Extraction: Tracing the Veins – video and discussion

The Extracting Us team invite you to enjoy our video discussing some of the ideas behind the exhibition and introducing some of the works that will be featuring in the online exhibition. The video is part of a panel on Feminist Political Ecology at the online  ‘Extraction: Tracing the Veins’  conference hosted by Massey University, New Zealand and Wageningen University. There is an active comments section encouraging discussion and conversation – please do join in! J

You can watch the videos and join the discussion here: http://perc.ac.nz/wordpress/feminist-political-ecology-gender-feminism-social-reproduction/

Creative engagements on the front lines – webinar

24 June 2020 12:00 – 13:30 – BST free online event

Creative practices are central to activism on the front lines of resistance against forces that are changing the skin of the planet. Viruses don’t stop machines, and extractive practices continue despite the current pandemic, affecting organising and creating. How do creative engagements on the front lines continue in a pandemic? How does COVID-19 emphasise the importance of continued acts of solidarity and resistance? What are ways of continuing the ‘doing’ but also new ways of ‘not doing’ or ‘doing differently’?

In anticipation of the launch of Extracting Us, an online collaborative exhibition and conversation, artists-activists-scholars will share their experiences of doing this work: Tracy Glynn, participatory action researcher studying at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, Edgar Xakriabá, Denilson Baniwa and Jaider Esbell, independent artists and activists based in Brazil, Negar Elodie Behzadi, Lecturer at the University of Bristol working in Tajikistan, and Daiara Tukano, independent artists activist educator and researcher based in Brasilia Brazil (TBC).

Katy Beinart from the University of Brighton will then host a discussion with Persephone Pearl, co-director at ONCA Gallery in Brighton, Jamille Pinheiro Dias, Research Associate at the University of Manchester, and Wendy Harcourt, Professor of Gender, Diversity and Sustainable Development at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.

The webinar will finish with 25 minutes of questions and discussion with participants, who will also be invited to contribute actively during the event.

Free event, places are limited. Sign up at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/creative-engagements-on-the-front-lines-tickets-107840738552

The Extracting Us exhibition and conversation series are being co-curated by Siti Maimunah, Elona Hoover, Alice Owen, Dian Ekowati and Becky Elmhirst.

This project has received support from ONCA Gallery, the Centre of Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton, WEGO-ITN European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 764908. We are also grateful for the collaboration of members of The British Academy funded project ‘Sustainable’ Development and Atmospheres of Violence: Experiences of Environmental Defenders.

Extracting Us. Creative engagements on the front lines 

Body politics and post-development: disrupting the script of global capitalism

Video of keynote address to V CIED (Bilbao, 27th-29th May 2020) – Virtual Conference on the Challenges to development. Processes of change towards global justice. 

Wendy Harcourt explores how body politics is an important feature of post-development discourse through the disruptive and critical interventions of feminist theory and practice. She looks at how body politics plays out in the postdevelopment landscape exploring reproductive justice; racialised bodies in resistance and pluriversal and reworlding pathways to social justice. 

Maine must do better at welcoming diversity

Field Notes —

Island Institute logo

By Rob Snyder, Ph.D.
President, Island Institute

We believe that black lives matter and are committed to doing our part to further the conversation along the Maine coast.

You’ve heard it said many times: “Maine is a white state,” or maybe even, “Maine is the whitest state.” Actually, Maine is not a white state. Some 74,000 Mainers are people of color.

When Mainers assert that our population includes a majority of white people, whether through statistical analysis or casual conversation we inadvertently—but inexcusably—risk erasing the voices and struggles of people of color. This further marginalizes Maine’s Native communities and the African immigrant communities that have emerged in Portland and Lewiston. And, as we look to the future, it can signal to people of color that they are not welcome here. 

So how can Mainers become more welcoming and accepting? It starts with each of us learning to see racism for what it is, and seeing how it permeates our viewpoints and behaviors—even those of us who believe we are not racist.

