For more background
Learn more about the work May is doing with 350.org here.
In this episode, we share inspiration from organizations like the Youth Cimate Movement, Afrika Vuka, and Global Power Shift.
May shares her experiences with 350 Celebration and Dr. Kumi Naidoo.
She also references The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson and faith-based climate activism groups like Interfaith Power and Light, GreenFaith, and Faith in Action.
May Boeve: So much of the social change we need to make to confront climate change requires community structures, requires people working together to make change. And you can create new structures, and a lot of people do, but there are also a lot of existing structures, and a lot of them are tied to church and faith in some way.
Debra Rienstra: Welcome to Refugia, a podcast about renewal. Refugia are places of shelter where life endures in times of crisis. From out of these small sanctuaries, life re-emerges and the world is renewed. We’re exploring what it means for people of faith to be people of Refugia. How can we create safe places of flourishing—”micro countercultures” where we gain strength and spiritual capacity to face the challenges ahead?
I’m Debra Rienstra, professor of English at Calvin University. Today I have the privilege of talking with May Boeve. May is one of the founders of 350.org, an international climate action organization that describes itself as an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community led renewable energy for all. By creating connections across the globe, 350.org catalyzes action, creates policy strategies, and provides resources.
May has been executive director of 350.org since she was 27 years old. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. And in 2015, she was named a next generation leader by Time magazine. I talk with May about the problem of scaling up local solutions, about prophetic speech, the passion of young activists, and the joy of helping people find each other as they work toward a shared vision. And we reflect on her lifelong Christian faith, which gives her courage and a Spirit-filled passion for change that strengthens her even amid weariness.
Debra Rienstra: May, thank you so much for being with me today.
May Boeve: Thanks for having me.
Debra Rienstra: It’s great to have you, and I really appreciate your taking the time to talk today. So let’s start with right where you are. What’s a typical day like for you? What are you up to today, and what does it look like day to day to run an international climate action organization?
May Boeve: Well, I think the most important thing to understand about my typical day is the time zones and being 100% remote in a global organization. So that means that I am meeting with people in all kinds of countries at all different times of the day. Just to give an example, our leadership team includes people who are based in California—that’s me—the UK, the Netherlands, Fiji, and right now, one of us is in India. So getting a time that works for all of us to be together is never easy.
Debra Rienstra: So are you calling people in the middle of the night for you? Do you mess up? Do people like mess up and miss their times?
May Boeve: Not that much anymore, I gotta say. But it just mostly means for me that my days start pretty early. So, you know, I spend the early morning with my daughter before she goes to daycare, and then I tend to start my days around seven or eight in the morning. I probably spend four or five hours a day on zoom. And that includes things like checking in to see how people are doing, how various parts of our work are going, projects that we’re working on, things we’re getting started, fundraising, lots of work with our board and our leadership teams. And then I try to keep a lot of my time free to meet with partners and other colleagues in the wider climate movement. So later today, I’m having lunch with an old, old friend who really helped get the Youth Climate Movement in the U.S. organized back in the mid two-thousands. So I really try to keep in touch to hear what other people are working on and thinking about. That really gives me a lot of energy, and I love that aspect of my schedule.
Debra Rienstra: It’s just a fascinating world that we live in, that you are part of a node in this network of international connections, and that a lot of your job is relational like that, but the way it just sort of nets over the whole globe is really fascinating.
I’m hoping that as we talk today about the refugia idea, we can focus on that question of scale. So, you know I’ve been exploring this concept of refugia: the idea that people of faith can imagine themselves as cultivators of refugia spaces, which are, by definition, small and local, and yet we’re facing this urgent, global climate crisis. So organizations like 350.org represent what I’m thinking of as this kind of crucial counterargument to the refugia model, and that is that refugia are just too small and too slow. They are not enough to move the needle. So this is an argument I’m well aware of—it kind of haunts me. So I’d like to begin with this kind of long quote from AOC (Representative Ocasio-Cortez). It’s a quote I wouldn’t have known about except that you retweeted it. I’m going to read it, and then I’m going to ask you to respond to it, if that’s okay. So here’s the quote.
