PROTECT, REPAIR, INVEST, TRANSFORM
The intersecting crises of income and wealth inequality and climate change, driven by systemic white supremacy and gender inequality, has exposed the frailty of the U.S. economy and democracy. This document was prepared during the COVID-19 pandemic which exacerbated these existing crises and underlying conditions. Democratic processes have been undermined at the expense of people’s jobs, health, safety, and dignity. Moreover, government support has disproportionately expanded and boosted the private sector through policies, including bailouts, that serve an extractive economy and not the public’s interest. Our elected leaders have chosen not to invest in deep, anti-racist democratic processes. They have chosen not to uphold public values, such as fairness and equity, not to protect human rights and the vital life cycles of nature and ecosystems. Rather, our elected leaders have chosen extraction and corporate control at the expense of the majority of the people and the well-being and rights of Mother Earth. Transforming our economy is not just about swapping out elected leaders. We also need a shift in popular consciousness.
There are moments of clarity that allow for society to challenge popular thinking and status quo solutions. Within all the challenges that this pandemic has created, it has also revealed what is wrong with the extractive economy while showcasing the innate resilience, common care, and original wisdom that we hold as people. Environmental justice and frontline communities are all too familiar with crisis and systemic injustices and have long held solutions to what is needed to not only survive, but also thrive as a people, as a community, and as a global family. We cannot go back to how things were. We must move forward. We are at a critical moment to make a downpayment on a Regenerative Economy, while laying the groundwork for preventing future crises.
To do so, we say—listen to the frontlines! Indigenous Peoples, as members of their Indigenous sovereign nations, Asian and Pacific Islander, Black, Brown and poor white marginalized communities must be heard, prioritized, and invested in if we are to successfully build a thriving democracy and society in the face of intersecting climate, environmental, economic, social, and health crises. A just and equitable society requires bottom-up processes built off of, and in concert with, existing organizing initiatives in a given community. It must be rooted in a people’s solutions lens for a healthy future and Regenerative Economy. These solutions must be inclusive—leaving no one behind in both process and outcome. Thus, frontline communities must be at the forefront as efforts grow to advance a Just Transition to a Regenerative Economy.
A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy offers community groups, policy advocates, and policymakers a pathway to solutions that work for frontline communities and workers. These ideas have been collectively strategized by community organizations and leaders from across multiple frontline and grassroots networks and alliances to ensure that regenerative economic solutions and ecological justice—under a framework that challenges capitalism and both white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy—are core to any and all policies. These policies must be enacted, not only at the federal level, but also at the local, state, tribal, and regional levels, in US Territories, and internationally.
FRONTLINE GREEN NEW DEAL & CLIMATE AND REGENERATIVE ECONOMIC POLICY SUMMIT
The People’s Orientation was first envisioned in the summer of 2019 in Detroit, Michigan, when 64 organizations came together and identified green lines (what we want), yellow lines (what we’re still questioning), and red lines (what we say no to) for GND policies. This was a tool that was originally shared by People’s Action to workshop in Detroit. This powerful gathering was put together by Climate Justice Alliance, It Takes Roots, People’s Action, and East Michigan Environmental Action Council to build political power for the frontlines for 2020 and beyond.
HOW TO USE THIS RESOURCE TO ENHANCE YOUR WORK
The five points of intervention serve as a guide and pathway to develop our narrative, shape our organizing, design and develop the policies required to uplift our people and communities, while ensuring that we place good actors into positions of power who will serve us through just implementation. We reserve the right to utilize and unleash our power through direct action when necessary to establish and maintain universal and bi-lateral accountability.
A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy offers three dynamic tools to advance these interventions. First, we offer a series of questions to inform narrative and policy development for Just Transition and Regenerative Economy. Second, to advance this transition, we provide a framework: Protect, Repair, Invest, and Transform. This framework offers overarching demands, non-negotiables, and solutions. Lastly, we present over eighty policy ideas broken into fourteen planks. These fourteen planks are deeply intertwined and should be held as a collective framework to achieve a Regenerative Economy.
Represented by seeds, we understand that all of our efforts must begin with the narrative: our story and vision for the world we want and know is possible. Short, medium and long term organizing strategy—indeed, entire movements—grow and are derived from narratives. As the Center for Story Based Strategy teaches us, “The point is not to tell our own stories better. The point is to change existing stories. The currency of story is not truth, but meaning.” As we continue to craft our story of a Regenerative Economy, we understand that through greater meaning, we also establish a greater set of truths. The seeds of our narrative form the roots to weather the many storms ahead.
