Jennie C. Stephens is my guest on this episode of Inside Ideas. Jennie is the Director of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Dean’s Professor of Sustainability Science & Policy at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. She is also the Director for Strategic Research Collaborations at Northeastern University’s Global Resilience Institute, and is affiliated with the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the department of Cultures, Societies & Global Studies.
Her research, teaching, and community engagement focus on integrating social justice, feminist, and anti-racist perspectives into climate and energy resilience, social and political aspects of the renewable energy transition, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, energy democracy, gender in energy and climate, and climate and energy justice. Her unique transdisciplinary approach integrates innovations in social science and public policy with science and engineering to promote social justice, reduce inequalities and redistribute power: electric power, economic power and political power. In her most recent book Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and Energy published by Island Press in 2020, she argues that effectively addressing climate change requires diversifying leadership, redistributing wealth and power, and moving beyond mainstream male-dominated technocratic solutions to climate change. Throughout her career she has explored institutional and cultural innovation in the energy sector, including gender diversity, energy democracy, and technological optimism as well as the ‘usability’ of climate science in climate resilience efforts.
And Jennie believes the time is right for the scale of societal transformation to happen that can effectively tackle challenges like the climate crisis.
“I have studied how big societal change happens. In order to have big transitions the academic theory is you need disruptions and disruptions at multiple levels. So you need the status quo to be distributed, which is where we are right now because of the pandemic and some other factors. Our day-to-day normal has been disrupted and everyone can feel that,” Jennie said. “Then you need some macro level disruptions, that could be the climate crisis. And at the same time you need local, innovative niche experimentation, a grassroots activism – and I see that as well. So I am optimistic about restructuring and a transformation of society. I think there are enough of us who are committed and passionate, creative and innovative – and we are networked and we can increasingly be networked with each other and support each other.”
Jennie has written on these topics for publications including Science and the Wall Street Journal and I am delighted to welcome her as today’s guest on Inside Ideas.
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