She wrote: “What I sometimes tell my staff is that the world we are fighting for is already here. It exists in small spaces, places, and communities. We don’t have to deal with the insurmountable burden of coming up with novel solutions to all the world’s problems. Much of our work is about scaling existing solutions, many created by small, committed groups of people that others haven’t seen or don’t even know are around the corner. So while we can’t change the world in a day,” she says, “we can and do have the power to make our own world within our four walls, within our own blocks. We can grow from there, with the faith that somewhere out there, everywhere, others are doing the same, and we will come together.”
So that’s the quotation, and that is just classic refugia thinking. And since you retweeted it, it must be that the ideas there have some appeal for you. So what I want to ask is: will we, though? Will we come together fast enough? Powerfully enough? In other words, how do you think about that problem of scale? How do you think about bridging that crucial gap between doing things on a small, manageable scale and this urgent need for concerted, global action.
May Boeve: Yeah. I mean, this is probably the place that my thinking has changed the most since getting involved in the climate movement as a young person because the rate of warming is so fast. I mean, we’re talking against the backdrop of massive heat waves in much of the Global North right now, and the chances of keeping temperature rise to one-and-a-half degrees Celsius are getting lower every year. And so there’s no question that the scale we are currently operating under politically is not fast enough. I think what I’m trying to grapple with in my own work and my own life is what scale can humans change? And that’s why I loved what AOC wrote, because I think the context of that quote—you know, it’s been a really, really hard few weeks in the U.S., politically. We’re in Supreme Court decision-making season. And this season we got the overturning of Roe V. Wade. We got a terrible climate decision in the EPA v. West Virginia. They’re going after voting rights. There’s been a number of mass shootings, including of young children.
So it’s just been an onslaught. And here you have someone who I greatly admire, AOC, trying to govern in this context and trying to continue to be the inspiration that she is for so much of the movement. And so when I saw her post this in this context where we are just feeling so desperate for solutions, I felt a lot of comfort because I’m thinking, “Okay, she sees this too.” And a lot of what I think is powerful about what she said and what you’re thinking about is: it’s maybe less the scale of how many people are involved. It’s more the ideas that can emerge.
And what I understood her as saying is the burden of this moment is not to create exactly what has to happen. It’s to improve upon what is being experimented on already by a lot of people. We just have to pay attention, and we have to stay connected. And when we hear, “Oh, here’s what this incredible person in this state is doing to try to continue providing abortion services. Here’s what this community is doing over here to make sure that their wind turbines are being built and their fossil fuel projects are being stopped. Let’s do more of that. To me, that is really helpful. And for activists and leaders, where you often feel the pressure of having to have a plan, it can always be helpful to remember that you are simultaneously working in a community of people who have a lot of plans.
Debra Rienstra: So the idea, the theme of connection and simultaneity, it seems to me are really important here. And also just the way I’ve been thinking about—like what good is the small scale? I love the way you’re drawing out the idea that that’s where ideas emerge. And then that’s also where people feel they have agency. And if we don’t feel we have agency, then you kind of fall into this doom-ism. So those two things are so important: that small-scale creativity, and then that feeling of agency and of doing something.
But you sit at this place with 350.org where you’re trying to make those connections. So do you feel that as a responsibility, do you feel that as energizing? How does it feel to be in that space of being one of the people that’s making all those connections?
May Boeve: Well, the connecting is what I’m most passionate about. It’s what I most enjoy doing. So that’s what contributes energy to me. And that’s the part I like the most—being able to necessarily read the signals, you know, of what’s bubbling up in different places, and therefore, there some kind of trend that’s linking the movement? That can be harder work, but connecting groups to each other, connecting people who see the world similarly or are doing similar work—I love to do that. And you know, I could spend all my time doing that. And it’s already quite a lot of what I end up doing.
Debra Rienstra: Give us a couple examples of connections that 350.org was able to make that you felt like, “Ah, this was a wonderful thing that we did to put these people together or to put this idea in that context.”
