Today marks the 44th anniversary of Earth Day. It’s a day we are supposed to honor the planet we call Mother Earth. But by the very nature of how we use and produce our energy, we are failing to honor the planet and ultimately failing each other, too.
The toxic chemicals from coal production that seep into her rivers rob low-income families in West Virginia of their water supply. The pollutants from gas and oil refineries that clog her air attack the lungs of Black, Latino and Asian children living near the Chevron plant in Richmond, California. Oil spills from deep water drilling destroy the small businesses of immigrant fishermen in the Gulf Coast.
Our reliance on fossil fuels is most devastating for the economically and racially marginalized communities among us, but it takes a grand toll on all living things on Mother Earth. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns of catastrophe for our planet and our people if we don’t start aggressively cutting carbon emissions, saving energy and investing in renewable energy solutions.
Now more than ever, we need action at every level of government to address the challenges of climate change. But we can make a big difference in our communities right now.
All across the country, we are seeing communities coming together to create new ways of recycling, conserving energy and creating wind and solar energy solutions that can power us into the 21st Century and rebuild broken economies.
So on this Earth Day, while much of the focus will be on the dire warnings issued by the IPCC, we are offering a map that shows there is hope, possibility and opportunity. This map pinpoints communities across America that are taking the fight against climate change into their own hands by developing community-scale renewable energy and energy conservation projects. Our map highlights over 100 projects that are rooted in communities, with particular attention to communities of color, who by 2042 will become the majority in our nation. With the threat of climate change becoming more real every day, communities are coming together now to be participants, decision-makers and owners in a new energy economy. We call this Energy Democracy.
Within this map you will find that projects vary in scope and approach. But they all have the same goal of cutting our reliance on dirty energy and creating new economic opportunities for communities. Some are governmental projects like the Los Angeles Feed in Tariff program to spur solar development in the city; others are as small and rural like Lakota Solar Enterprises, which brings off-grid solar heating to Native American homes. Some projects highlight community organizing around resiliency, inclusive planning and creating renewable energy for and by residents like the Our Power Movement in Richmond or Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy in Louisiana. Others are cooperative efforts to own and control our energy decisions like Co-Op Power and CERO in Massachusetts.
While the country waits for national and global action on climate change, we need to recognize and support communities who are already leading the way. Together, we can embrace this innovative spirit to solve the challenges of climate change.