In 2019, the Island Institute began the work of integrating these values into our community development organization. It has meant a new way of doing our work and will include speaking out and taking action when we see racial injustice.

We began by establishing a diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) taskforce within the organization and hiring professional external support to advise our work. Our DEIJ taskforce is working to bring understanding, skills, and behavioral changes to the Island Institute.

We still have a lot of work to do, but we have made the commitment and we are heading down this road because this work is important to the staff and board of the organization, and because it is highly relevant to communities along Maine’s coast. 

Many communities along the Maine coast are struggling with population decline. What are the causes of that decline? Certainly, the high costs of housing and energy make the coast a tough place to live and do business, among many other technical factors.

In the past, the Island Institute would work to ease these burdens, and this would be counted as success. But what if one of the underlying issues in a community is that they are generally unwelcoming? In the past, the Island Institute would have stayed silent on this issue—we would have considered it too difficult to address. But we have learned that if a community is unwelcoming it may not matter how much effort goes into solving other problems; the long-term outcome will still be population decline.

Can the Island Institute help leaders along the coast who would like their communities to be more welcoming? This remains to be seen, but it is a question we are grappling with. 

And how can we become more welcoming? What would it take for Maine’s island and coastal communities to have the hard conversations, undertake the personal reflection, develop the skills, and adopt the behaviors to become places where difference is celebrated, and people of color are welcomed? We are beginning by doing this work and answering questions within the Island Institute. My hope is that by doing this work we can contribute to a future where the Maine coast celebrates diversity, and in so doing, we would all inherit a brighter, safer, and more prosperous state.

The Island Institute expresses our deep sorrow for the people of color in Maine and around the country who are being persecuted and killed every day. We believe that black lives matter and we are committed to doing our part to further the conversation along the Maine coast.

Rob Snyder is the president of the Island Institute, where he works with island and coastal leaders, in Maine and around the world, to identify innovative approaches to community sustainability. He also works with staff across all programmatic and strategic priority areas to help the Institute identify and address emerging challenges faced by these communities and exchange ideas and experiences to further the sustainability of communities here and elsewhere. Read his full bio here or connect with him on Twitter and Instagram.

Governance at the Edge of the State Conference

Conference Paper – Abstract

Nation without government: How is governing achieved in Nepal? 

The Nepali state is said to be in perpetual democratic deficit, identified roughly as the lack of its government’s ability to solve economic and social problems. Regular political measures of state accountability and authority, or lack thereof, can no longer adequately answer why the Nepali state is deemed to have failed, as forms of government still function. Despite leaving a governing vacuum for over a decade, the Nepali government remains an important entity in people’s imaginaries when it comes to delivering functions of the state. However, matters become complicated when its sarkar, or government, is thought to be absent. This paper asks: how does the Nepali state then achieve governing? It attempts to study the notion of sarkar, which incorporates the meaning of, but extends well beyond normative conceptualisations of ‘state’ and ‘government’ in Western political thought. It holds with the view that juridical-political theorisations of the state as an institution are not only inadequate but also counter-productive to the critical understanding of the state. First, it seeks to unriddle the notion of state in Nepal by exploring several political-historical contingencies that shaped the formation of rajya, or the sovereign state, and distinguished it from sarkar,through archival research. It argues that writing effective history of the state in the genealogical sense may help to find novel ways through which the notion of the state may be potentially recognised. Further, it posits that feudal remnants and hangovers, or tendencies to revert or assign supreme sovereign power to a higher authority, inform this question much more than it has been recognized in current literature. Through ethnographic research, it then explores frontier dynamics and territorialisation procedures that have shaped state authority. In so doing, this paper attempts to connect the blurred meanings of state and government in the Nepali context and its implications for the recognition of political authority and the desire for state in establishing and re-defining frontier dynamics – property systems, political jurisdictions, and rights – in resource governance.

