Dr. Jennie Stephens is the Dean’s Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy at Northeastern University. She is also a feminist, scholar–activist, writer, and social justice advocate whose interdisciplinary work has articulated the need to move past “climate isolationism”—approaching climate change through a narrow technological lens— and into “climate justice,” which is beneficial to people and communities. The author of the 2020 book Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and Energy, Stephens is a strong advocate of a “people-first” approach to climate policy, and she is critical of viewing climate change solely as a technological issue. Rather, her book refocuses the conversation around the transformative power that a feminist and anti-racist approach can leverage in climate and energy policy.
Stephens began her career in climate advocacy as an environmental scientist. Throughout her twenty-five-year career, Stephens began directing her research to the socio-political aspects of climate and energy policy after realizing that a technocratic approach to combating climate change was largely ineffective. Stephens argues that the most effective policy must come from leaders that recognize and work to resist the inequalities and disparities perpetuated by the pervading policies and structures of power. As the current climate leadership struggles to make progress in fossil fuel phaseout, the future must be rooted in the idea of energy democracy, which acknowledges the potential of redistributing wealth, power, jobs, and health more equitably as the world transitions to renewable energy. By utilizing a perspective that incorporates social justice, climate policy can encapsulate a larger structural transformation of society in order to be truly impactful.