Forbes, March 2021
“Climate isolation” is a term coined by Jennie Stephens, Ph.D., Director of Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs, and Dean’s Professor of Sustainability Science & Policy. Traditionally, climate change is discussed as distinct from other crises, and potential solutions are focused on technology options. But Dr. Stephens argues that this technocratic focus and its associated language has reduced public engagement. In her new book, Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and Energy, Dr. Stephens argues that transformation to a just, sustainable renewable-based society requires leaders who connect social justice to climate and energy. Recently, I was able to ask Dr. Stephens about her new book.
Kevin Kruse: In your book, you make the case that we need more diverse leadership to effectively act on climate and energy. Why does diversity matter on this topic?
Jennie Stephens, Ph.D.: Diversity matters in climate and energy policy because for too long, concerns of vulnerable communities have been minimized and dismissed while white-male-dominated-fossil-fuel interests have profited from exploiting marginalized people. Without diverse leadership, the United States has invested in concentrating wealth and power by supporting the “polluter elite” rather than investing in the basic needs of people and communities. Research shows us that when women, people of color, and indigenous folks show up in leadership spaces where they have been historically excluded, they bring with them different lived experiences and different perceptions of risk that lead to more socially just outcomes. Research also shows that more diverse teams, more diverse organizations, and more diverse sectors are more innovative. For the transformative changes that are needed to effectively respond to the climate crisis and equitable transition to a renewable-based future, diverse leadership is essential.