Preface (With Interruptions from an Unconvinced Reader)

Climate, Justice and Energy Solutions is an interactive…

Q: Wait, climate, justice, and energy? 

A: Ah, I see you have some questions already. Sure, dear reader, ask away.

Q: Actually I’m more of a disgruntled reader, or unconvinced if you will. Who exactly is this book for? 

A: This book is an attempt to remedy a blind spot in science communication, one that connects science and engineering to justice. We hope to provide a framework for learning about the science of the climate crisis for those who don’t accept the status quo. Climate, Justice and Energy Solutions is for visionaries, dreamers, utopian thinkers, and social justice advocates. It’s for those who can imagine not just surviving in a world without fossil fuels, but truly flourishing. The hope is that activists in a wide range of fields can use this text to help bolster their knowledge of science-based climate action when they’re building the next wave of social movements, renewable power networks, and regenerative communities.

Q: Is climate justice actually going to be covered in this book? You’re a scientist, right? 

A: Oh yes, you’ll learn about climate justice and environmental justice in just as much depth as the science and engineering aspects. For me, thinking about these topics together gives me a different perspective on all three: climate, justice and energy. You’ll rethink the urgency and fairness of proposed actions, reconsider what’s possible, and much more.

Q: What do you know about justice? Am I going to have to read a bunch of random, uninformed political rants? 

A: Great question! The justice topics are all closely informed by the global climate justice movement, and as much as possible, you’ll be hearing directly from these groups. We’ll be examining foundational documents directly from the movement, like the Principles of Environmental Justice and the People’s Agreement of Cochabamba. At the end of each chapter, there is information about a different climate justice organization or advocate working right now on solutions to a variety of aspects of the climate crisis, in locations all around the planet. These groups are not just fighting into the void: they’re facing powerful opponents and are winning huge policy victories, and are building self-sufficiency and resilience in their communities. I hope that these chances to “Connect” can serve at least two purposes: to inform you about climate justice goals and progress around the world, and to inspire you to take action in your own chosen ways.

Q: What are climate justice advocates saying? Is their perspective really that different?

A: In short, put people before profit. No false solutions. No sacrifice zones. And let all people have access to what they need to thrive. The justice movement frequently interrogates interlocking systems of oppression such as hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism and economic class. These systems are both root causes of the climate crisis, and amplifiers of vulnerability to climate disasters, not just for the oppressed but for everyone. These systems must be broken down for any of us to be truly free.

The justice approach means skepticism about commodification of nature and techno-fix schemes, which necessarily put profits before people. The movement is similarly skeptical when privatization is prioritized over democratically determined public investments. Climate justice advocates tend to see the problems of the world in a much more synthesized way than technologists. Their solutions tend to highlight opportunities to address multiple problems at once: pollution exposure and wealth disparity; transportation and housing justice; food sovereignty and access to nature, among many others.

The justice perspective recognizes that transformations may come out of many philosophies: we will present radical theories of change that come from movements such as eco-feminism, Indigenous knowledge systems, eco-socialism, eco-anarchism, degrowth, disability rights, LGBTQIA+, Afrofuturism, environmental justice, and many others. This book attempts to find common ground even between philosophies that are diametrically opposed in some aspects.

Q: Why are you writing this? Are all these topics mashed together just to catch the wave of interest in climate and get more book sales? 

A: C’mon, the book is free. As many people as possible need to learn about climate justice and clean energy, in whatever format works for them. The climate crisis ain’t going away, so it’s important to learn these topics. Windows of opportunity for climate action have been few and far between in the recent past, so it’s especially critical to be informed on whether a given solution brings us closer to climate justice. 

Q: Isn’t climate change a big hoax?

A: Definitely not, although some people still think so. Since the 1970s, those with vested financial interests have corrupted the public discourse with remarkable success. They’ve reframed the debate to serve their interests, obscuring the urgency of the problem, presenting fake solutions, and introducing false dichotomies like “jobs versus climate protection.”

