They call it “just transition”.  Love that. The way it resonates with a certainty and simplicity. It is just transition. That makes it sound like anyone could do it. Like the shift isn’t so hard. And, calling it ‘just transition’ also rings of justice: a just transition.

Just Transition: Solar in Indigenous Communities. That is the title of a great three-minute video on the Lubicon Solar website. This short film tells the story of how, two years ago in August of 2015, led by Melina Laboucan-Massimo, the community of Little Buffalo installed 80 solar panels, for a total of 20.8kw, to power the local health centre. It is a symbolic project in many ways: putting community health at the centre of this project that redistributes power. Whereas before, keeping the health centre running on propane power was a huge financial drain, this new energy project sells its overages back to the grid. But, also important is the cultural significance of the fact that the panels draw energy from the sun.

I know in a lot of the ceremonies and the songs, the sun is praised. Even the project name Pîtâpan means the coming of the dawn and it is the coming of a new era. An era where we use energy that is not devastating to our environment. In getting this solar project going, we are leaders in solar power and that is what we are teaching our youth. The have to learn how to operate it. They have to learn how to maintain it. They already know how to set it up. So if any of our neighbours in the surrounding First Nations or Métis settlements want to start up solar power, we can be there to help them get it done.

— Chief Billy Joe Laboucan

Today, I see on my Facebook feed, from the David Suzuki Foundation, that “Kanahus Manuel and Melina Laboucan-Massimo are working to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline from running through unceded Indigenous territory by modeling sustainable communities powered by sustainable energy.” Melina, taking what she learned running the solar project in her own community of Little Buffalo, is doing powerful work in collaboration with the Secwepemc people in BC. Kanahus Manuel says “We are the environment.” Listen to Kanahus in this 10 minute video: Living Big in a Tiny House Youtube Channel visits Tiny House Warriors. This Secwepemc community isn’t going to just stand in the path of a proposed pipeline. They are building solar powered tiny-houses and living in its path. And, Kanahus, in another video that was posted live yesterday (November 1, 2017), makes links between not only the devastation that the Kinder Morgan pipeline will wreak on their lands, but also the direct threat that the ‘man camps’ are to the women of the lands. With a red dress hanging from one of the tiny houses, Kanahus alludes to the direct link between the raping of the land and the raping of the women to whom those lands belong. Like women around the world, these Indigenous women are on the front lines of the climate justice movement, protecting their families and communities, imagining other possibilities for the future. It could be simple, but it’s not. So they find themselves defending the future. A just future, for us all!

(Photo Credit: Tiny House Warriors)


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© 2019 Sheena Wilson, Associate Professor, University of Alberta
Principal Investigator: Feminist Energy Futures; Future Energy Systems’ Energy Humanities: Speculative Energy Futures and iDoc Projects
Co-founder and co-director of Petrocultures Research Group
Editor-in-chief, Imaginations Journal



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