice issues must be intersectional, but the process by which we reach those solutions. Policy changes and technological innovations will only take us so far in the fight for climate justice, we must lift up the work and voices of everyone impacted.
Young and the Climate Conversations team talk about the history of mistrust and exclusion in the environmental movement. We analyze how to recognize that history and rebuild relationships moving forward; in what Young describes as a “broader-based progressive network”. How can we get everyone involved in climate action, and recognize the contributions of frontline communities?
If you’re enjoying our Climate Conversations podcast, you can subscribe on your favorite podcast platform to hear the latest episodes first. Find us on:
[00:00:00:05] LISA YOUNG: Climate justice is not just about creating climate solutions that are just, that address the unequal benefits and burdens that climate change has on certain groups of people, but that the process by which we decide what those policies are is just as important, and needs to involve the voices and input and consent of those communities who are most affected.
[00:00:21:26] [MUSIC PLAYING]
[00:00:27:10] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Welcome to Climate Conversations. I'm Rajesh Kasturirangan and your host in the Office of Open Learning with my colleagues, Curt and Laura.
[00:00:35:26] LAURA HOWELLS: Hi, Rajesh. Hi, Curt.
[00:00:37:09] CURT NEWTON: Hello.
[00:00:37:27] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: We are going to have Lisa Young today. She is the climate justice partnerships organizer for the Better Future Project, which is also associated with 350 Mass, a climate justice organization in Massachusetts.
[00:00:51:03] LAURA HOWELLS: Great. Can't wait to hear more about her work.
[00:00:52:25] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: It will be fantastic, I think.
[00:00:54:06] CURT NEWTON: Yeah, yeah, this is such an important topic. Lisa works with what might be considered a fairly mainstream established climate organization here in Massachusetts. I'm a member. Right out there with.
[00:01:06:03] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So am I.
[00:01:07:19] CURT NEWTON: And it's predominantly white. It's predominantly middle and upper class people. It's coming out of-- no question-- that kind of frame of the white technocratic privilege perspective, and also the topics, the concept of justice, and how we deal with it is top of mind for so many people in this movement. So I'm really looking forward to getting into it with Lisa.
[00:01:30:21] LAURA HOWELLS: Great. Let's take a listen.
[00:01:33:26] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So we are really, really happy to have you here, Lisa.
[00:01:36:10] LISA YOUNG: I'm excited to be here.
[00:01:37:17] LAURA HOWELLS: Welcome.
[00:01:37:28] LISA YOUNG: Thanks.
[00:01:38:26] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: OK, Lisa. We're going to start with Climate Justice 101.
[00:01:42:17] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, OK.
[00:01:44:10] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: What is climate justice?
[00:01:45:25] LISA YOUNG: OK. Yeah, no, and even in preparing for this, I'm like, I wrote a whole 70 page document all about-- how do I condense it? But no, it's a good exercise to do.
[00:01:56:26] Yeah, when I talk about the meaning of climate justice, I do often like start with talking about how it's been defined for actually quite a long time. Frontline Community Groups, those who are most affected by climate change, low income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities have been using the phrase, and have had principles around climate justice for decades.
[00:02:19:27] We actually first saw the phrase climate justice used in a published document in 1999. So almost 20 years ago, a long time ago.
[00:02:28:09] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: What document was it?
[00:02:29:01] LISA YOUNG: That was the CorpWatch document called "Greenhouse Gangsters Versus Climate Justice."
[00:02:33:19] LAURA HOWELLS: Nice.
[00:02:34:16] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, right, long time ago. This is like the same year as the WTO protests in Seattle
[00:02:40:01] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: I kind of remember CorpWatch though.
[00:02:41:26] LISA YOUNG: OK. Yeah, right. So kind of anti-globalization, anti kind of multinational corporations, but bringing in this climate lens.
[00:02:50:08] And then even the next year in 2000, there was the climate justice summit, the First International Climate Justice Summit at the international climate negotiations. I believe that was [INAUDIBLE] six.