Base Building and Organizing (Water)
Our narratives are nourished and made tangible by the strength of our organizing, the water that provides life for our stories and vision. We view organizing as the vehicle that moves us from where we are, to where we want to be, as articulated and driven by our narratives derived from our collective wisdom, vision, and power. Many Indigenous traditions tell the story of the women being the “keepers of the water,” that is rooted in the important role of women in organizing.
Policy Development (Plants)
With our seeds nourished by our organizing, we are better positioned to design and develop the policies that are informed by our principles, be they Just Transition, Just Recovery, Energy Democracy, Food Sovereignty, the UFT believes in the inexorable nexus between policy development and grassroots organizing.
Electoralization and Implementation (The Flora We Glean)
Developing and introducing policies is one part of the overarching process that gets us to a regenerative economy. As organizers, we understand that the people we put in positions of power through a fair, transparent, and accessible electoral process must be beholden to the people, the workers and their communities, not the wealthy few or corporations. This is the best way to ensure that even when policies are enacted, the implementation phase serves those on the frontlines of intersecting crises first and foremost. The people we put in power must act as nourishment that increases the ability for us all to live our power as individuals and collectives.
Direct Action (The Stewards Who Bring Our Visions to Life)
We hold that while transition is inevitable, justice is not. As Fredrick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Only through principled struggle in the form of organized defiance can we hold the people we put in power accountable to the masses. We all must become stewards of our movements and the struggles that guide them. It is incumbent upon us all to create critical connections that lead to critical mass to serve as a reminder that our lawmakers and our systems of governance must, and always, be by and for the people. We must struggle to fight the bad, build the new, change the story, and move the money. This is how and why we utilize direct action.
Strategy Questions for Any Just Transition to a Regenerative Economy
The UNFT asks the following strategic questions derived from the People’s Solutions Lens to inform policy and organizing for a Regenerative Economy. We encourage community organizations, policymakers, and advocates to refer to and utilize the 80+ policy recommendations when crafting and implementing local, state, tribal, or federal policies, and while developing the organizing strategies necessary for the successful implementation of each. As policy proposals are advanced, they must include assurances that center racial, intergenerational, and gender equity, as well as human rights, economic and environmental justice, within all solutions. The following People’s Solutions Lens questions are meant to serve as a clarifying guide to assist policymakers and advocates in developing solutions that center and prioritize frontline communities and workers.
1. Who tells the story?
- Who developed the narrative depicting the frontline-led struggle against the interlinked crises of climate change and the extractive economy? Are frontline communities and the people who reside in them centered, or not, in media stories about a Green New Deal? Are they always portrayed as indigent or are their solutions, including Just Transition, Food Sovereignty, Housing, Healthcare, Energy Democracy, and Just Recovery, also uplifted?
- Are the people impacted first and worst by the extractive economy speaking for themselves to policymakers, the media, and society at large? Or is someone who is not accountable to them telling the story?
- Why is it essential for those directly impacted to control their own narrative? How does this relate to policy development and associated organizing? How are artists and cultural workers from frontline communities supported to shape the narrative of their communities?
2. Who makes the decisions?
- Do marginalized communities have access to the power to fully self-determine their future and the decisions that directly impact their lives? At what point in the policy making and organizing strategy development process do those who will be most impacted need to be included in the overall process?
- What roles do they need to play, during the drafting and implementation phases, to ensure that any policy meant to benefit marginal communities actually does?
- Are there existing power dynamics that prevent or limit inclusiveness, information flow, and full participation?
3. Who benefits and how?
- Does the proposed solution directly benefit Asian and Pacific Islander, Black, Brown, Indigeneous, poor, and marginalized people and their communities in the short, medium, and long term? In what ways does the proposed solution benefit and provide pathways to uplift marginalized communities from impoverished to thriving?
- How will this solution take on larger structural issues that harm all communities? How are workers’ rights prioritized and expanded in this solution?
4. What else will this impact?
- What physical, financial, and social infrastructure is impacted by this solution? Does this support the community or create more challenges? Does the solution address and mitigate cumulative impacts?
- What are the unintended (or intended) consequences of this policy idea? What are the trade-offs that must be considered, and who would these trade-offs benefit or adversely impact?
5. How will this build or shift power?
- How does this solution create opportunities for more community governance and ownership of capital, resources, land, and means of production?
