Week 3

The theme that emerged from last Friday's discussion was clearly gentrification. Through each of the guest speaker's speeches and opinions, the fear of displacement was a resounding issue facing communities around the US and the world. It almost appeared to be as pressing as climate change itself.

So amidst the chaos of rising temperatures, sea water levels, pollution rates, and energy consumption, how do we make just transitions away from a fossil-fuel based economy burdened by climate change? Just transitions, a term that I was first introduced to on Friday, necessitates a whole system change that is fair across communities and lifts up communities most affected by climate change by ensuring good jobs and greater capacity and support. While this is aspirational at most in a lot of cities in America today, it is still critical to keep the concept within the radars of policymakers and community leaders. In order to make this type of fair system change, leaders and professionals need to continually remind themselves about the human aspect of all of these issues. "Who are we helping? Who is benefitting from our work/ policy? Who is disadvantaged by this decision?" are some questions that are not asked enough at higher levels of government. The human aspect is sadly often lost amidst data, laws, and politics and this was highlighted by everyone on the panel. 

Throughout the discussion I oscillated between feelings of despair and hope. I felt despair because policymakers and community leaders are not, according to the speakers, making the strides we need them to make in order to make just transitions quickly and widely. Although community engagement processes can go far in investigating the needs of the human populations affected by climate change and building social capacities of communities, the power still lies in the hands of few in the government or corporations with power to really grow economic capacities. Yet I continue to hope that there is still time for those in government to make systemic changes, even if incrementally - anything is better than nothing.