[00:03:01:28] And then principles were beginning to be formed. And even in the year 2002, we saw a really solid set of climate justice principles, eventually being called the Bali Principles of Climate Justice, that were in 2002 ratified by environmental justice groups at their second national summit of environmental justice groups. So 27 principles that really outline what we mean by climate justice.
[00:03:24:16] So I say all this as a background to say this is not my definition. Groups have been using that phrase, and have had a very clear meaning for a very long time. But many people maybe don't know about that history, and so it's important to lift that up.
[00:03:38:05] So if I were to boil it down, kind of in looking at how groups use that phrase over time and how it's been used in those principles, there's kind of like five components that I use to talk about what climate justice means.
[00:03:51:14] And the first two are familiar to most people. So it's an acknowledgment that low income communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities in the US and around the world, number one, contribute least to climate change, and number two, suffer the most from climate change.
[00:04:09:01] So that's kind of like the bare bones injustice that we're talking about here. And I think many people recognize that and see that very clearly. That's clearly an injustice, the people that did the least are the ones that are hurting the most.
[00:04:20:15] And I think people often definitely recognize that on a global level, and historically have seen that on a global level. So the global north versus global south kind of divide. Industrialized countries, white wealthy countries of the north, were the ones that did all the pollution, and now it's the poor, browner countries of the south that are going to suffer the most from the impacts.
[00:04:42:22] So that's kind of like the original frame that most people are familiar with. But any time you talk with Frontline Community Groups, you are going to hear more than just that of what climate justice really means to them. So we have those two points.
[00:04:56:06] And then a third point is that those same communities are left out of conventional climate decision making and organizing processes and spaces. All of those things are clearly an injustice.
[00:05:09:09] And yet, point number four is that these groups have been resisting fossil fuel companies and that industry, and have been creating alternative economies and ways of living for a really long time.
[00:05:25:10] And number five, therefore, have a lot of wisdom and resilience and expertise, really, to bear on climate solutions, and in being the lead on crafting climate solutions.
[00:05:37:13] So those are the five points. They contribute the least. They suffer the most. They're not included in decision making spaces. And yet they have been doing this for a long time without recognition, and actually have a lot of wisdom to bear on climate solutions.
[00:05:53:10] And so those-- I guess the pieces I really want to lift up, for listeners especially, is that climate justice is not just about creating climate solutions that are just, that address the unequal benefits and burdens that climate change has on certain groups of people, but that the process by which we decide what those policies are is just as important and needs to involve the voices and input and consent of those communities who are most affected.
[00:06:19:27] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So the last point that you mentioned says that there has-- I mean, I like the word process, but I like the word politics even more.
[00:06:28:08] LISA YOUNG: Sure. Yeah.
[00:06:30:07] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Because process has this kind of seemingly technocratic feel to it.
[00:06:34:01] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, sure.
[00:06:34:28] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Right. And so what you're saying is that the politics through which voices that are currently marginalized are brought into the solution space is as important as the actual outcome.
[00:06:50:04] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, and I would say that those politics exist, those power dynamics exist, both kind of in a government sphere of people's voices. The voices of the citizenry or of residents in a local area are not being heard in government, but also the politics within organizing spaces, as activists making sure that our organizing spaces and processes for deciding on campaigns and crafting policies that we're going to advocate for, that those are also inclusive spaces.
[00:07:22:16] LAURA HOWELLS: Why do you think that right now the places that we do organize and the activism happens aren't as inclusive as they could be? Why is the demographic the way it is right now?
[00:07:31:06] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, short answer is systemic racism, and white supremacy, and classism. And things that are really-- that we find in organizing spaces, we find in all of our spaces. We find in our interpersonal relationships and lives. So acknowledging that those things are present and are difficult to overcome is, I think, really important.
[00:07:53:15] But when you bring those into the light, we can also try to work towards creative solutions to overcome those and address those. And many groups are doing that, right? Finding ways to work across class and race, even when historically there has been a really strong divide there.
[00:08:07:19] CURT NEWTON: Can we go a little deeper on that? I'd love to hear maybe a couple of examples of things you've experienced or witnessed, how that difficult dynamic plays out. Where are people struggling to take those unassailable five concepts that you've laid out, which I think everybody would say, yeah, those are all good, but it's--
[00:08:27:10] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: I'm not so sure, Curt.
