Hey. Why this newsletter?

Our discussions about how to address the climate emergency tend to be dominated by the numbers: how much CO2 could be saved by implementing such and such technology, or how much such and such policy will cost. These numbers are very important, but, in the recent words by David Roberts, they are nothing without the society that needs to act on them.

Energy producing, conducing and consuming technologies are intricately entwined with the way our daily lives are organized. Extricating one and embedding another can be devilishly complex and will even prove a painful process for some, if not many.

If we are to actually succeed in our endeavours then, we need to be knowledgeable about this complexity and to be clear-eyed about the socio-economic and political inequality in which energy transitions will take place.

That’s where this newsletter comes in.

Alright, what’s in this newsletter then?

Insights and best practices foraged from the social sciences of energy, as well from people working on the ground.

How do they get there?

I read the scientific literature and then draw lessons for our best policy ideas. Also, I talk to practitioners and scholars about their notes, queries and experiences. I then relay all these back to you and - hopefully - into our collective discussions.

My mission is to help policymakers make more informed decisions, signal opportunities and challenges for energy professionals, and inspire researchers by keeping them abreast of what’s new and valuable across the diverse field of the energy social sciences.

The bigger this community gets, the more opportunities we can generate to learn directly from each other. I am just a middleman. Sometimes it’s good to cut out the middleman.

Sounds good, but isn’t the Green New Deal a socially aware policy package? Where does that leave your newsletter?

You are quite right! The Green New Deal is – in its various guises – basically the only policy framework today that acknowledges and takes seriously the social dimensions of sustainability. It recognizes that people need to be empowered in order for this to work. That the most vulnerable must become more resilient, that direct stakeholders should stand to benefit from changes, and that, generally, we need to demonstratively work towards a horizon where life is actually better. If not, we’ll fail.

In other words, the Green New Deal asks the right question: how can we move fast without breaking more things?

A good beginning is half the work, but that leaves the other half. What should democratization of energy look like? How do you devolve power to a ‘community’? What or who is a community? How sustainable is ‘smart’, really? How do you “help other countries achieve a Green New Deal” (Ocasio-Cortez & Markey’s resolution), when international relations are so fraught by inequality?

There are many smart people working on these questions and my hope is that the particular methodology of this newsletter will add and contribute to that work. (Note: of course, the Green New Deal is much broader than energy also - that’s the whole point - but I feel that this newsletter is better by retaining its focus on the particular topic of zero-carbon energy.)

When may I expect these newsletters?

Expect them once a week 👍.

Who are you, anyway?

My name is Marten Boekelo and I am an anthropologist who did doctoral research at the University of Amsterdam on citizenship in Beirut during the age of reconstruction and postdoctoral research at Wageningen University on citizenship in Amsterdam in the age of smart and distributed energy technology. I am a serious person, but I have trouble sustaining formal prose. I like writing this newsletter.

Follow this publication on Twitter @GreenNewSci.