Some things are perfect just the way they are. Spring daffodils. The smell of fresh-cut grass. A cathedral of cattails cradling the nest of a marsh wren.
For most human systems and conditions, however, we‘re in a “best we can do for now” mode. While often elegant and technically complex [think: The Grid], these “what is” systems have often abandoned or ignored the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors. “What is” systems were created using economic cost and benefit equations that didn’t value clean air, water, or soil, or that undervalued or devalued some of our neighbors, community health, and preservation of public resources. We got bread without roses, and services without justice. Some of us only got crumbs.
Groundswell champions the value of transformation – deeply understanding the systems and constraints of “what is” in order to move toward “what should be.” We work with communities across the country, listening and walking beside our neighbors from many different backgrounds and income levels to hear and empower our partner communities in shaping a shared energy future. This takes a lot of work and much more time than imposing an existing system “from the top.”
Transformation first demands that we understand the current system in every detail so well that we can evaluate potential incremental moves, draw on relationships and networks outside the obvious and apply better solutions that show — as my colleague Euneika Rogers-Sipp shared regarding the human resilience expressed in the Afrofuturism movement — “Thinking beyond the manifestations of our current situations.”
In each state where Groundswell manages community solar projects, we have had to advocate for changes to regulations and boundaries that were unintentionally throwing up barriers to solar participation from our low-income neighbors. Sweating details is critical to transformation, as is moving toward that shared guiding star of visionary justice. Groundswell values sweating the details in order to achieve truly transformative system change.
Dana Meadows, a founding leader of sustainability in environmental and economic justice, championed system change as paramount in transformation. When asked if there was “still time” to save our planet from climate change, she responded, “We have exactly enough time, but not a moment to lose.” At Groundswell, we say, “Let’s go.”