- Where are the existing power dynamics? Do they need to be altered or transformed to ensure far-reaching and lasting benefits? How will the proposed solution redistribute power?
- Where are the regulatory, legal, or legislative entry points for implementing this solution at local, state, tribal, regional, or federal levels? Who needs to be a partner in order to build power to advance, implement, and maintain this policy?
Adapted from the People’s Solutions Lens for a Green New Deal, Center for Social Inclusion, Noor Consulting, and Just Community Energy Transition Project. The People’s Solutions Lens for a Green New Deal was inspired and adapted, with permission, from the original People’s Solutions Lens – a collaborative creation by It Takes Roots and their Funder Support Circle.
Framework for Policies that Advance a Regenerative Economy
This is an arc of evolution for our work. Whether we are advancing a People’s Bailout right now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, summoning grassroots power to take on the climate crisis through Just Transition and Green New Deal policies, or advancing implementation and organizing strategies, we see this as a continuous process that puts us on a trajectory toward collective justice, rooted in a Regenerative Economy that is intersectional—anti-racist and feminist. This evolution requires that we reorient our relationship to each other and to Mother Earth to seed a Regenerative Economy.
The framework offered here—Protect, Repair, Invest, and Transform—is meant to orient us in this continual evolution. We must invest in solutions that protect our communities today, while building the world we want to live in tomorrow and beyond. These four categories often blend together; for example, reparations require repair, investment, and transformation. However, we offer this framework with the intention, and purpose, that all elements must be advanced in concert to successfully transition to a Regenerative Economy.
Solutions must protect, not harm our communities.
- Clean and protected air, water, land, bodies, and communities.
- Non-extractive, clean, and renewable energy sources.
- Honor those whose land we are on, and support U.S. policy to respect the full and inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples and tribal sovereignty.
- Recognize the right of Tribal Nations to develop and implement their own laws and protocols under the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent regarding any development that impacts their health, land, water, air, territories, sacred areas, and other historically significant and cultural sites.
- Our communities are not displaced and gentrified by investment.
- Our Tribal Nations and communities are not, and will not, be Sacrifice Zones for pollution and extraction.
Solutions must repair the harms of our extractive economy.
- Decarcerate and demilitarize our communities.
- Justice for migrant communities.
- Make reparative investments in marginalized communities.
- Make reparations to the descendants of enslaved persons forced to provide free labor.
- Support Indigenous Peoples and Tribal Nations in land reclamation and governance of their rightful homelands.
- We do not invest in building weapons of destruction, policing, or immigration policies that cause harm or create family separations anywhere.
Solutions must move non-extractive and equitable investments to our communities and workers.
- Living-wage, union jobs, workplace democracy, and worker ownership.
- Strong public health infrastructure.
- Investment in a Regenerative Economy based on care, “essential work,” and reproductive labor.
- Community rights to the resources required to create productive, dignified and ecologically sustainable livelihoods.
- Organize workplaces and communities to collectively self-govern how investments and resources are generated and distributed in their communities to build a Regenerative Economy.
- Shift means of production to workers and communities.
- Strengthen campaigns divesting from fossil fuel and other extractive industries.
- Divest from extractive practices and reinvest in Just Transition in communities to collectively meet their energy, food, housing, and transit needs in healthy, sustainable, resilient, and ecologically just ways.
- Advance public dollars to build community wealth through local collective ownership and governance, rather than contribute to widening the wealth gap or increasing corporate control.
- No more corporate bailouts, no more investments in, or subsidies for, fossil-fuel extraction, production, and infrastructure or companies that put profits over the health of our people and planet.
Solutions must provide the foundation to transform relationships and structures so that they are rooted in respect, equity, and justice.
- Healthy, affordable, and safe homes for all.
- Quality, low- or no-cost public healthcare for everyone.
- Economical, accessible, clean energy, and carbon-free public transit.
- Access to clean and affordable drinking water is a human right, not to be privatized.
- Compensation of reproductive labor and collectivization of carework supported and protected by governments and society.
- Transition to community-governed energy and utility systems.
- Better position communities to know, sow, and grow their own food on healthy soils through regenerative agricultural practices and practices outside of agricultural carbon market sequestration projects being used to offset industrial pollution.
No commodification of us, nature, or our planet. We must transform from privatization of nature to equal legal rights for ecosystems to exist, flourish, and regenerate their natural capacities. The Rights of Nature—Mother Earth—demand regenerative and dynamic economic relations that reject extractive and predatory market-based mechanisms that allow for the commodification, privatization, and financialization of Earth’s natural resources and processes.
