All Politics Is Local: Community Solutions for Climate Justice

By Debayani Kar Dec 07, 2009

There’s so much to say about the climate change negotiations beginning in Copenhagen, Denmark today, that there is almost nothing left to be said. We have been facing and continue to face a threat to our planet and way of life that will hit people of color, women, low-income communities and other vulnerable populations, first and worst. This is why climate justice activists from around the globe and across the U.S. have converged on Copenhagen to participate in civil society activities to coincide with the 14 days of government negotiations. Rather than get overwhelmed by the enormity of the political challenges involved in actually stopping climate change at the international level, I want to focus on actions women and people of color are carrying out in communities all over the U.S. to promote local solutions and climate justice. The most recent issue of Race, Poverty and the Environment (RPE) does just that. Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Ruckus Society executive director and RaceWire blogger Adrienne Maree Brown, profiled in “Voices of Climate Justice”:

What inspires you to work for change? My number one inspiration right now is not an organization or a person or an event, it’s the city of Detroit. I first went there a couple of years ago to do organizational development, and later for direct action trainings with Detroit Summer, which was founded by Grace Lee Boggs and her partner Jimmy Boggs. Their key lesson is, ‘Transform yourself to transform the world. It’s time to grow our soul’s capacity to deal with the world we’re living in.’ The tangible solutions that are now coming out of Detroit blow my mind. It’s not just young folks getting excited about these ideas and trying to implement revolutions. It’s the 30- to 50-year-old black men coming out of prison or unemployed, gardening and farming. It’s not about getting a job and being a cog in someone else’s system. It’s about liberated work, where you are playing a useful role in your community.

How is Ruckus integrating climate justice with its work? The over-arching vision of Ruckus is that all communities achieve self-determination and sustainability. We prioritize directly impacted communities—folks who are impacted by economic and environmental injustice and are angry about their situation. We help them determine how to strategically take action, so they can reorient themselves to the long-term vision of self- determination and sustainability. People often try isolated organizing. It’s regular for a community group to tell us, ‘We really need help to stop this coal fire power plant from being built,’ or ‘We need help to stop water contamination.’ But we have to start seeing isolated issues in the larger context of ecological justice for all. There are many false solutions out there. For example, carbon trading—a long-term, comprehensive lens shows that that’s not a compromise we can make. We don’t want to perform an action as a compromise, or a reaction. We want action taken towards a real solution.

Read the full interview here. Watch Applied Research Center’s green jobs page for forthcoming green case studies, which lift up other local experiences promoting green equity including in Los Angeles. For updates on Copenhagen, check out RPE’s Climate News.