Current Projects

Building Just Energy Futures

How do different groups work together to stop fossil fuel infrastructure and build renewable futures? The Line 3 Pipeline was approved in June 2018 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 wild rice beds. Honor the Earth, whose mission is to “create awareness and support for Native environmental issues and to develop needed financial and political resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities” plays a lead role in resistance to Line 3, which is ongoing. I seek to understand how Honor the Earth worked and works with other environmental and social justice groups in MN. I am particularly interested in experiences of Native-lead groups working with non-Native groups, such as 350 Minnesota, who were also engaged in resistance to the pipeline. Honor the Earth has also constructed a Native-run solar thermal panel manufacturing facility on the White Earth Nation, called 8th Fire Solar (great 6 min video on it here). My future research will explore Native-led renewables to understand the challenges these projects face and the most effective approaches for ensuring their success.

Working Across Lines: Resisting Extreme Energy Extraction in Idaho and California (book manuscript based on doctoral research)

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.