14 PLANKS: REGENERATIVE ECONOMY POLICY STANCES
These fourteen planks entail over eighty policy ideas. They are deeply intertwined and should be held as a collective framework to achieve a Regenerative Economy. The planks are organized starting with a focus on championing human rights and dignity, moving into infrastructure shifts for a Regenerative Economy, and ending with how we can resource these solutions.
Indigenous and Tribal Sovereignty
Indigenous peoples have suffered and continue to suffer from historic injustices as a result of dehumanization and racism and the colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right of self-determination in accordance with their own needs and interests, extending to their rights affirmed in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements entered into with the United States and its several States. We must address the urgent need to respect and promote their inherent rights as peoples. When considering energy, climate change, and Green New Deal policy, it is important that the U.S., and its agencies, consider the history of destructive energy and mineral exploitation in Indigenous lands and territories. A just nation-to-nation relationship means breaking the cycle of asking Indigenous nations to choose between a colonial imposed model of an extractive economy or preservation of their Indigenous sovereignty, including protection of their traditional lands, waters and air, and the right to practice their spirituality and cultural lifeways.
Justice for Black Communities
James Baldwin once wrote, “The truth is that this country does not know what to do with its Black population now that the Blacks are no longer a source of wealth.” Whether killed for jogging by white terrorist vigilantes, or killed in their own homes by militarized police, imprisoned at a disproportionately higher rate, denied loans for farming, or denied the right to take part in the democratic voting process, Baldwin’s words are vindicated every day. Black lives are perpetually dehumanized by U.S. society and forced to exist in a proverbial Apartheid state. Pursuing a Regenerative Economy requires a society committed to anti-racism, and a transformation in how we view and value the lives of Black people. For this to occur, the U.S. must embark on a massive truth and reconciliation initiative that addresses everything from symbols of hate, in the form of confederate statues and street names, to acts of hate that place Black lives at risk. In addition to these demands, we should engage with the comprehensive Vision for Black Lives platform by Movement for Black Lives. The dream deferred has since exploded; it is time for the nation, and the world, to wake up collectively.
Justice for Migrant Communities
Torn away at the border. Criminalized for being the “other.” Underpaid for labor. In the U.S., immigrants—particularly immigrants from Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa, and immigrants who practice Islam—are too often seen as less than human. Immigrants have been falsely accused of crimes, causing job losses, and terrorism. Since 2017, over 5,400 children have been separated at the border, while many families are held in detention centers across multiple states. To pursue a Regenerative Economy requires that we uphold the rights of refugees and immigrants as equals in our society.
Just Transition for Workers and Communities
The dignity of the worker and the voice of community are two values that should be central to any economy. Yet, the extractive economy has prioritized profits at the expense of people and often wedges workers and communities against each other. Too often, we have witnessed the fossil-fuel industry pit community concerns against workers’ rights, when we should be united in a common goal: to build healthy and vibrant communities where we work and live. Bringing community and labor together is critical to fully address the climate crisis and move forward a Regenerative Economy.
Protections and Investments for Sacrifice Zones and Environmental Justice Communities
Everyone has a right to breathe clean air and drink clean water. But that right is not afforded to people living next to the engines of the extractive economy: refineries, incinerators, industrial agriculture, etc. The extractive economy has sacrificed communities in exchange for accumulating wealth, resources, and power. The past and present harms done to people living in “sacrifice zones” and environmental justice communities must be rectified and repaired. Our society cannot build a more just and healthy economy if communities continue to be seen as expendable.
Healthcare for All
Healthcare is a human right. It should be reliable, safe, and nurturing. When the pandemic hit, millions lost healthcare because they lost their job. A pandemic shut down an economy and our healthcare. It also showed the deep racial disparities in health coverage, treatment, and prioritization. No one should be turned away because they cannot afford care. No one should be treated differently by doctors because of their race. Our healthcare system continues to marginalize poor and working class communities and fails to address the deep racial disparities in access and care. A Regenerative Economy requires that society create a different system that is healthy, holistic, nurturing, and job-creating.