[00:08:28:10] CURT NEWTON: OK. Everybody. Let's say within the mainstream environmental movement, for instance. What does it look like for people to struggle with these things?
[00:08:38:27] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, good question. I mean, yeah, it's a great question, because we are doing this right now in many, many spaces.
[00:08:45:25] But in my own personal work within 350 Mass, we're having these conversations. And so it's really actively taking place in our community, and in movement spaces across the US and around the world.
[00:08:59:14] So yeah, people really do struggle. I mean, the environmental justice movement was born in the '80s, like out of a frustration with the environmental movement. I mean, it formed for a lot of reasons and from a lot of sources, but with a frustration with the mainstream majority white, middle class, highly-educated environmental movement for not including them, for not considering their community's priorities and interests, their voices, and being used and abused, in many cases, actually, as opportunities for big green environmental groups to get grants to work in those communities, or to like use those communities as examples as like poor polluted places that they could then come in and help and save in some way, but not actually listening to or working with the people in that community.
[00:09:47:23] So there's like a really deep history, maybe even just going back to answering more of your question, just like why do these divides exist-- there's like a real history there, and people remember that history-- and whether or not groups are trying to do things differently now and really work in good faith and with strong principles.
[00:10:06:24] It's really hard for marginalized communities that have been stabbed in the back in the past to have the trust to work with white mainstream environmental groups again now. So yeah, overcoming that very real history of conflict and of distrust is difficult to do, so we're up against a pretty big battle.
[00:10:28:27] But we're having these conversations in our movement spaces, and really, our approach at 350 Mass and Better Future Project has been, all right, we want to at least get clear on adopting a set of principles, for one, that we all can kind of really feel good about and agree to that really ground us, and why this work is important to center the voices of those who are most affected by these issues, and to partner with those people. Why does that matter?
[00:10:57:23] And to have those to kind of hold us accountable and to come back to as we continue to do our work, because it's easy to kind of go astray. So kind of having a set of principles to ground you is really important. To educate our base about other movements, and their history, and their struggles, again, sometimes it is as simple as just raising that awareness. People just don't know about the history of environmental justice, or about what people are struggling with in communities of color, in indigenous communities to this day, or what that history is.
[00:11:28:13] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: The opposite argument--
[00:11:30:07] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, sure.
[00:11:30:23] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: --which is often trotted out, is, look, climate change is big enough as it is. And it's going to be addressed only by changing policies and practices at a national or large scale level. And therefore, by bringing in these other issues, you are muddying the waters when what we need is focus, right?
[00:11:54:27] So for example-- and I have heard this, explicitly--
[00:11:58:02] LISA YOUNG: Oh, yes. Me too.
[00:11:58:25] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Right? That oh, we need new, say, alternative energy infrastructure. And let's not cross the messages by saying, oh, that alternative energy infrastructure should be created in a manner that blah, blah, blah, blah.
[00:12:14:15] LISA YOUNG: Yeah.
[00:12:15:02] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So what's your response?
[00:12:16:13] LISA YOUNG: Yeah. Yeah, no, that's one we hear a lot. And I get it, right? Like I want to empathize a little bit. Yes, climate change is an urgent issue. Yes, the impacts of this crisis are big and lasting, and we don't have much time to try to reverse them and act. OK. So yes, I do acknowledge that. And I acknowledge that urgency.
[00:12:38:06] So I guess a couple of responses. One, we as a movement have been-- again, there's kind of a whole history here-- it's in my thesis. We as a movement have been-- the mainstream kind of majority white middle class movement since the mid 2000s have been trying that approach. And we haven't gotten too far. OK? So that's just one you know.
[00:12:59:07] LAURA HOWELLS: It's not been all too successful.
[00:13:00:17] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, one thing to point out-- and we've just got to keep trying. I mean, clearly, there's a lot of different social movement philosophies and theories of change and ways of going about doing this. So I acknowledge that.
[00:13:11:26] But one perspective is that we've been trying that. We've been trying to create an urgency around this, create technologies that will solve this problem, and make the transition happen from a purely kind of policy and technology level.