May Boeve: I think one of the most important contributions has been community groups that are successfully stopping fossil fuel projects all over the world, and connecting people who are doing that, creating a sense of identity of this—we used to call it the fossil fuel resistance, but you know, it goes by different names. But I think that has been tremendously significant for a couple of reasons. First, you feel very isolated in a struggle like that, when in fact the dimensions of an individual battle against a coal plant are often very similar. So, we work a lot with—someone who’s actually on our board now is involved in stopping coal projects in Ghana such that there is not a single coal plant in Ghana. There’s an opportunity for that country to leapfrog coal entirely towards clean energy. There are a lot of other countries that haven’t built a coal plant, particularly in the Global South. And so there’s real power in that sense of “stop it before it starts” and a sense of pride that your country can do that. So there’s been a lot of work to build a platform of activists that we call Afrika Vuka, which includes about 150 community groups throughout the continent who are all connected with one another, who attend trainings, who are building relationships with each other to say, “Okay, what you did in Ghana is really compelling to me in Mozambique for this reason, and how can I learn what you did?”
Debra Rienstra: So to be able to point to another country and say, “Well, they did it, so we can do it too.” Yeah. That’s really powerful.
So 350.org began as this tiny group of college students at Middlebury College in Vermont, working with Bill McKibben back in 2007 or 2008—I’ve seen different versions of when 350.org actually began, but we’ll let you correct that. And you’ve been with them ever since, and now you’re running this organization with a budget of something over 20 million and 140 or so employees, thousands of volunteers, all the challenges and complications of a big organization. Do you ever miss the old days?
May Boeve: It’s a really nice thing to think about. And I’m the kind of person who really likes to build things, so there’s nothing quite like the early days of starting out on a path and you don’t know where it’s gonna lead. So that was very special. And you know, that time will never be repeated, so that’s a different thing. And I loved it and, you know, add to that being really young and fairly naive and the thrill of that, and honestly the relative comfort and ease of that.
But I think of it now as, you know, a question of life stages. And so it’s not necessarily a nostalgia for what things were because I love how things have evolved. You’re only at the beginning of something once, and then you create new beginnings. So now it’s about thinking about, yeah, where does the organization grow? What is the next aspect of the climate fight that we really want to take on? And so there are new beginnings even in that love.
Debra Rienstra: Is there anything that today-you would go back and tell 2007-you?
May Boeve: Oh, so many things, but it would really be of a piece, because there is—I mean, I so appreciate this about young activists in movements, because they are so clear about what has to happen. They are not interested in the barriers. I think that that energy is essential to effective movements. I wouldn’t tell myself about those barriers, but I think the number one thing would be encouraging myself to realize that there were other people who were having similar ideas at the same time—so back to that concept of simultaneity—and particularly young people without the privileges that our group had.
I think that we really wanted to create something new and that’s a natural tendency, but if we could have found ways to even more link up with what was already there, that would be even more powerful. And that was a lot of what we did. I mean, we organized a global day of action that had 5,000 events all over the world. So the whole point of it was: connect up these groups of climate activists. But I think at the time it felt like we were inventing something rather than cohering something. That coherence and that sense of humility would’ve helped me in my own work on anti-racism earlier in my life, because I think we were part of a mostly white, college-educated group in the U.S., and that filters how you see the world. So I wish that I was more aware of that at the time.
Debra Rienstra: Mm, mm-hmm. Yeah. Looking back over all these years, what is one moment that you treasure, especially as this sweet, sweet moment of victory or community or something else that just seems really precious to you now?
May Boeve: Yeah. We organized a conference in 2013 called Global Power Shift, which was a global training of youth climate activists, and we brought 500 people from 135 countries to Istanbul, Turkey. For many of us, we’d never been in a space with that many people from that many countries. And so that was just full of magic.