Shelter in place or “safer at home” has been essential in addressing the current pandemic. Yet, prior to the pandemic, nearly 40 million people face some level of housing insecurity or rent- and mortgage-burden. Furthermore, too many low-income rental units are in a state of disrepair leaving many marginalized communities dealing with lead paint, leaking roofs, mold, and other toxic issues. A majority of people are one or two paychecks away from being evicted, while many Asian and Pacific Islander, Black and Brown communities are continually displaced due to land speculation and gentrification. The current pandemic and the climate crisis exacerbate these challenges. Our homes must not be commodified in ways that leave people out. Our homes, in all forms, must be secure, safe, affordable, healthy, and central to a thriving community.
Energy Sources and Pollution Mitigation
One in three people struggle to breathe clean air. Nearly 100 million people in the U.S. live in a community with poor air quality, disproportionately impacting Black and Brown people. Indigenous Peoples have suffered negative health impacts from uranium mining. Poor rural white communities have lost access to healthy water and farming due to fracking and oil drilling. Instead of ending these practices, mainstream advocates, investors, and policymakers seek to commodify carbon and fossil fuels at the expense of frontline communities.. These solutions fail to address the impacts of pollution, environmental racism, or the extractive economy. A Regenerative Economy rejects these solutions and embraces a more holistic, renewable, ecologically just energy system from beginning to end.
When the power goes out due to storms, wildfires, or grid failures, private utilities and energy companies get bailed out and the people get shut-off. The lack of community control and governance of our energy systems has created one of the most extractive systems in our society. Our energy system has polluted our communities, fueled our climate crisis, and concentrated wealth into the hands of corporate executives, while nearly one-third of families go to bed struggling to pay their energy bill. There is a different way forward. The original New Deal created pathways for energy to be a public good, yet purposely neglected to center racial equity and justice in that effort. We can learn from this and position communities to govern their energy decisions. Collectively, we can reprioritize how we create, use, and distribute clean, renewable energy, without nuclear, in order to power our Regenerative Economy.
Food Sovereignty and Land Sovereignty
From seed to harvest, too many of us are disconnected from our food. We live in food apartheid, where white and wealthier communities can access healthy foods, leaving the rest of us to be held captive by corporate agriculture and chemical companies that push unhealthy food options. Our food system is so unhealthy that in this current pandemic large-scale farms have thrown away food, while over 40 million people go to bed hungry each night. Not only are we disconnected from our food, we are disconnected from the land on which we live. The land provides the soil for our food and the ground for our homes, yet the land has been commodified and extracted to serve our economy, rather than being held with the sacred care that it should be given. We need to reshape our society’s relationship to the land and our food for us to cultivate a Regenerative Economy.
Equitable and Clean Energy/ Emissions-Free Transit
Transit cuts, bus drivers inadequately protected, and a lack of options for rural communities without a car are the outcomes of decades-long investment into highways rather than in public transit. This has created a deeply inequitable transportation system leaving many urban and rural frontline communities without access to reliable, affordable, and equitable transportation. The development of highways has created unhealthy air for marginalized communities whose neighborhoods were torn apart due to highway projects, and it fuels the climate crisis as the largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions. We must reprioritize our transportation system if we want to actualize a Just Transition. Transportation is also a massive living-wage job creator and expanding and improving our transit systems would create millions of new jobs in a Regenerative Economy.
It takes roots to weather the storm, a pandemic, economic collapse, and a neglected democracy. In the midst of the trauma and toll that storms such as Katrina, Sandy, and Maria have had on our communities, the current pandemic’s inequitable impacts, or the long history of economic and political disenfranchisement, frontline communities have created sophisticated and strong networks of response, recovery, and rebuilding. We must invest in these roots to strengthen their reach to protect the most marginalized, while leading the way to a more just recovery.
Investing in the Feminist Economy
In a feminist economy, we recognize, value, and center reproductive labor as low-carbon, community-generating, life-affirming, and skilled work that is necessary for the well-being of everyone and to sustain human society and nature itself. Feminist economy focuses on four principles to re-envision our world: ensuring bodily autonomy and self-determination as it relates to feminized, transgender, and gender non-conforming people; socializing reproductive labor; being in right relationship with people globally; and being in right relationship with nature and Mother Earth.
Investing in the Regenerative Economy
Finance is critical to realizing our vision for a Regenerative Economy. However, most tools that we have at hand are extractive and fall short of achieving what we need. Finance should be an instrument designed to ensure communities can meet their needs and have full exercise of rights, from participatory budgeting to creating commons of capital. We should subordinate debt to the health and well-being of communities and not the other way around. Finance is currently designed to extract, concentrate, and control wealth. It must be regulated and restructured to restore capital into communities for long-term health, well-being, and resilience.