The global COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a justice crisis. It also brings to light multiple ongoing, underlying social crises. The COVID-19 crisis is actively revealing crises of energy sovereignty in at least four ways. First, there are many whose access to basic health services is compromised because of the lack of energy services necessary to provide these services. Second, some people are more vulnerable to COVID- 19 because of exposure to environmental pollution associated with energy production. Third, energy services are vital to human wellbeing, yet access to energy services is largely organized as a consumer good. The loss of stable income precipitated by COVID-19 may therefore mean that many lose reliable access to essential energy services. Fourth, the COVID-19 crisis has created a window of opportunity for corporate interests to engage in aggressive pursuit of energy agendas that perpetuate carbon intensive and corporate controlled energy systems, which illuminates the ongoing procedural injustices of energy decision making. These four related crises demonstrate why energy sovereignty is essential for a just energy future. Energy sovereignty is defined as the right for communities, rather than corporate interests, to control access to and decision making regarding the sources, scales, and forms of ownership characterizing access to energy services. Energy sovereignty is a critical com- ponent in the design of a post-COVID-19 energy system that is capable of being resilient to future shocks without exacerbating injustices that are killing the most vulnerable among us.
The concept of energy sovereignty redefines the priorities for decision making regarding energy systems while encouraging increased reliance on renewable energy technologies like solar. Energy sovereignty involves centering the inherent right of humans and communities to make decisions about the energy systems they use, including decisions about the sources, scales, and forms of ownership that structure energy access. Current U.S energy policy does not center concerns of energy sovereignty, and in many cases may work against it. Policies to enhance energy sovereignty can accelerate electricity decarbonization while also empowering community scale decision making and offering communities control to reduce the myriad externalities associated with the fossil-fuel energy system.
Both residents of Michigan and decision- and policymakers tasked with water quality in northern Michigan are more concerned about a Line 5 spill occurring under ice than spill occurring in open water. Groups are split about the Line 5’s fate.
“Michigan State University (MSU) has been awarded close to $1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a five-year study of renewable energy options using a cross-disciplinary research approach in eight Michigan communities, including two Native American communities.
The project, “Socio-Technological System Transitions: Michigan Community and Anishinaabe Renewable Energy Sovereignty,” will use community-engaged research to collect and analyze local renewable energy risks, barriers and opportunities that can help with decision making and future transitions to renewable energy systems.
This paper by Victoria Campbell-Arvai,Lisa Kenney, Joe Arvai and I reviews five challenges faced during decision making about carbon management initiatives. The first of these challenges deals with behavioral and perceptual obstacles, which often leads to the introduction of systematic biases during decision making. The remaining four obstacles deal with the complexity associated with the carbon management problems themselves. These include neglecting the objectives and related measurement criteria, which will guide decisions among competing risk management options; the tendency to look for singular solutions to complex problems, rather than considering a broad array of options; a lack of explicit attention devoted to the full range of trade-offs that should be considered when choosing among alternatives; and a failure to recognize that preferences, and the decisions that result from them, are fundamentally constructive in nature. We conclude by outlining a decision-aiding approach that has been shown to improve the quality of decisions about carbon management.
Weeds remain the most commonly cited concern of organic farmers. Without the benefit of synthetic herbicides, organic farmers must rely on a host of ecological weed management (EWM) practices to control weeds. Despite EWM’s ability to improve soil quality, the perceived rate of integrated EWM strategy adoption remains low. This low adoption is likely a result of the complexity in designing and evaluating EWM strategies, the tendency for outreach to focus on the risks of EWM strategies rather than their benefits, and a lack of quantitative measures link-ing the performance of EWM strategies to farmers’ on-farm objectives and practices. Here we report on the development and deployment of an easy-to-use online decision support tool (DST) that aids organic farmers in identifying their on-farm objectives, characterizing the performance of their practices, and evaluating EWM strategies recommended by an expert advisory panel. Informed by the principles of structured decision making, the DST uses multiple choice tasks to help farmers evaluate the short- and long-term trade-offs of EWM strategies,while also focusing their attention on their most important objectives. We then invited organic farmers across the United States, in particular those whose email addresses were registered on the USDA’s Organic Research Integrity Database, to engage the DST online. Results show considerable movement in participants’ (n=45) preferences from practices focused on reducing weeding costs and labor in the short term to EWM strategies focused on improving soil quality in the long term. Indeed, nearly half of those farmers (48%) who initially ranked a strategy com-posed of their current practices highest ultimately preferred a better-performing EWM strategy focused on eliminating the weed seedbank over 5 yr.
On Friday, February 22nd, Grant Gunn and I, colleagues on an IPPSR MAPPR grant looking at the Line 5 underwater oil pipeline, spoke with Arnold Weinfeld and Charles Ballard on WKAR’s MSU Today with Russ White Podcast. Hear what we had to say and read about work here. You can also download the MSU Today with Russ White program on iTunes!