But there was this one moment where one of the activists from Vietnam played a video—a music video—that she had commissioned, of a Vietnamese pop star who wrote a song called 350 Celebration. And she played it, and the entire global group started dancing to this song, and it was this incredibly joyous moment. It was actually a pretty good song. We all looked at each other and thought, “Wow, okay, this is much better than we thought it was gonna be.” And we still play it. We still love it. But you know, there was nothing like the first time you hear it, and looking around in this incredible group—there were a lot of moments at that conference. I remember one of our speakers was Kumi Naidoo, who at the time was running Greenpeace International. And he had been mentored by Nelson Mandela, and Nelson Mandela was dying right around the time of this conference. And I just remember feeling part of this arc of movement history with the elders and the young people and the people in between. And you know, that kind of thing is very special as well.
Debra Rienstra: Yeah. That moment where you sense this continuity in this really spontaneous moment. Wonderful.
May Boeve: Yeah.
Debra Rienstra: So your father is a retired United Church of Christ pastor, and I have it on good authority that your Christian faith is important to you. So could you talk a little bit about how your faith influences the work you’re doing?
May Boeve: So I have many pastors on both sides of my family going back a long time. I definitely feel like it’s in that sense, you know, through the generations. And over the years, my faith has become even more important to me. Particularly now what I’m reflecting on is: how can my faith help me be more equipped to pay attention to the seriousness of the climate crisis and other related existential threats? I think that, you know, it’s a blessing to have been a climate activist for a long time, because I’m not—I’ve processed a lot of the despair around it because I’ve just been in it for a long time. And even so, the science is getting much more serious, and there’s a lot more of it. We know a lot more now than we did when I got involved and I want to be able to understand it and to help that shape the work that we do at 350.
And my ability to look into the abyss, so to speak, is entirely related to having some sense of faith that the world will go on, that I will go on. So that’s what I’ve been reflecting about a lot lately, and I actually had the opportunity to speak about that in my church a few weeks ago, which was really powerful. I spoke about a conference that I’m going to in a couple of weeks that’s focused on the term “the polycrisis,” which is a new term to me, but it’s basically a workshop for scientists and activists to look at scenarios and compare with each other how we make sense of them, how we make meaning of it. And what I said to the congregation was I’m one of the youngest people attending, and I’m 38. And they intentionally kept younger people from coming because they felt that they could only do that safely if they had a certain amount of therapeutic support on hand, which they weren’t prepared to do. So, that just tells you much this crisis rests on the young. I think it’s important for people to understand that about young people today.
Debra Rienstra: Yeah. Yeah. So you’re thinking that your faith is supporting you as you say, as you kind of look into the abyss and think, “But the abyss isn’t all there is.”
May Boeve: Yes. Yes. And there have been other, you know, and every time I think people often feel like it’s the end of the world. There’s this wonderful book, which you probably know, called Ministry for the Future. But in there, I learned this phrase “structures of feeling,” I believe. And it’s a concept that explains that basically everyone thinks their time is the worst time.
Debra Rienstra: Mm.
May Boeve: And I find that oddly comforting. It’s just part of being alive. So I think that faith and that understanding that that’s kind of part of what it’s like to be human is helpful.
Debra Rienstra: Yeah. So let’s talk about prophetic speech. So some large percentage of your role is about speaking truth to power. And I wonder if you think of yourself sometimes as a prophetic speaker and whether that’s in some way connected to your faith too.
May Boeve: I had not until my former minister pointed this out to me, and it was actually a really helpful connection to draw because when you are speaking truth to power and power doesn’t seem to be paying attention to you, you begin to doubt the value of prophetic speech, but being able to label it was really helpful for me because it reminded me that it is an important tool in and of itself. And so I have been really interested in the role of prophets, and I think when we think about what I consider to be, you know, our enemies—in the fossil fuel industry or, you know, the greed machine that is profiting off of destruction—they are highly powerful, and their ability to speak and to use communication, to keep us all hooked on their worldview is so influential. So I think that there’s no doubt that the way we communicate, the way we use our speech, has largely been used against us, but there is a way to change that.