Feminist advocacy and activism to end violence against women

WEGO mentor Simona Lanzoni, vice-president of our beneficiary Fondazione Pangea, continues to advocate tirelessly to bring an end to violence against women, be it in Italy or worldwide.

feminist advocacy and activism
Source: REAMA

In March 2019 Pangea launched the Italy-wide network REAMA – Rete per l’Empowerment e il Auto Mutuo Aiuto (REAMA network for empowerment, self-help and mutual aid) connecting more than 20 anti-violence centres and women’s shelters from North to South Italy. Together they provide legal, psychological, practical and emergency support for women and their children suffering domestic violence, but also first contact points to address situations of economic violence women are facing by their partners.  

feminist advocacy and activism
Source: REAMA

See here for an article featuring Simona on occasion of the REAMA network launch at the International Women’s House in Rome in March 2019. WEGO PhD candidate Anna Katharina Voss still remembers the powerful atmosphere in the room with all these engaged feminists coming together, many of whom had travelled from all over Italy to Rome and she had picked up at the train station earlier.

How to cultivate non-violent and care-full relationships based on self-determination and autonomy as pathways out of sexist and racist inequalities? These are also discussions taking place in the agroecological networks WEGO Anna, hosted at Pangea, is exploring for her research on the intersections of agroecology and feminism in Italy.

feminist advocacy and activism
feminist advocacy and activism
feminist advocacy and activism
feminist advocacy and activism

 Photos: Anna Katharina Voss

Workshops at assemblies of grassroot networks Reclaim the Fields, Fuorimercato and Genuino Clandestino in Italy in 2019.

Simona and Anna joined many other WEGOers and scholars from ISS at the inspiring summer retreat on feminist methodologies hosted by WEGO partner Punti di Vista in August 2019 (see ourblogon Undisciplined Environments).And in November 2019 Simona, Wendy, Nick, Ilenia and Anna marched together in Rome at the demonstration to stop violence against women – as we reported here, WEGO in action on the streets!

Next to continuously moving between the spheres of national and international policy making, territorial networking and providing hands-on support for women in need, Simona and Pangea also engage in promoting public awareness and cultural change. Lately Pangea participated at the Festa della Legalità 2019(an anti-mafia festival of legality and non-violence and annual prize award) and organised a photo exhibition entitled ‘Invisibility is not a superpower’ at the beginning of 2020.

In a coalition with 70 women organisations and NGO’s, in October 2019 Pangea co-wrote the Italian Universal Periodic Review of Women Rights in Italy (you can read the full report here) covering such pressing issues as violence against women, access to justice, work and welfare, sexual and reproductive rights, environmental disasters and women’s health, migration and trafficking, peace and disarmament. In all these fields there is much work to be done stiil, as Simona pointed out during her presentation of the report at the 4th Forum of Mediterranean Women Journalists.

In March 2020, Simona was meant to participate at the United Nation’s 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women CSW64/Beijing+25 scheduled to take place in New York 25 years after the landmark Fourth World Conference of Women. Unfortunately the event got suspended until further notice due to the global coronavirus crisis. But this doesn’t prevent Simona from speaking up as she keeps featuring on the news (for example here on AskanewsHuffington PostDire and Corriere della Sera) and reflecting on the urgent issues of safeguarding women from any form of violence. Italy has been one of the worst-hit countries during the ongoing Covid-19 emergency. And as feminist activists from all over the world are warning that lockdown and quarantine increase the risk of domestic violence when being confined to the house with an abusive partner, Pangea and REAMA continue to give urgently needed support via their online contact points. The virus can’t stop the spreading of feminist solidarity!

A pluriversity of points of view and practices for living territories

Punti di Vista(Italian for ‘points of view’) and its enchanting premises of the Franciscan convent overlooking the volcanic lake of Bolsena hold a special place in the story how WEGO came into being, as the idea to create an international research project in feminist political ecology was first discussed at a meeting there in Italy. And a few years later, here we are with WEGO in full swing, and Punti di Vista as one of its project partners!

