In 2011, DTE Energy removed 1,200 street lights in Highland Park, Michigan. Detroit’s black working-class suburb was once a thriving town for the auto industry, and Highland Park was on the brink of bankruptcy. Unable to pay the $4 million owed by DTE, the city was plunged into darkness.
Removing street lights was part of a decision agreed upon by DTE and city leaders to resolve outstanding payments. Literally, without light, residents are left to find solutions. In the weeks and months that followed, Soulardarity, a local group promoting “people-centred clean energy,” came forward. The answer: solar powered Wi-Fi street lights. Using affordable technology and the help of local companies, Soulardarity is gradually revitalizing the Highland Park neighborhood.
This week at RE:WIRED Green, Sarah Shanley Hope, VP of Narrative Strategies for the Solutions Project, and actress Regina Hall talk about events like Highland Park The importance of the story – and why more is needed now is so critical.
“The person closest to the problem is also the person who finds the solution first,” Hope said. “In our country and in the world, when you think about the compound crisis and the consequences of racial capitalism, you are solving multiple problems at once. When building communities, solar panels or renewable energy as a climate solution are also seen as Good strategies for job creation that lead to more positive health in the community. This is the opportunity we have – to see multiple solutions happening on the front lines of the crisis.”
Hall is a creative partner and donor to The Solutions Project, which reaches a human level. In times like ours – inflation, rising gasoline prices, and many households struggling to pay utility bills – the smallest burden increases. “When you have alternatives, you can get some financial rewards that help,” Hall said. “We often feel like everything is beyond our control, and it’s so heartening and hopeful when you see the community saying ‘this has happened, but we can put the power back in our hands’.” .. ….this is victory. “
An important part of the Solutions Project effort is to reframe the story around climate justice. The organization helps focus on the work grassroots changemakers are doing in front-line communities, in Richmond and Neighborhoods like Brooklyn, where Black and Latino residents often feel the brunt of climate inequality.
Addressing neighborhood-level issues in seemingly impossible situations, Hope explained , creating avenues for “building power” and “transforming state [and] federal policy”—as happened with the Justice 40 initiative and the Reduction Act, both of which seek to reduce environmental impacts in already impacted communities Damage.
Solardarity’s story is not an exception. Thousands of people love it. Still, that doesn’t stop the spread of lies. “It’s in the climate movement A major misconception — that the community is waiting for someone else to come,” Hope said of the oft-used victim narrative. “But that’s not the case. ” She said that the work was done.