And so I think about it in that sense, and I also think that prophetic speech has to be coupled with community organizing and relationships. And, you know, there’s a role for the voice on the mountaintop who has a vision. And then there’s a role for coming down into the valley and understanding how people are taking in what you’ve said. And I’ve gotten this feedback a lot over the years as a leader in an organization where, because of the structure of organizations and being the executive director, you’re often focused more outside than inside. Sometimes what you’re hearing and thinking about, suddenly starts to make sense based on all these conversations you have with people outside the organization, you then need to bring it in and see: how does it connect with the people that you are actually in relationship with, collaborating with, on a day-to-day basis? So I’m trying to learn about how to do both of those things without weakening the power of either one in and of itself.
Debra Rienstra: Yeah. So what you described in terms of the power of discourse—in literature, we call that discursive hegemony.
May Boeve: Mm. Yes. I like that
Debra Rienstra: The fossil fuel industry has this kind of discursive hegemony. And so one of the roles of prophetic speech is to puncture that and disrupt it. And that puncturing and disrupting is a different function from what you would maybe do inside your organization. So that’s interesting that you would think about both that outward facing and that inward facing, and it does strike me that the biblical prophets really didn’t have that aspect, necessarily. I mean, maybe Moses did.
May Boeve: I really love reading the epistles, you know, because to me, those are organizing documents. It’s like, “Okay, I’m gonna translate the message to your church and I’m gonna try to customize it to your congregation.” And, you know, I really study them from that point of view. So I think there is a link there somehow.
Debra Rienstra: Oh, fascinating. Yeah. And I suppose the writers of the epistles were dealing with a different kind of discursive hegemony in their own day. On the other hand, the discursive hegemony of the Roman empire probably isn’t that different from the empires we are facing today.
May Boeve: It’s probably a very good analogue.
Debra Rienstra: Yeah. So you have this amazing perspective working with young people from around the planet—not exclusively young people, but a lot of young people. So what would you like to communicate to young people? Maybe especially young people of faith. I’ll suggest, you know, tell us three important messages, but there’s nothing magical about three. If you have fewer or more, that’s fine. But three important messages to communicate to young people—from your perspective, what you’re seeing going on around the planet.
May Boeve: The first is that my faith has changed a lot over the years. And at first I found that confusing, and now I find that really helpful, because I found that my connection to my faith, how important it is to me, has kind of come in and out like a wave, but that it’s always there deep down. And that is a tremendous blessing. And that, you know, over the years for me, faith and religion have come together or come apart. And there’s so many examples, I think from religion that can almost poison your faith. And it’s hard to understand, I think, when you’re young, if you have an experience in a church and maybe you don’t want to go to church anymore, what does that mean about your faith? Do you still have a faith? Do you still pray? I used to find that hard to understand.
And because of that, and I think because of so many people’s negative associations with religion, Christianity specifically, it’s taken me years to feel comfortable talking out loud about being a person of faith, especially in what I find to be very secular activist spaces. And that had everything to do with how religion is typically practiced, and so I let that kind of define my experience and now I realize I don’t have to, and I’ve found numerous churches that share my political values, my ethical values.
I sometimes talk to my husband about this phrase, “10,000 hours.” If you spent 10,000 hours doing something, you really know it deeply. And for me, that’s church! I’ve spent so many hours in church. And so it is always going to feel very comforting to me in that, to know those rituals, to be in that space. But you know, it took me until I was in my mid-thirties to really find a church community where I really felt like I belonged. And so I think for young people of faith: understanding that it can take a while, it’s okay to feel kind of lost before you end up in a destination that feels right for you.
Debra Rienstra: Well, and I think as you’ve observed too, I’m sure, a lot of young people are in this place of disruption—sometimes it’s called deconstruction—where they’re just wondering about the structures that they’re used to, congregations and denominations, and in so many ways, they—I’m generalizing here—but young people have seen those structures as failing them. And one example of that is ignoring the climate crisis—denying, ignoring, being apathetic about the climate crisis—whereas this is, as you mentioned before, this existential reality for young people. They feel the weight of it. So it does seem to me there’s an opportunity there, and this is something maybe we’ll talk about all season on this podcast.
There’s such an opportunity for churches and faith groups to say, “Ah, we hear you. We are in on this too. Yes, let’s work together.” And that can give young people a sense of, “Oh, maybe these structures are not hopeless, and I’m not left to, you know, walking in the woods, thinking about God all by myself. You know, maybe there are organizations and communities I can connect with and find a home in a different way from what I thought religion had to be.”
