The Fight for Public Power: Professor Ashley Dawson on How People, Not Corporations, Can Benefit from Green Energy

Ashley Dawson

By Char Adams
Digital Editor of SUM

Professor Ashley Dawson (GC/College of Staten Island/English) grew up in South Africa during the apartheid area. By the time his family left the county, Dawson had developed a deep passion for racial and climate justice, which he quickly learned are connected.

“As someone who cares about justice and about fighting against colonialism and racism, I felt I had to be engaged with the climate justice movement,” Dawson tells The Graduate Center. “I have been an activist for decades and I’ve been writing on these issues.”

His new book, People’s Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons, warns about the dangers of fossil fuels and urges a transition away from fossil fuels in the next decade. In People’s Power, Dawson situates contemporary campaigns for climate justice within the context of our country’s history with energy. He declares that, in order to avoid irreversible climate damage, fossil fuels must end, and the transition to renewable energy must not prioritize profit.

“We really need public power. We need to have a massive political transformation that makes the shift to renewable energy happen much more quickly if we’re going to avert catastrophic climate change,” Dawson explains.

“We need to think about energy totally differently. We need to stop seeing it as a commodity and hoping the market is going to save us. We need to see that the only way we’re going to avert catastrophe is to mobilize politically to have public power.” 

He highlights the Public Power movement, which fights for citizen-owned power supplies, rather than power monopolies like ConEd and National Grid. The fight to end reliance on fossil fuels has been difficult, but there are ways individuals can get involved, Dawson says.

“People could get involved in the movement in New York City for public power. There are three bills in front of the New York State Legislature. Moving forward, we have a chance to push these measures forward. People can engage with these kinds of struggles,” he says.

“I want to see the struggle for energy transition as not just about changing the fuel we use, but having a much broader social transformation that is connected to all the other social struggles that are playing out on the ground against racist, capitalist, abusive forms of state power.”

Char Adams is the Digital Editor of SUM, she's on Twitter at @CiCiAdams‚Äč_

Submitted on: SEP 3, 2020

Category: English | Faculty Books | GCstories | General GC News