Since 1993 the association Punti di Vista has been building a creative cultural space for civic groups, activists, scholars and artists to come together to imagine sustainable futures at the beautiful Convento S. Maria del Giglio in central Italy. Punti di Vista envisions itself as a ‘pluriversity’ and organises international youth exchanges, study trips, residential seminars, workshops and trainings, summer schools, cultural events and life-long education initiatives in collaboration with public administrations, both formal and informal, and grounded in environmental awareness, consumption and waste reduction, recycling of materials, biological and natural production and consumption as well as gender equality and international solidarity. Slow and ecological tourism – being situated along the pilgrim route Via Francigena, Punti di Vista also offers accommodation to those wanderers whose paths lead them through Bolsena.  

Since 1993 the association Punti di Vista has been building a creative cultural space for civic groups, activists, scholars and artists to come together to imagine sustainable futures at the beautiful Convento S. Maria del Giglio in central Italy. Punti di Vista envisions itself as a ‘pluriversity’ and organises international youth exchanges, study trips, residential seminars, workshops and trainings, summer schools, cultural events and life-long education initiatives in collaboration with public administrations, both formal and informal, and grounded in environmental awareness, consumption and waste reduction, recycling of materials, biological and natural production and consumption as well as gender equality and international solidarity. Slow and ecological tourism – being situated along the pilgrim route Via Francigena, Punti di Vista also offers accommodation to those wanderers whose paths lead them through Bolsena.  

Punti di Vista logo

Since 1993 the association Punti di Vista has been building a creative cultural space for civic groups, activists, scholars and artists to come together to imagine sustainable futures at the beautiful Convento S. Maria del Giglio in central Italy. Punti di Vista envisions itself as a ‘pluriversity’ and organises international youth exchanges, study trips, residential seminars, workshops and trainings, summer schools, cultural events and life-long education initiatives in collaboration with public administrations, both formal and informal, and grounded in environmental awareness, consumption and waste reduction, recycling of materials, biological and natural production and consumption as well as gender equality and international solidarity. Slow and ecological tourism – being situated along the pilgrim route Via Francigena, Punti di Vista also offers accommodation to those wanderers whose paths lead them through Bolsena.  

In 2019 WEGO mentor Sabrina Aguiari’s long standing collaboration with Tulane University New Orleans brought about in the celebration of the XII edition of their Summer School in Food Security and Resilience at Punti di Vista.

Katherine Gibson from Western Sydney University, a WEGO partner, and the Community Economies Research Network (CERN)have also been regular visitors at the convent, where in June 2019 they organised the first edition of the Community Economies Summer School: Postcapitalist Politics in Practicetogether with Sabrina, attended by PhD candidate Nanako Nakamura. Further weaving of WEGO network connections happened in August 2019 when Punti di Vista hosted a Feminist Writing Retreat during which young and experienced scholars and activists experimented with creative methodologies to collectively think-and-sense through the theory and practice of feminist political ecology. 4 of our WEGO PhD researchers reflect on their experience in this Undisciplined Environments blog post.

Participants of the feminist writing retreat at the convent. Photo: WEGO

Being based in Rome and only 2 hours from Bolsena, Anna had the privilege to spend time with Sabrina at the convent on several occasions since the start of WEGO. There she could get a glimpse of how a series of territorial struggles is unfolding behind the idyllic landscape of the lake and surroundings. Local environmental groups and activists are protesting against the expansion of chemical-intensive hazelnut monocultures, the planned megaproject of a geothermal energy plant and the environmental effects of an envisaged 5G telecommunication roll-out. They are contesting the extractivism afflicting their territory by coming up with creative ideas: Hanging bed sheets with messages of resistance and regeneration from balconies and trees, or organising a flash mob to ‘hug the lake’ by forming a human chain of bodies holding hands along the shores. 

