by Lily Forand
Before COP26, I had this idea that the only way to really reverse or halt the effects of climate change was through big government regulations. I’m a polisci major, whose background on the subject of climate justice is somewhat lacking compared to the rest of my peers on this trip. Big corporations and modern capitalism created this mess, and I assumed that government entities should be the ones to come in and clean it up. And to a certain degree this is very true; if congresspeople are ever released from the tight grip of monied interests, we could make significant strides towards engineering a greener, cleaner world.
My previously held notions of what a solution would look like were instead challenged by my misconceptions about what solutions beyond corporate regulation should be. While the government has power to stop companies from polluting and maintaining high methane emissions (among other things), I have come to believe that we need to focus on community-based solutions, created by the people that will be affected by them. As a panelist for the women and climate justice event I attended said, “we need empowerment, not solutions.” Solving the climate crisis isn’t about sweeping, one-size fits all measures taken by politicians who often lack grounded understanding of their constituencies. It is about giving people in those communities – women, indigenous people, young people, etc. – the resources and funds to create green communities. Of course, we still need to regulate big corporations and major polluters. Panelists spoke about community generated energy sources to replace fossil fuels, and I learned about new technology to grow fresh produce in multi-layered greenhouses in communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. I heard from activists from all over who shared different perspectives on how best to tackle this challenge, all based on the specific needs of their communities.
I think before COP, I overestimated the ability that the U.S. Government has to solve the climate crisis. I now believe that we need lawmakers’ power and resources to be placed in the hands of the people if we want a climate solution that truly reflects the diversity of need in this country.