May Boeve: Absolutely. I think that’s beautifully said. And I think that so much of the social change we need to make to confront climate change requires community structures, requires people working together to make change. And you can create new structures, and a lot of people do, but there are also a lot of existing structures, and a lot of them are tied to church and faith in some way. And some of the best organizing I’ve ever witnessed comes out of church. I mean, there would be no Civil Rights movement in the United States if not for the Black church and its structures. And that’s one of the best examples, or that’s one of the examples I’m most familiar with.
We took a lot of inspiration from that in the early days of 350—is how did people organize in their communities, and how did they confront power structures and create policy change? And what would that look like if we did that for climate action? And so I think you’re exactly right, and there are wonderful organizations that do this all the time, like Interfaith Power and Light and GreenFaith and Faith in Action. It’s just, it’s a really rich tradition, and when you’re feeling so desperate about climate change and you want to do something, there’s a lot of power in being part of something that exists.
Debra Rienstra: Yeah, yeah. So you’re living in California, that’s where you were raised. And I wonder if climate change has become personal for you. Are there places that you love that are currently under threat from climate impacts?
May Boeve: Yeah. And I was honestly surprised how personal climate change for me because I work in a global organization, and because I’ve been so impacted by the sense of inequity at the heart of the climate crisis about who’s already affected. I didn’t think that in, you know, the place I grew up, in a lot of privilege, was going to be on that list. And lo and behold, Sonoma, California, where I was born, made international news because of its fires fueled by climate change. So it’s absolutely become personal for me. You know, the places that I love in California—one of them is the brown hills of Sonoma. People who think of California a certain way—it’s often very surprising to visit and see that in the summer, the hills are brown. And it’s something I love about the place I’m from, and it’s a reason why it’s very vulnerable to fires in a time of drought.
And another part of California I love is the ocean, and the ocean is warming. The reefs are dying. It’s getting more acidic. It’s not the ocean it was last year or a thousand years ago. It changes dramatically and yet it retains its tremendous beauty. And then just this past week, there was a big fire in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite, which is a grove of giant sequoias, which I visited for the first time when I was probably in my twenties, and then my family and I went back there with my daughter when she was very little. Our first big family trip was to Yosemite because I wanted her to be part of this incredible place. And we went to the Mariposa Grove and the idea that it could be gone was very, very sad to me. But I should say that it didn’t burn down and I also felt very uplifted thinking about the fact that these oldest living creatures on earth withstood this latest threat and what can we learn from them?
Debra Rienstra: Yeah. They’re bearing witness to all of our vulnerability, I suppose.
May Boeve: Absolutely.
Debra Rienstra: Yeah. So in an interview, you were once talking about hope and despair, which everybody who works in climate is always asked about. This was an interview with Bioneers, and I really appreciated what you said. This is what you said: “Especially for me, born with many privileges, to give up hope and give into despair seems an abuse of those privileges. When so many people who are living in targeted communities remain hopeful and vigilant in their own struggles.” So hope and despair, both super complicated.
But I’m actually interested in asking you about weariness because you’ve been in advocacy for a long time. Since, as a kid, you wrote President Bush about animal rights back in the day, the first president Bush. And I’m sure you must become weary sometimes. So what are your strategies to keep going? What pulls you onward? Yeah.
May Boeve: I so appreciate that. And I think weariness is much more interesting to talk about and much more practical than hope and despair. And I certainly feel weary. Sometimes I don’t have as much energy as I used to, especially since my daughter was born. I just don’t have as many hours in the day to recharge. And being with her and taking care of her brings so much joy and is incredibly life-giving. So I’m learning that there are different kinds of weariness and that’s helpful to learn about as we get, as I get older.