Campaigning for solar energy, biodiversity, food sovereignty, water as a common good and participatory processes of local decision-making around the lake of Bolsena. Photo retrieved from: FB Abbraccio del Lago
Bed sheets turned into political banners. Photo: Anna Katharina Voss
Photo retrieved from: FB Abbraccio del Lago
Affective naturecultures in action – hugging the lake… Photo retrieved from: FB Abbraccio del Lago
Lago di Bolsena – a lake to love. Photo retrieved from: FB Convento S. Maria Del Giglio, Bolsena

A lake to hug and a lake to love – ‘un lago da amare’, that was the name of 3 weeks of environmental awareness activities Punti di Vista participated at, together with many other local groups and public administrations from the different municipalities around the lake in summer 2019. The health of the lake and its surrounding lands are intertwined – Sabrina and Anna have worked together on writing a proposal for an EU citizen science project to measure the risk of the lake’s glyphosate pollution from intensive agriculture, building on local environmental groups’ expertise such as BLEU Bolsena Lago de Europa. But as contract farming and monocultures are on the rise in the region, so are alternative networks of peasant agriculture, cultivating a radically different vision of the territory based on small-scale regenerative farming practices, agrobiodiversity, participatory guarantee systems, and regional farmers markets.

Local, fresh and ecological produce at the Xmas farmer market at the convent. Photos: Anna Katharina Voss

All roads lead to Rome, but Anna found that many also lead to Bolsena and the Tuscia region. When she first met some members of the farmers network Comunità Rurale Diffusa at the 3-day annual autumn meeting of the Italy-wide food sovereignty movement Genuino Clandestinoin Rome in October, during a chat she found out that they knew Sabrina and just a few days earlier they had thought of organising a market at the convent. And so it was, in December Sabrina and Anna got up early in the morning to help them set up their tables in the cloister. Fresh vegetables, bread, cheese, jams, honey but also baskets, clothes, lamps from local artisans, bookstands… and food, mulled wine and live accordion music. The convent was filled with people, young and old, bursting with conviviality in a lived counternarrative of care-full relationalities rooted in the territory.

More than just a market: local products, yoga, a recycling workshop for kids, food and live music. Photo retrieved from: FB Comunità Rurale Diffusa

The market continued to cultivate agri-culture in 2020 until Covid-19 has disrupted our lives and interrupted the activities at the convent. Also WEGO’s annual training lab was planned to be held at Punti di Vista in June 2020. Due to the health emergency and travel restrictions, we are forced to move our gathering to an online format but all hope to be able to come together at the convent again in the near future!

WEGO at the Degrowth Vienna 2020 conference on Strategies for Social-Ecological Transformation

Wendy Harcourt, Anna Katharina Voss and ISS MA graduate Rosa de Nooijer invite you to the presentation of our paper ‘Relations of Care: Ethics and Food Production in Europe’ at the upcoming Degrowth Vienna 2020 conference. In our presentation we explore how Covid-19 is redrawing our understanding of social reproduction and how care is part of the embodied labour of women and men engaging in alternative food production in rural landscapes in Italy and in the reclaimed territory of the Flevopolder in The Netherlands. We will give our talk at the panel ‘Territories, Resources and Care Work. Feminist Perspectives on Transformation’, convened by university lecturer, freelance author and scholar-activist Christa Wichterich.

relations of care
Source: Degrowth Vienna 2020 conference

Our collaborative session will look at everyday politics and practices of care work as counternarratives of resistance and regeneration emerging in territories menaced by resource extractivism, large dam construction and industrialisation of food in Africa, South America and Europe. We will be joined by Samantha Heargreaves from the African alliance of women against extractivism WoMin and her talk on ‘Extractivism, Women’s Care Work and the Right to Say NO’, and PhD candidate Camila Nobrega Rabello Alves who will speak about ‘Feminist Perspectives on the Social-environmental Conflicts of the Hydropower Dam São Luiz do Tapajós, Brazil: Shifting Narratives’.

As Covid-19 has disrupted our plans to travel to Vienna in person and instead to exchange our thinking and experiences in a virtual conference space, we will also reflect on how this unprecedent global health-and-beyond crisis has brought visibility to the essential and life-sustaining nature of care and care work, only reaffirming the urgency to think and act towards radical alternatives beyond the patriarchal-capitalist growth model. Following the single presentations there will be time for questions and we hope for a lively discussion with the audience. 

