Standing together for systemic change

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Last year, pv magazine launched the UP initiative, with the aim of weaving the topic of sustainability into the core of our editorial foundation. At the time, we wrote: “Employing renewable energy has the potential to not only address the issues created by fossil fuels – including the two most critical: geopolitics and pollution – but … could also help focus on [matters including] energy poverty, a lack of education and gender and racial inequality.”

While we feel we have taken great strides in shining a spotlight on sustainability issues over the past 12 months – such as the use of lead in c-Si solar panelsraw material sourcing in batteries and green finance – recent events have shown us we must also use our voice to loudly and actively push for racial justice. We must embrace intersectional environmentalism.

The issue of race directly ties into the climate movement and the renewable energy transition in which solar PV and energy storage play leading roles. I believe we cannot tackle one without the others.

In an article for Vogue, U.S.-based intersectional environmental activist and eco-communicator Leah Thomas, sums up why every environmentalist needs to be an anti-racist. She wrote: “The longer racism is not addressed, the harder it will be to save the planet, in part because Black activists’ time and energy are being drained. Inclusive climate justice activist Mikaela Loach notes that allies should ‘step up, so Black folks have the time and energy to invest in creating climate solutions’ instead of using our energy to ‘explain [our] existence to other people’ in predominantly white environmentalist spaces. Every environmentalist needs to hold themselves accountable and do the inner anti-racism work to achieve both climate and social justice.”

Aside from the big issue Thomas addresses, the fact we needed a pv magazine editorial debate to decide whether it is correct to capitalize the word “Black” in this instance, demonstrates the learning curve we are on ourselves as we strive to be more inclusive.

In the upcoming, July print magazine, our “In Conversation” special – which last year focused on women in solar – will be speaking to those in the Global South. Recognizing that too often within the PV industry it is advocates in Europe, the United States and other nations with sophisticated economies and infrastructures that perform the promotion and development of solar, we have interviewed solar innovators from and in the countries of the Global South to tell their stories. From policymakers and entrepreneurs to entertainment icons and NGOs, their words represent an important and timely contribution.

Meanwhile, the UP initiative will seek to address racial inequality on an ongoing basis. The next quarterly theme will focus on circular manufacturing as part of a circular economy. Here collaboration between peers, across industries and movements – and social and racial justice – are just as important as clean manufacturing practices.

We will not achieve systemic change without transparency and meaningful collaboration. We must stand up together and actively push for a cleaner, more just world.

I would welcome your feedback and input on this crucial topic. Please contact up@pv-magazine.com to become involved in the discussion and to comment on any of the issues raised.

Finally, as a starting point for further reading on the link between the environment and people of color, you might refer to the New York Times and Greenpeace’s anti-racism toolkit as well as following Green Voices of Color on Twitter.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.