03 Dec Some keys for a feminist and popular energy transition
Verónica Vidal Degiorgis
Proyecto de Derechos Económicos Sociales y Culturales A.C. (ProDESC)
"What a surprise! I could not imagine that you could be like this. According to what you say, you have in your pocket a lot of money and a large project. Those who, like me, enjoy walking by the hill do neither understand nor want Iron trees to be planted here. -Hey, girl, do not talk nonsense! This girl would not tell a beech from an oak. No one will prevent the implantation of wind energy The hill will not lose any of its beauty, and it will win in terms of so many other things."
In the process of thinking about some keys for a feminist and popular energy transition, neither the technical aspects of the transition nor the climate change nor the 2030 Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations crossed my mind initially.
I could not think of anything else but the dawn of March 3, 2016, when my colleagues women defenders in Honduras woke me up with the news of the murder of our compañera Berta Cáceres.
Berta understood very well the impact and the implications of “energy transition” in her Río Blanco, in her Lenca territory. . Her fight against large renewable energy generating Transnational Companies colluded with the Honduran State took her life.
You might wonder why would an indigenous and feminist defender of the land and territory, who believed in the sustainability of life on this planet, be fervently opposed to the installation of a hydro-electric dam that uses a “renewable and sustainable” energy means and that apparently is neutral with respect to the environment on her Lenca territory.
As an indigenous and feminist woman, Berta was perfectly aware of the various inequalities we, women, face in every aspect of our lives. Berta also knew that the fight for the territory, natural goods , and indigenous people’s rights entails a confrontation with a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Indeed, we agree that it is fundamental to migrate to non-polluting energy models that allow a transition to sustainable ways of living. The paradox lies in the fact that said goal is intended to be attained by patching (in the best case) an economic, social, political, and cultural system that, in all instances, continues to create inequalities mostly for women.
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In the case of the “benefits” for the people, it has been documented that, in Mexico, women have been the most adversely affected “because their access to resources important for their trade activities has been altered due to the privatization of the territory. Few women have agricultural rights, so they cannot collect any rents or royalties.”
Evidently, this industry’s renewable energy will not generate more greenhouse gases and contribute to attaining the laudable SDGs; however, it leaves behind ecocides in the territories and adverse human consequences and thus results in violations of human rights that are way too much expensive than its millionaire investments.
From a political and human rights perspective, I do not look at energy transition from a corporate and patriarchal perspective, according to which transition is seen as “a potential means for wealth accrual and hegemonic geopolitical positioning.” On the contrary, I agree with the points of view that explain the risk of “the paradigm” of the energy transition “to be dominated by large companies and put at the service of the current social reproduction system that intends to perpetuate the existing power relations.”
Thinking of an energy transition from a feminist point of view
My feminist journey has allowed me to listen to, accompany, and learn from women human rights defenders of tha land , the territory, and natural goods of several regions. Their voices, fights, and experiences have left a mark on me both politically and emotionally.
They are the ones who are at the frontline of the struggles t in their communities, enforcing their vision of the world and coping with transitional corporate powers and their States in the face of dispossession caused by extracting huge projects.
Among such projects are renewable energy projects. Generally, this type of project is not considered among the so-called “extractive industries,” such as mining, felling, gas, oil, etc. Nevertheless, renewable energy projects also operate according to a logic consisting of the extraction of indigenous people’s resources and agricultural communities.
In this sense, women who defend their territories have documented the many violations of their human rights and the adverse effects caused by the operation of large companies colluded with State authorities. Some of them are:
- Obstacles for participation in decision-making processes.
- Militarization and arm forces.
- Discrimination within their own movements and communities.
The energy transition proposed by the large transnational corporate powers and by many governments has not been, to this moment, a healthy and clean process that respects the human rights of women and those of women defenders in the transition from the exploitation and use of fossil fuels to the exploitation and use of “renewable” energies, such as wind, water, sun, etc.
Union Hidalgo: A Women’s fight.
At Union Hidalgo Oaxaca, the women human rights defender and member of Grupo de Mujeres Indígenas en Defensa de la Vida, Guadalupe Ramirez describes how transnational wind energy companies (DEMEX, an affiliate of the Renovalia Spanish company, and French company Electricité de France -EDF) arrived in their territory since 2011 intending to buy their common lands to install wind farms through:
- The execution of unlawful and misleading agreements.
- Consultation processes that do not abide by the international standards established in the ILO Convention No. 169 that sets forth that such consultations shall be free, made in advance, and informed.
The Union Hidalgo case is just an example of the simulation of the “benefits” that these projects promise to bring to the communities. The experience of Guadalupe and her community after the arrival of the wind energy companies in 2011 confirm that the energy transition models from a corporate point of view lack any interest in benefiting the communities; instead, such models are interested in generating energy to keep maintaining an economic model that prioritizes production and consumption.