But you know, some of my strategies are talking to people and making connections. And I think one of my greatest gifts is how passionate I feel about change. And so, you know, I was thinking about that, and for me, when we talk about what it feels like when the Spirit moves you, it’s that. It’s that sense of passion that comes from being in a conversation with someone about what we could do together or something they’re thinking about or a problem that needs to be solved. And it literally fills me up and gives me energy and it’s not every conversation, but I find that that reserve is very present and available to me. And that helps a lot.
And I also, I have learned over the years that I need to rest when I’m tired and really just listen to myself when I’m flagging and I don’t have that passion and it’s not coming to me. And it’s not because I’m not passionate. It’s because I’m tired.
Debra Rienstra: Yeah. And that’s hard when you are working on a problem that is really limitless. And you think, you know, “If I sit down for five minutes, you know, everything’s gonna spin out of control.” But there are others, there are others doing it. And to be connected to them is one of the things that keeps us going. Yeah. So what are some big initiatives that 350.org is working on now, and how can listeners get involved?
May Boeve: So I think the most exciting thing we’re working on right now is imagining our way into more work on climate solutions. Because we’ve been so focused on the role of the fossil fuel industry. And I think that we’re finally—it’s finally starting to break through with the public, that there is an entity out there that’s trying to burn up every last bit of fossil fuel on the planet and that that’s what’s driving climate change, and believe it or not, that was not widely understood that long ago. And so we’ve really dedicated a lot of our energy to that. And I think it’s been really important and there’s still a long way to go. And at this time in the movement where there is so much despair, I do feel as if there is a deep need for more climate activists to feel connected to alternatives and solutions.
And I think it’s essential for all of us to keep going, which is what we have to do. And the fossil fuel industry benefits tremendously from making people think that we have no alternative. And so if you look at a given community trying to, say, build a new wind farm off the coast, it’s so complicated. There’s so many details you have to think about with the utilities, and how big are the turbines going to be, and will it impact fishing, and on and on and on. And you can kind of get lost in it and say, “Well, geez, maybe this is too hard.” And that’s exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants. Because meanwhile, they’re desecrating land somewhere else. It’s already happening. And it’s often poor people and people of color who have that in their backyards. And so I’m really interested in, and what we’re deep in thought working on, is how can we put more of our energy towards the solution side of things?
And those, you know, those refugia groups all over the world, how can we support the ones who are really trying to develop community-owned power? So I’m—that’s what we’re stuck into at the moment. And I think that that could really be an important shape for us moving forward. And in terms of how listeners can get involved, I don’t know how people, you know, reach out to you, but I’m so interested in examples of community-renewable energy and, you know, have you been able to successfully put a solar plant/solar panel on your school? Are you part of an electric co-op? You know, what, what have you seen happen in your community, and can there be more of it?
Debra Rienstra: Yeah. So we’re back to AOC’s “doing it on your own block.”
May Boeve: Yeah. Doing it on your own block and, and of course—so that’s a big part of it. And in the meantime, we’re still focusing a lot on the fossil fuel industry itself because they remain tremendously powerful, but we think that this might be the ultimate way to disrupt them.
Debra Rienstra: I’ve been thinking a lot about the dialectic between the fight and the vision, and both have to continue. There has to be this fight that’s maintained, but also at the same time, the positing of the vision toward which we’re working. Otherwise you get embroiled in the fight and you wake up one day and ask, “Why am I doing this again?” And you need that. You need that vision to pull you forward.
May Boeve: Yeah, exactly.
Debra Rienstra: May, I’m so grateful for your work and your witness as a person of faith and the ways that you make these connections among people all over the globe—empowering them, encouraging them, and making so much possible that wasn’t possible before. So thank you so much for what you do, and thank you for spending time with me today.
May Boeve: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Debra Rienstra: The Refugia Podcast is produced with support from the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship. Our audio editors are Ian Gilbert and Kathryn Gardner. Our text editor is Michal Rubingh. If you enjoyed this episode, please help other listeners discover us. Write a review on your podcast platform or share this episode through social media. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter @RefugiaPodcast. You can also visit our website at refugiapodcast.com where you can explore links and transcripts from this and all our episodes. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter at Debra K. Rienstra. That’s D E B R A K. R I E N S T R A. As always, thanks for listening.