What: Panel ‘Territories, Resources and Care Work. Feminist Perspectives on Transformation’

When: 31 May 2020, 10-11:30am

Where: Online

For info and registration: https://www.degrowthvienna2020.org/en/

Video for presentation

We are running behind the farmers: mapping food, knowledge and care in Chennai, the peri-urban and beyond

In the city of Chennai, Restore, an established non-profit organic food store, has been working closely with and for farmers for over ten years. More than a ‘shop,’ this organisation has networks and connections that extend to both local farmers and farmers as far away as Bangalore and Ooty. These networks are not simple supply chains but flows where food, knowledge and care move back and forth between the urban, the rural and the spaces in between. 

To bring visibility to these flows, the farmers, the knowledge and the caring practices involved in building such connections, we are exploring the possibility of a collaborative counter-cartography project.

Following the work of Kollectiv Organgotango+ and contributors to the book ‘This is Not an Atlas’ (2018), the project adopts the term ‘counter-cartography’ to describe what will be a process of mapping human and more-than-human food relations and thus, making visible flows of knowledge and care in and around Chennai. Such flows or embodied connections of food, knowledge and care often obscured by positivist and capitalist representations of food networks and supply chain mappings. 

The first aim of the project is to give consumers who shop at Restore more information and understanding about their food and where it comes from, thus making visible the farmer, their labour and their knowledge. The second aim is to challenge the dominant processes and conceptions of capital market flows by demonstrating: (1) the mutual flows of knowledge between farmers and traders, (2) the care networks that are constituted between farmers and traders that disrupt market norms and (3) the caring relations that exist between humans and more-than-humans across urban and rural landscapes. The ‘map’ will intersect with the Tamil seasonal farming calendar to demonstrate and make visible the dynamic and circular flows of food, knowledge and care moving within space and through time.

This project note is part of my ongoing research with farmers and traders in Chennai, India. It was proposed and discussed with activists at Restore in Chennai a few days before I had to leave India due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore still very tentative and has not moved beyond this first discussion in early March 2020. We are also in the process of translating the note into Tamil to share with farmers and other activists in and around Chennai.

Despite being at this very early and uncertain stage I wanted to share this with the WEGO network and other interested scholars working in collaboration with activist networks and using participatory mapping to invite feedback and reflections.
Enid Still

Ticking the box or designing for meaningful change?


Equity. It’s a concept that many value but can struggle to put into practice. When it comes to the state of Maine’s efforts to develop strategies to aggressively respond to climate change, what does it look like to design with a commitment to equity and to meeting the needs of all Mainers at the center?

While much of the world came to a screeching halt this spring, members of the Maine Climate Council’s working groups doubled down on their efforts to develop recommendations on how to reach the state’s climate goals. According to the Governor’s Office of Policy, Innovation, and the Future, the entity supporting the effort, more than 200 people across seven working groups participated in 30 meetings in April alone—an average of one per day—to refine strategies, review data, and make progress towards the early June deadline for submitting their recommendations to the Maine Climate Council.

Island Institute staff are pleased to serve on four of the Council’s subgroups (Science and Technical Subcommittee; Buildings, Housing and Infrastructure working group; Marine and Coastal working group; and the Community Resilience, Emergency Management, and Public Health working group), giving us unique insights into the cross-cutting nature of the Council’s work and the ways in which we can try to reflect the realities of Maine communities, large and small.

The legislation behind the Climate Council, LD 1679, calls for explicit consideration of rural communities; persons of low income and moderate income; economic sectors that face the biggest barriers to emissions reductions; vulnerable communities; and natural resource-based industries. The Climate Council’s plan must treat all Maine people “fairly and equitably” and must ensure “equity for all sectors and regions of the State.”

