What happens when you bring together people of diverse ages and ethnicities and get them into facilitated conversations and deep listening with one another?
On January 23, 2019 at the Edington Center, “New Year’s Climate Resolutions” brought together a group of 25 area residents for that experience. In just two hours (including a wonderful meal of vegetarian chili and cornbread provided by GO Kitchen Ready), participants shared personal experiences, took a sharp look at racial inequities in Asheville, and came up with an astonishing set of visions of an energy future that can work for us all.
Present were one South Asian, two people of Latino background, eight African Americans, and 14 Caucasians; two were college students and two were high schoolers. Some organizations represented were the Center for Participatory Change, Southside Rising, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Hood Huggers, and Sierra Club. They watched a short video about high asthma rates caused by polluted air in low-income neighborhoods of color, shown by the “Ready for 100” campaign.
Both Asheville and Buncombe County have passed resolutions to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2042. After a discussion on how race, income, and other factors shape our attitudes about the environment and climate change, attendees wrote out their priorities for this transition. Here are highlights of what people posted on a timeline:
Racial-social equity is a must: weatherizing homes of low income people first, and providing training for marginalized people for jobs in the new green energy sector.
Excellent, frequent, affordable, electrified public transportation is needed ASAP, providing an alternative to car ownership for low-income people, youth, and the disabled, and helping people access jobs and recreation; it must be so good that everyone uses it.
- All buildings made energy efficient
- Grow black-owned businesses
- Gardens growing food everywhere; farmers’ markets in low-income areas, healthy food available to all
- Affordable health care for all
- Affordable housing
- Municipally owned solar and wind energy, no more Duke monopoly
- Protected rivers and waterways, access to clean drinking water for all
- This transition needs to happen way before 2042 and must start immediately!
These important ideas will be shared with decision-makers such as City Council and SACEE (Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy & Environment).
A future series of conversations titled “Clean Energy for Livable Communities” will be held at the Edington Center, led by Olufemi Lewis, starting on Monday, March 4, 2019. A meal and childcare will be provided. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.