[00:13:27:05] And we're like, we're not there yet. We're not moving fast enough. We're still-- there's still a lot of resistance for a lot of reasons.
[00:13:33:23] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: There's no app for that.
[00:13:34:23] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, goshdarnit.
[00:13:35:21] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Yet. Yet.
[00:13:38:14] LISA YOUNG: So that's like-- one response is like, there's an argument for doing things differently. And history does show that when social movements work across these historical barriers and divides, that we can become more powerful.
[00:13:51:01] And in our own kind of theory of change in the movement building work that I do, our power comes from people. The fossil fuel companies have their power with their wealth. And we've got our people.
[00:14:03:10] And the more people we bring in, the more powerful our movement is going to be. And so if we just want to recruit scientists and environmentalists and like try to walk up to city council or to Congress and say, "Save the trees," it is not as powerful as, "We've got workers. We've got youth. We've got people from marginalized communities with these direct experiences with climate change, hurricanes, with fossil fuel companies in their backyard. We've got these stories." I mean, they're such powerful messengers when you start to bring people who have that lived experience into your movement.
[00:14:38:18] And then kind of the other side of the coin, so just kind of in raw people power, you've got more power there. But yeah, it also becomes more powerful kind of in the message. And my argument is, too-- and again, this might be debated-- that there is more wisdom that you're bringing in. And the solutions that you're going to craft are going to be better if you have those people involved.
[00:14:58:12] CURT NEWTON: And especially, I think it's telling that your role is partnerships organizer. And it's less about pulling all of these people and having a diverse community within, say, the 350 Mass organization. It's getting behind the experience and the lived leadership of these other groups. And that's kind of a shift in perspective, isn't it? And maybe a struggle for some people to grasp what that really means.
[00:15:26:03] LISA YOUNG: Yes. No. Thanks for lifting that up. Yeah, that is definitely our approach. And again, different philosophies, different approaches that maybe different groups or movements might use. But yeah, really honoring the integrity and the history and the wisdom and the organizing capacity that existing organizations have in those communities and working with them to lift up their work, to craft solutions together, and to build a movement that includes all these different groups and constituencies. Yeah.
[00:15:54:07] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So I mean, one reason, I think-- unstated reason, I think, for the most part-- why justice organizing is hard is because injustice, by definition, is tight oppression, meaning that there's a difference between walking to City Hall and talking to the mayor, because you are of the same class and race and you have access to those things, in contrast to other struggles where you can be shot or you can get beaten up or you can be jailed.
[00:16:29:11] And so once climate action becomes climate justice, it's inevitable that communities that currently don't face that kind of repression will have to join with others who do, and maybe face it themselves, right?
[00:16:49:06] LISA YOUNG: Yeah. Yeah, I suppose. Yeah. So privileged people-- I mean, even just so I understand what you're saying-- like it makes us more vulnerable to those things? Yeah, yeah.
[00:16:57:18] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: I mean, you are no longer asking for something that you just think is the right thing. You're asking it in the face of violence.
[00:17:07:23] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, right, right, and with kind of a moral argument versus just like a technological fix or something. Yeah, yeah.
[00:17:15:11] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: That's a very hard burden to bear, I think.
[00:17:18:09] LISA YOUNG: Yeah.
[00:17:18:26] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Especially if you don't have to.
[00:17:20:13] LISA YOUNG: That's true, yes. But I still feel like probably-- I mean, it's the reality that even in the face of increased risk of violence or just of more conflict, white middle class people are still not going to face the same level of violence and repression, and are actually in a position to use their privilege to do direct action, to do civil disobedience, knowing that they're not going to be treated as poorly.
[00:17:44:22] I mean, this is-- again, these are personal choices people can make as activists, but it's an opportunity for us once we see those injustices and want to work with those communities and lift up their voices to actually use our resources, use our positions, use our access to things to actually further the cause and take those risks, knowing that many of the people can't take those risks, or if they do they'll-- yeah.
[00:18:09:26] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: I mean, and we have seen that especially in the last year when it comes to questions around immigration, around race. And it would be interesting-- I feel like those might be some of the tactics that need to be imported into the climate justice movement.