But as the working groups began to compare proposals, the question arose: “How do we know when we are making meaningful progress on equity and doing more than just ticking the box?”

At the Island Institute, we’ve seen first-hand how some of our state’s island and coastal communities can be —usually unintentionally—left behind by policy and program design that was built with a one-size-fits all approach. Research shows that these communities are unique due to their population size, demographics (primarily age), geography, and employment. Our collaborations with Maine communities have repeatedly shown that these realities can lead to obstacles when trying to access clean energy financing and other efforts to build resiliency in the face of climate change. Specifically, our 2018 Bridging the Rural Efficiency Gap white paper with the Maine Governor’s Energy Office highlighted the geographic, financial, and awareness gaps faced by residents of rural communities when trying to access energy efficiency programs.

This experience has increasingly led us to ask questions about other segments of Maine’s population – along the coast or in the interior – that may have a harder time helping to shape or equitably benefit from carbon reduction measures. How could we raise the concepts for the Council to consider, while grounding them in real stories of Mainers from across the state? 

On April 28, 2020, we partnered with Ania Wright to co-present to the Council’s Buildings, Infrastructure, and Housing Working Group to combine research and data with accounts of Maine communities and industries to illustrate how these concepts play out in Maine. Ania is the youth representative to the Climate Council, representing Maine Youth for Climate Justice and Island Institute partner, College of the Atlantic. In February 2020, we were honored to have her share her perspectives on the climate movement during this year’s Waypoints Forum, “Courageous Leadership in Disruptive Times.”

Youth involved with Maine Youth for Climate Justice share similar first-hand experiences to how certain groups are often left behind in policy decisions. Young people are at the frontlines of the climate crisis as they will be the ones to inherit our earth, and yet the urgency they bring to the table is not always heard. Additionally, they see the climate crisis for what it is, a failure of our societal systems, and not just an ecological crisis. Dealing with the climate crisis will take rethinking the way we solve problems. Part of that rethinking is around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In our presentation to the Buildings, Infrastructure, and Housing Working Group, we highlighted:

  • Vulnerable communities have already been, and will continue to be the most impacted by climate change.
  • Rural residents—who make up 61% of Maine, the highest rate in the nation—experience additional challenges of high energy costs and barriers to addressing them. Reliance on expensive heating fuel; an older housing stock; lower incomes; and higher numbers of mobile homes all contribute to a higher “energy burden,” or the percentage of household income spent on electricity and heating. Remote geography, lack of access to financing, and other barriers, can make it harder to access and pay for energy efficiency.
  • Natural resources-based industries such as fisheries and forestry are particularly vulnerable to climate change, due both to the impacts they are experiencing and their significant reliance on and challenges associated with moving away from fossil fuels. Equitable support for these culturally iconic and economically essential industries is key to successfully addressing climate change.
  • Addressing these inequities is possible and can effectively support vulnerable communities and everyone—e.g., by partnering with trusted messengers to go beyond traditional marketing channels; adding funding and flexible financing options; or addressing limitations in local capacity to plan and implement projects.

These lessons shared specifically with the Buildings, Infrastructure, and Housing group are relevant to all the Maine Climate Council’s working groups striving to help Maine communities reduce our carbon pollution and adapt to the future impacts of a rapidly changing climate. By doing so with an eye toward equity, as required by the legislation that formed the Maine Climate Council, we can ensure that any actions taken by the state will benefit all Mainers, especially those on the front lines of climate change impacts.

We are encouraged by the Climate Council’s progress in these trying times. While we are all now focused on and experiencing the health and economic crises from COVID-19, we know that Maine people, and in particular our most vulnerable residents, will continue to be hit by increasingly strong storms, rising seas, uncertain growing seasons, and other impacts resulting from climate change. Our commitment now to basing recommendations on their realities will help to increase the likelihood that all Mainers will benefit from this work in the months and years ahead.

This piece was written in collaboration with Ania Wright of Maine Youth for Climate Justice and College of the Atlantic.

This article was originally published here