Beating Climate Change by Retooling the Economy — The Story Begins in Navajo Country

Yes! Magazine, October 17, 2014, by Mary Hansen

A proposed community-owned solar project on an abandoned coal mine in Arizona illustrates how cooperative economics make it possible to stop extracting fossil fuels—without leaving workers behind.

"The story of Black Mesa illustrates a realization that is sweeping through the network of organizations, individuals, and coalitions working to fight global warming: While the burning of fossil fuels causes climate change, simply shutting down these industries leaves workers and their families behind, and often result in a familiar conflict over 'jobs versus the environment.'

Now, many climate justice activists are ... refusing to be limited by the 'jobs or the environment' dichotomy.

'The central solutions to address the climate crisis are not actually going to come from looking up and counting carbon in the atmosphere,' Mascarenhas-Swan [co-director of the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project and co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance] said. 'They are going to come from remaking the economy, which is the root of this struggle.' ...

That leadership can been seen back in Arizona, where the Black Mesa Water Coalition is moving forward on a 1- to 5-megawatt solar power plant proposed for the site of the abandoned coal mine. And here’s where new economy ideas come in: The coalition hopes the facility will be owned and controlled by the Navajo people and will provide reliable jobs.

'We were once the battery for the Southwest [with our coal production],' said Roberto Nutlouis, the Black Mesa Water Coalition’s green economy coordinator. 'Why not convert these reclaimed lands into something more sustainable and healthy for our community?' ...

'There’s a deeper way of valuing things, beyond a capitalist way,' Nutlouis said. 'We need an economy that restores the health of our people and the health of our land.'"


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