Scientists have often communicated in a reactive manner to industry talking points while keeping the same dishonest frame for debate. Although often inadvertently, many scientists, with their disproportionately large megaphones, have thus helped to uphold existing power structures. All this wasted a lot of precious time in the past and we’re not going to dedicate space to affirm the basic science here. There are plenty of places that do just this.

Does that make sense, unconvinced reader? I’m just going to call you “UR.”

Q: Are you? I mean, U R??

A: I walked right into that one. Never mind.

Q: I’m noticing that there’s a lot of silliness in this book. Are these ridiculous attempts at humor just trying to turn the whole climate crisis into some kind of joke? 

A: No, the climate crisis is deadly serious. It’s also a heavy topic. To remain focused, activists need to prevent burnout and eco-anxiety which are often lurking. The humor is one way to stave this off and is by no means to trivialize others’ misfortunes. 

Q: Is it unscientific to teach science from a justice perspective?

A: Not at all! Communication always comes from some perspective; there is no purely objective description of reality. It is impossible to be neutral, especially with issues like climate where so much money and entrenched power are involved. Scientists that claim to be presenting facts without bias are probably supporting the dominant culture and modes of thinking, either knowingly or unknowingly.

Science that comes from a justice perspective is especially effective if it adheres to the rules of science, as defined by the standards that need to be followed for peer review, the system for publishing scientific papers. There are rules to doing and communicating science!

  1. Openness: State where all your data comes from and allow anyone to access it themselves.
  2. Reproducibility: Describe your methods in enough detail that anyone can reproduce your results, with the means of analysis provided if possible.
  3. Honesty: Don’t exaggerate conclusions or claim your work has broader implications than is justified.

Informal rules of science (that are not always followed by professionals) include:

  1. Humility: Keep an open mind and reevaluate your conclusions when evidence is presented to the contrary. No one can ever see the whole picture.
  2. Diversity: Seek out perspectives and voices that are often ignored.
  3. Heart: Look for ways in which science can be used for good, especially those who lack privilege.

Q: I’m already anxious about the climate crisis. Is this going to make me feel worse?

A: The climate crisis often feels overwhelming and can lead to eco-anxiety in many who study it. You’re not alone, and we’ll share resources to help you manage these emotions as you learn. But the struggle towards climate justice is also full of joy. The path of justice is the right path, and there are so many ways to contribute to these movements and enjoy the beauty of life on Earth along the way.

One of the most effective ways to face feelings of despair is to get involved in collective action. Working to make a positive change alongside other concerned citizens is a proven way to keep those very natural feelings of worry from getting overwhelming. So check out those “Connect” boxes and make some connections!

The arts are another excellent means to process strong emotions like anxiety or despair. Throughout the book, there are landscape paintings from across North America by my mother, Virginia Wright-Frierson. I hope that her images will help you to process the depths of the climate crisis with empathy for both humans and non-human species, and that they’ll help you notice the beauty and resilience in even the most battered settings.

A painting of rock formations in the desert
Arches National Park, Painting by Virginia Wright-Frierson

I’m a musician, and sing songs in my classes to help clarify topics and add some color to what might otherwise be a bland lecture. In this book, we’ll occasionally use songs (written either by me or by those with much more lyrical talent) to help supplement the material.

Let’s start our learning with a song about how much “Science Rules!” and also about the rules of science described above. It’s about how the world would be a better place if we all played by the rules of science. I wrote “Science Rules” for the March for Science in Olympia, Washington in February 2017.


Think 💯% is a climate justice project founded by Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. in 2018 as a part of the Hip Hop Caucus. The number of the course at University of Washington (ATM S 💯) and the subtitle of this book were inspired by the Think 💯%: The Coolest Show podcast, which features interviews with leaders in the climate justice community.



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Climate, Justice and Energy Solutions Copyright © 2022, 2023, 2024 by Dargan M. W. Frierson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.