[00:18:28:17] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, sure. I mean, I explore this a little bit in my thesis that the mainstream climate movement that began again kind of in the mid-2000s was really focused in terms of content and in terms of the actual tactics they used on less risky and more DC Beltway kind of tactics of trying to pass a federal climate bill, for example.
[00:18:51:10] I mean, that was the big initial push, and a big kind of first climate movement on the scene. We're trying to get a federal climate bill passed. And the Waxman-Markey bill was the one that was crafted and ultimately failed.
[00:19:05:00] And it was then that groups-- the precursor to 350.org, One Sky, was really the leader of that effort. And they wrote a public open letter in 2010 that said, all right, we're closing down One Sky. We're going to really move towards more of a 350.org model, and we're going to do more grassroots organizing.
[00:19:24:01] And in response a month or two later, Frontline Community Groups wrote another open letter in response to them, and said, yeah, we've been doing this for a long time. We told you so.
[00:19:35:15] LAURA HOWELLS: Thanks for joining us.
[00:19:36:09] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, right. Exactly. Exactly.
[00:19:37:27] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: I see. That is exactly the thing that even in the rebranding of the image, there's still those power relations are built even into that reframing, right?
[00:19:51:29] CURT NEWTON: One thing I've heard repeatedly from people who are very experienced in doing this work is, we have to be gentle with ourselves and accepting that we're going to make mistakes.
[00:20:01:04] LISA YOUNG: Yes.
[00:20:01:17] CURT NEWTON: We're going to make some messes, but not let the fear of that hold us back from stepping in to building relationships in a different way.
[00:20:09:07] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, no, I appreciate you saying that. Knowing that we've got these barriers we face, like what do we do? Yeah, acknowledging that those exist, that there are things that are going to make collaboration difficult and messy. But yeah, not letting that stop us from doing that work, and finding those creative solutions, and learning from our mistakes, and knowing that it might be a little painful along the way, but it's worth it.
[00:20:27:23] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So let me ask you a question about-- I mean, it's one thing to sort of open up your space for more diverse voices. But ultimately, it's also going to be who's leadership you accept, right? Because I mean, if you're saying that, oh, yes, we are now expanding the tent. It's bigger, blah, blah, blah. But who is at the center of the tent and who is at the periphery is always going to be one of the questions.
[00:20:56:04] LISA YOUNG: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:20:57:09] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Right? And you mentioned that there are communities who have already understood ways of living that are fundamentally, I think, better. And so how do we get their voices not just into the tent, but to be the frame around which the tent is made?
[00:21:16:27] LAURA HOWELLS: At the forefront.
[00:21:18:15] LISA YOUNG: Right. That's the big question. And again, there's like a big cultural shift that needs to happen. It's not even like, how do we physically bring them and have them at the table? But for others to listen and really learn and accept and lift up and understand the importance of that perspective in crafting our solutions.
[00:21:36:26] So yeah, it's just as much a challenge of building the relationships with those communities, building the trust, for them to even want to be a part, again, to overcome these historical conflicts between our groups and in between our constituencies. So to create that trust, even have them at the table, and then to have the other groups who are supposedly inviting them in to actually be willing to listen.
[00:22:01:17] I mean, I suppose, again, I don't mean to keep referencing my thesis, but I list a few barriers to collaboration in my thesis, and then how those were overcome by the planning committee that planned the People's Climate March in 2014 in New York City. Because they were-- this was a lot of the big green environmental groups partnering with small community-based environmental justice groups rooted in communities of color in New York and other places, and also labor unions.
[00:22:31:08] So kind of three different constituencies, cultures, ways of seeing things, all sitting around a table trying to plan a march. You can expect that that was a struggle. And in talking with the organizers through my research, it was. But through that struggle and working through that, they really came together and pulled something amazing off, and had some lasting impacts and relationships.
[00:22:50:18] But some of the ways that they did that, having shared principles was really, really, really key, that everyone was on the same page, and that you could call folks out. Wait a second. We agreed to this set of principles, where we said we were going to center these voices, or we were going to make sure this was a bottom-up exercise, and not a top-down one, or that we were going to commit to self-transformation through this process.
