The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all our lives at this point, including mine.
After my family cut short an overseas sabbatical four months early, we are now in quarantine at my sister-in-law’s in Western Massachusetts. From a small table in the back of their rustic farmhouse, I’ve been leading daily digital huddles for our team of clean energy advocates since all of us have been practicing social distancing and working from home since March 16. Earlier this week our team discussed how our program needs to adapt to the new variables of organizing in this new reality.
The clean energy team’s morning huddle while practicing social distancing. Ben dials in from Michigan, Graham from Denver, Bronte from Cape Cod, Emma from Rhode Island and Johanna from Western MA.
First of all, we recognize that, rightly so, decision-makers at all levels are focused on curbing the spread of the coronavirus, arming the medical system with the tools needed to treat patients, and helping people whose lives have been uprooted in the past weeks.
State leaders have placed other important issues, such as setting targets for clean energy, on the back burner during this time of crisis. In response, we’re adapting our advocacy as well to serve the interests of our members.
Given that mayors are currently focused on dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re lending our Mayors Go Solar campaign coordinator Ben Sonnega to our sister organization U.S. PIRG to add some muscle to its campaign to address the crisis. For the coming weeks, Ben will be helping U.S. PIRG’s health advocates Matt Wellington and Nathan Proctor organize state-level leaders to urge the federal government to double the number of ventilators available and more.
While continuing to monitor state-level movement toward 100 percent renewable energy — for example, Virginia’s governor is expected to soon sign a bill committing that state to 100 percent renewable energy — Emma Searson, the director of our 100% Renewable Energy campaign will dedicate her Thursdays to pulling together a weekly environmental newsletter highlighting positive environmental stories that might have been lost in the coverage around the coronavirus. Weekend editors, in particular, might be receptive to receiving a regular roundup of positive environmental stories to share with their readers.
In addition, Bronte Payne, the director of our Homes Go Solar campaign, is redirecting some of her attention to helping folks who are stuck at home reduce their energy waste during this vulnerable time. But she’s also laying the groundwork so that when the United States rebounds from this crisis and new home construction ramps up again, those homes will be built with modern renewable energy in mind rather than incorporating outdated technology that will keep us hooked on polluting fossil fuels.
There’s a value in consistency and constancy and being disciplined in doing what we set out to do with our programs, campaigns, messages, strategies and tactics. But there’s also a value in evaluating each day the challenges and opportunities in front of us, and adjusting our response accordingly. Striking the right balance is always the challenge, but especially now.
Senior Director, Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America Research & Policy Center
Johanna directs strategy and staff for Environment America's energy campaigns at the local, state and national level. In her prior positions, she led the campaign to ban smoking in all Maryland workplaces, helped stop the construction of a new nuclear reactor on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and helped build the support necessary to pass the EmPOWER Maryland Act, which set a goal of reducing the state’s per capita electricity use by 15 percent. She also currently serves on the board of Community Action Works. Johanna lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family, where she enjoys growing dahlias, biking and the occasional game of goaltimate.