From a feminist and human rights point of view (and thus from an intersectional perspective ) , these processes are neither neutral for women’s rights nor for land’s rights nor for the territory and the natural goods of the indigenous peoples, and, in particular, of indigenous women. All energy transition policies should arise from a social, environmental, and gender justice perspective .
The participation of women in all their diversity is a sine qua non requisite to conceive an energy transition that aims at achieving the sustainability of the planet and the equality of access to energy resources for the reproduction of the life (and not the capital) of all people.
Likewise, debates on energy transition must compulsorily include the contributions of the feminist economy.
This discipline differs from the neoclassic or orthodox economy because it includes a topic that is core to our economies to explain gender inequalities that affect men and women: the unpaid role women and girls play to reproduce life. Furthermore, this work is intricately linked to energy access, without which any care work structure cannot be sustained.
Therefore, when we think of the adverse effects and impacts of “sustainable energy” in communities, considering that women, due to their gender condition, assume care duties (which leave them with little time for their political participation and for their participation in the making of community decisions), a feminist economy approach would lead to review the adverse effects those projects would have in the access of energy for women and, hence, it would put the role of women in the decision making process concerning its implementation and impact at the center. Become some keys for a feminist and popular energy transition
In the face of a global system crisis, some critical questions that feminists should ask ourselves when thinking about energy transition are: What is the purpose of said transition? Who is going to participate in the decision-making processes? How are those decisions going to be made? Who are those projects going to benefit? What will be the adverse effects and impacts differentiated by gender and other intersections such as class, race, ethnicity, etc? How does that energy transition guarantee the reproduction of life, care, and the limits of “renewable resources” without risking the continuity of natural and human life?
On the other hand, energy transition debates and models should incorporate the point of view of access to energy “resources” as a right instead of considering it as a marketable resource.
Consequently, just as any human right, the right to energy is an enforceable and actionable right subject to justice access mechanisms. That is to say, before a violation of this right, the mechanisms established under the law that set forth the remedy and repair resources in the case of a violation of the human rights of people and/or communities should be activated.
Likewise, in a context of global privatization of energy policies mainly led by Transnational Companies or under mixed schemes (public-and-private investments) that generally form oligopolies that concentrate earnings and the energy market, the role of due diligence and corporate accountability cannot be avoided, and neither can it be avoided the responsibility of the States to protect the interests of communities and especially those of women in energy transition models.
The multiple feminisms aim to bring structural changes in the current economic system, where the rights of (diverse) women are at the center, even in the discussion and implementation of energy transition policies. In this sense, alternatives to large-scale “sustainable energy” projects that harm the environment and the livelihoods of the populations of territories and where women are always at the greatest disadvantage should be found.
No energy project should be conceived any longer to sustain a system that prioritizes mass and capitalist production for large urban centers; instead, energy projects should be thought to sustain and reproduce life, a decent life for all people.
SOME KEYS FOR A FEMINIST AND POPULAR ENERGY TRANSITION
SOME KEYS FOR A FEMINIST AND POPULAR ENERGY TRANSITION
keys for a feminist energy transition
1 Joxerra Garzia, Jon Sarasua, Andoni Egaña. El arte del bertsolarismo. Realidad y claves de la improvisacion oral vasca, 2001, p.130. Thanks to Jorge Chemes for providing me with this beautiful text.
2 Veronica Vazquez Garcia and Ruben Manuel Zepeda Cancino, “Los Retos de la Energia Eolica en Mexico, Revista Nexos, February 10, 2020, Available at: https://medioambiente.nexos.com.mx/?p=135
4 Transnational Institute and Taller Ecologista, Nota, 2020.
6 AWID, WHRD-IC, 2017, Defensoras de derechos humanos confrontando a las industrias extractivas. Un panorama de los riesgos críticos y las obligaciones en materia de derechos humanos, p. 5
7 Intervention of Guadalupe Ramirez at the Webinar “Impactos de la transición energética: una mirada desde la defensa integral. ProDESC, July 15, 2020
8 Convention No. 169 of ILo on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, 1989.
9 Term initially coined by the American lawyer Kimberly Crenshaw in 1989. See: “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum, Volume 1989, Issue 1, Available at: https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1052&context=uclf We believe this is a relevant point of view for analysis since “The intersectional analysis aims at revealing the several identities, exposing the different types of discrimination and disadvantage that result from a combination of identities.
It intends to address how racism, patriarchy, class oppression, and other discrimination systems create inequalities that are the structure of women’s relative positions. It considers historical, social, and political contexts, and it also acknowledges unique individual experiences that result in the conjunction of different types of identity.” AWID, Derechos de las mujeres y cambio económico No. 9, August 2004. Available at https://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/nterseccionalidad_-_una_herramienta_para_la_justicia_de_genero_y_la_justicia_economica.pdf
10 The feminist economy necesarilly reconsiders the central issue of distribuition within the economy,. That is to say, the fact that care has essentially and generically been assigned to and mostly relied upon women does not mean that said assignation must be perpetuated; instead, care duties between men and women must be reviewed.