[00:23:15:07] Just these are part of the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing that PCM planners used. So committing to a set of principles and agreeing to those and holding yourself accountable to those that everyone in the room can use to be accountable to those.
[00:23:28:21] Shared funding is a really big one that just kept coming up in my research, of people being like, that's the problem, which makes sense. A lot of bigger organizations, more mainstream environmental organizations, have access to funding and foundations and grants that many of these environmental justice groups just don't have. The foundations just aren't interested in funding that work, or those organizations don't have the resources to seek out those grants. I mean, there's just a whole lot of inequities in the funding world.
[00:23:57:06] And so when you're engaging in a collaboration with these other groups across these race and class divides, really looking for ways to share funding, and make the funding more equitable for the project that you're working on together.
[00:24:09:21] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: And that's got to be-- knowing how the world of money works, nobody wants to share funding, right?
[00:24:15:28] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, oh, yeah, right? Right. And you want the money, and you wanted the credit for it. I mean, because the credit is tied to you getting more funding from the same foundation.
[00:24:25:27] And so yeah, it's hard, but environmental groups or others that have more privilege really taking a deep breath, and saying, all right, we'll give a chunk of this to you, or when we're going to hire new organizers, you can be a part of that process. And we can hire folks from your community, not just our own organizers.
[00:24:43:10] LAURA HOWELLS: You've talked a lot about the best practices that organizations should follow when they're trying to create climate activism and listened to marginalized groups. Have you got examples of organizations that you look up that have done a really good job of bringing in marginalized groups and getting them involved?
[00:24:59:25] LISA YOUNG: Sure. Yeah. I mean, I'll name the big ones, which I know that organizations of different scale working in different geographies, and it's all different. It's all hard and unique in the different circumstances you're in.
[00:25:10:20] But I want to like openly give credit to 350.org and to Sierra Club as like two big organizations that I look up to. And as a local 350 Massachusetts chapter, 350.org and others serve as like a model for what we should be doing.
[00:25:29:28] So again, in my thesis, I kind of show the evolution of that organization over time. And there was quite a shift over time, and a lot of reflection within that organization. But like where they've landed today, I think, is a really impressive place of not only being very public and open about their commitment to climate justice, in principle, about their commitment to working with frontline communities.
[00:25:53:25] And in all their messaging, well, they're clear in their core mission of reducing emissions to 350 parts per million. That's in their name. That's still their core mission.
[00:26:04:05] But in the stories that they lift up from around the world about climate change and the groups that they work with that they try to support, and in their actual campaigns that they do, and the groups that they partner with to build those and execute those campaigns, it's always about centering frontline communities. Maybe I shouldn't say always, but really, they do, I think, a really wonderful job. And it seems very genuine. And that's both global and local level.
[00:26:26:20] So I'll lift it up as an example, the Dakota Access Pipeline fight that, I think, probably most listeners are familiar with that really reached its peak last fall, but is ongoing, against the pipeline in the Dakotas. We know that the success of that campaign was really the voices of the indigenous people on the ground who were fighting for their sacred land and water and against this pipeline.
[00:26:52:28] And some groups did try to take advantage of that pipeline fight to push their own agenda to really talk about climate change, or about the fossil fuel industry from that perspective. But many groups really allowed the center of the campaign messaging and everything to be about the native peoples' struggles, and what their interests were, and what they wanted the message to be for this campaign, and what solutions they wanted to put forth for addressing this, and not trying to brand it as a climate issue and take over, because they easily could have. Groups like 350 and others could have.
[00:27:28:10] And nothing was perfect. Oh, my gosh, there were still a lot of things that could have been done better by climate groups, and climate activists, and others in that. But I think all of us saw-- when we think about that fight, we don't think of it as the number one thing being a climate fight. We think of it as being an indigenous sovereignty fight. And that's really core. And that's because climate groups, like 350 and others, did take a step back and did allow for that.
[00:27:51:16] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Going from No DPL to 350 Mass--
[00:27:55:20] LISA YOUNG: Yeah.
