Current Projects

Working Across Lines: Resisting Extreme Energy Extraction in Idaho and California

Just released by University of California Press. Book website – use code 21W2240 for 30% off.

Working Across Lines reveals how people come together across lines of difference to pursue the goal of sustainability. It argues that four practices are critical for building movements: focusing on core values of justice, integrity, and accountability; identifying the roots of injustice; cultivating relationships; and welcoming difference. In a political and social era of stark polarization, these lessons on bridging divides are more relevant than ever.

Working Across Lines is a comparative analysis of two states—California and Idaho—with distinct fossil fuel histories, environmental contexts, and political cultures. Drawing on extensive ethnographic evidence from 106 in-depth interviews and three years of participant observation, it investigates how people work together across lines of difference based on political views, race and ethnicity, age, strategic and tactical preferences, and organizational structure (staffed nonprofits vs. grassroots groups). Analysis focuses on how activists engage or fail to engage working across lines and how this shapes success or failure in movement building. In presenting this analysis, the book advances knowledge about the strategies and cultures of the US climate justice movement. Building on studies of the importance of collective identity and coalitions for creating diverse social movements, the concepts of climate justice cultures of creation, talking across lines, and working across lines expand our field of political and tactical vision. These concepts show how coalitions of individuals and organizations work, identify values and practices that produce inclusive collective identities, and underline the complexity of social movement dynamics—how culture interacts with many factors that shape movements (identity, political context, threats, and resources) to inform coalition building.

Working across lines is essential to building the broad-based movement necessary to address the climate crisis. The methods provided by this book for doing so in both liberal and conservative contexts will help diverse communities, especially those most affected by fossil fuels and climate change, build a collective identity and movement towards climate justice. While focused on coalitions promoting anti-fracking ballot measures and legislation, battling transportation of tar sands equipment, and organizing students in fossil fuel divestment campaigns, the lessons from Working Across Lines apply to broader contexts, providing helpful models for how to work across difference to define and realize common goals. Its contributions are therefore of interest for environmental studies scholars, environmental sociologists, social movement scholars, undergraduate and graduate students, activists, and anyone who wants to understand how to overcome polarization to work for the common good.

Read a sample here. The sample includes the introduction with a detailed explanation of each chapter, Chapter 3, Idaho Part 1: Talking across Political Lines by Building Relationships and the first few pages of Chapter 6, Working Across Organizational Lines: Grassroots and Grasstops Tensions and Possibilities, and Chapter 8, Lessons from Measure P and the Megaloads: Native-Non-Native and Latinx-White Coalition Outcomes.

Latest Research: Building Just Energy Futures: Native Leadership

Resistance

The Line 3 Pipeline was approved in June 2018 and started running oil in fall 2021 in Minnesota, my new home. The pipeline carries carbon intensive tar sands in a time when all science says we must keep fossil fuels in the ground. It continues ongoing exploitation of Indigenous communities, crossing Anishinaabe treaty territories, multiple reservations, and sacred manoomin or wild rice beds. Brigid Mark, Melissa Burrell, and I have been engaging in solidarity work with organizations resisting the pipeline (Honor the Earth, MN350, White Earth Nation) and writing about Native leadership in the movement and petro-hegemony, the strategies that the fossil fuel industry uses to maintain its power. Read our 2022 paper Resistance to petro-hegemony: A three terrains of power analysis of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota” in Energy Research and Social Science (free download for 50 days; otherwise, email me if you do not have access).

Creation

How do Native communities participate in and lead renewable energy projects in the U.S? What are best practices for enabling Indigenous-led renewable energy projects? What are barriers to effective implementation? The goal of this research is to support the expansion of renewable investments in and by Native communities.

Native and non-Native organizations in Minnesota are working together to spearhead clean and just alternatives to oil. Honor the Earth partnered with the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) to build 8th Fire Solar (great 6 min video on it here), a Native-run solar thermal panel manufacturing facility on the White Earth Nation, employing White Earth people. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe also worked with RREAL to install solar on their tribal buildings. Students of the Leech Lake Tribal College earned their solar installation licenses during the installation of the panels and revenue from the energy helps low-income Native households pay their electricity bills. Red Lake tribal member Robert Blake founded the non-profit Native Sun Community Power Development, and Solar Bear, the only Native or person of color owned solar installation company in Minnesota. Solar Bear challenges the prison industrial complex through its Just Solar Returning Citizens Initiative to employ formerly incarcerated individuals. Native Sun and partners just received a Department of Energy award for the Upper Midwest Inter-Tribal Electric Vehicle Charging Community Network to construct electric vehicle charging routes connecting Native Nations from Red Lake to Standing Rock. In collaboration with Robert Blake, I am beginning new research to explore Native-led renewables to understand the challenges these projects face and the most effective approaches for ensuring their success.