[00:27:56:20] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: What challenges have you faced in expanding to be-- to holding those principles, bringing sort of true partnership? What's hard?
[00:28:05:25] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, so much. So much. Oh, my goodness, yeah. This is really hard work. It's very emotionally demanding. It's a lot easier when you're just trying to fight for a policy fix or a technology fix or something. I don't know. It's just hard when you're trying to like actually shift a whole culture of an organization, or like build partnerships across these really deep chasms of race and class divide. So anyway, it's hard.
[00:28:32:02] The organization before I was there-- I've been there for about a year-- has been working to build partnerships with other groups for a while, seeing that there is power in us working as a broader progressive movement on these issues, and not just as a siloed environmental climate movement on these issues.
[00:28:50:01] So some of the partnerships that we've been trying to build, even prior to my arrival, are really within like the labor movement, for example. And that, I mean, there's a whole other history there.
[00:29:00:07] It's funny. In my thesis, I don't even really talk about the labor-environment divide. That has a long, ugly history in the United States and around the world.
[00:29:08:28] So creating those partnerships is huge and historic and difficult, but we've made some strides. And that's been really exciting.
[00:29:15:26] But in doing so, we've got to make those relationships, like build that trust, find those connections between our issues, and kind of a sense of common goals that we can go for together.
[00:29:29:28] And then kind of more recently I would say, I guess, what I should highlight and the challenges I've been facing is I've been trying to help us maintain those labor relationships, but also build relationships with environmental justice groups, racial justice groups.
[00:29:44:04] And yeah, the Black Lives Matter movement, right? Like this is really a major issue of our time. Of course, it's been an issue of our time for a long time. But working across those race lines.
[00:29:56:00] And I think, again, there's just a lot of mistrust, communities, organizations from those communities, working with majority white environmental organizations. I mean, we've even heard from some like, we just don't want to work with you. We don't trust you. We don't want to work with you. We don't have an interest in working with you. Period. Right? And I like respect that. I understand where they're coming from.
[00:30:18:09] And there were others that are like, yeah, let's do this. This is going to be hard. We see things in a very different way. But let's start to build together. Let's start to see where this goes. And we can see a benefit of working with you, and leveraging your resources, and that you will benefit from working with us, and that we can really team up together.
[00:30:36:01] And one project, actually, that I could go into kind of a project I did early this year convening a local coalition to plan the People's Climate March for 2017 earlier this year that involved environmental justice groups from communities of color in the Boston area, labor organizations, faith and youth groups, and traditional climate groups. And we planned that march. And there's more I could say about that.
[00:30:59:06] But the group is continuing to meet. And the intention of that group, actually, in continuing to meet isn't to try to devise joint campaigns or policy advocacy work, but it's to like just build relationships with each other, which is what we know is like really what is needed like at the foundation. If we want to do joint campaigns in the future and advocate for policies that are really intersectional that not only reduce emissions, but also create jobs, and also address inequities in local communities, and kind build this visionary future together, if we want to do that, we're first just going to need to get to know each other and trust each other.
[00:31:37:25] It's kind of a long-road process. Like commitment, it's not an overnight thing, which I think especially for a lot of climate activists and a lot of, I think, maybe even white people, we want to see results quick. And we want to do what is fastest and most efficient in the world we live in.
[00:31:55:00] So folks have really got to be patient. And that's a challenge. That's hard for me. That's hard for everyone in our network to know that this is going to be an incremental process that will lead us toward the change that we need and have the power that we need to have to accomplish our goals.
[00:32:09:23] But we're going to have to be patient and make sure that the process is done in the right way so that we can get there. And if we try to rush it, we're going to be cut short with not the power that we need and not the solutions that we need.
[00:32:22:03] LAURA HOWELLS: And make more of those mistakes.
[00:32:23:20] LISA YOUNG: Yeah, yeah.
[00:32:24:18] CURT NEWTON: Thank you. Thank you for naming that. Because you've just described me. We're going to take action. We're going get this thing done. And uh, I might want my answer to win, you know, that kind of thing.
[00:32:38:12] It's a real powerful unlearning process, in a sense, to step back from that.
[00:32:44:03] LISA YOUNG: It is.
[00:32:44:15] CURT NEWTON: And I feel myself stretching all the time. And hopefully, my colleagues around me are going through the same process. So thank you for naming that, doing what you're doing here.
[00:32:54:07] LAURA HOWELLS: So as we draw this conversation to a bit of a close, what would your message be to people from marginalized communities who are interested in getting involved in environmental action? How do they become part of this conversation?
[00:33:08:11] LISA YOUNG: So I guess my message would be almost in every area. I think a lot of people are like, a lot of those communities aren't organized, or like, there's refugees in my community, but I don't know if they have-- they are more often than not organized, whether in informal ways as a community, or in formal organizations and nonprofits.
[00:33:27:13] And so I'm encouraging them to find a space that feels welcoming and comfortable for them, and that speaks to their passion on these issues. And that space could be 350 Mass. We have chapters all over the state. Or that space could be a local organization with folks that maybe identify more closely with their own situation.
[00:33:45:27] And I'm just a believer in like collective action and social movements and getting together with other people and collaborating. And so it can be so empowering. I've spent a lot of my life as an activist, and just like there's so much power in that.
[00:33:59:01] So for those who are like, I've never done activism, but really care about these issues and want to get involved, find an organization. Organizing, that's how we do this work. And they do exist, and there will likely be one in your neighborhood or in your community.
[00:34:13:09] Maybe in your church community, there's often the church itself, or there's committees within the church. Or whatever it is where you can be with other people who are passionate about that same issue, that can identify with where you're coming from, and that want to work together to take action to make a change.
[00:34:29:11] You can find groups that are doing this all over. Maybe there's instances where there's not one in your area, but there's online communities that you could join. There are ways to get involved. And you are not alone.
[00:34:40:00] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Like ClimateX here.
[00:34:41:26] LISA YOUNG: That's right! Yes, become a member of ClimateX. You are not alone.
[00:34:45:29] And I think that's like step number one, maybe, is what I'm coming to. It's make sure you're not just doing this on your own, or banging your head against the wall at home, or listening to the news and feeling hopeless. You've got to get together with other people, build community, and then work together with that group and others to try to make change happen.
[00:35:04:03] And again, 350 Mass is a place where you can do that, and where we welcome people. But many other organizations, too, and that's-- my role is to try to help us connect with those other organizations and build this broader base progressive network of groups that are pushing for a better future, one that, again, has less emissions and is working against climate change, but is trying to address so many other ills in our society and building the world that we know that we need.
[00:35:30:15] LAURA HOWELLS: Well, thank you so much for coming in and talking to us and being part of this climate conversation. And it's been great hearing about the work you've been doing at 350.
[00:35:38:15] LISA YOUNG: Thanks for having me. This is really fun.
[00:35:41:24] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Boy, that was a lot of interesting material.
[00:35:47:06] LAURA HOWELLS: It's so good to hear about the recognition that it hasn't been right in the past. and that there's so much more they can do, and actually getting those principals together to help them work.
[00:35:56:22] OK, over at 350, what are we doing? What have we done wrong in the past? And what can we do more to bring marginalized communities into the conversation?
[00:36:04:03] CURT NEWTON: Yeah, I mean, for me personally, I feel like I'm the epitome of the mindset that needs to shift through hearing this stuff. And it's one thing to read through the principles and kind of take them in. And it's, yeah, that makes sense. But then trying to put them in practice and to live it out is a different beast, and one that, I think, we're all trying to grapple with.
[00:36:28:24] And I'm hopeful that our ClimateX members and our listeners can join us in that journey. And let's talk about what we're experiencing and what we're seeing.
[00:36:38:02] LAURA HOWELLS: Definitely. We'd love to hear from you. If you have an experience of an organization, an environment action organization, who are doing a fantastic job of listening to their local communities and listening to marginalized populations, let us know. We want to hear those stories.
[00:36:51:13] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: As usual, you can reach us on Facebook, on Twitter, and of course, our own email address, which is ClimateX@mit.edu.
[00:37:00:16] CURT NEWTON: Thank you.
[00:37:01:03] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Thank you for listening.
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