Are you thinking about climate change wrong?

Democratize Decolonize Decarbonize

By Subin DeVar, Director of the Law Center's Community Renewable Energy Program

This is the final part of #DemocratizeDecolonizeDecarbonize, a three-part essay series exploring the Law Center’s work on housing, land, and energy. More goodness: Part 1: “Social housing is the only way forward” & Part 2: “How to win land justice in a decade.”

Read time: 6 minutes

Are you thinking about climate change wrong?

Hi! It's me, Subin DeVar. I’m the Director of the Community Renewable Energy Program at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. I am writing this as I prepare for parental leave — I’m going to be a dad soon! And as a soon-to-be father, I feel a special type of urgency in my need to tell y’all that… most of us are thinking about climate change wrong. 😬

Image: My partner and me

(Thankfully, young people know better, but I’ll get to that later.)

For most Americans, the general assessment goes something like this: 

Humans need to do something soon to prevent catastrophic climate change. 
And if we do what’s necessary, yay! we’ll have saved the planet. 
If we don’t, it’s going to be really bad, maybe irreversible. 

With worsening droughts and fires already affecting us, it’s easy to think about climate change itself as a fire that just needs to be put out.

There’s nothing obviously wrong about this win or lose way to think about greenhouse gas emissions and its impacts. It follows a typical logical flow:

Society has a problem. 
Problem requires solution. 
Whether society responds with necessary solution determines success or failure. 

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Policy Advocates for Sustainable Economies supports Oakland Participatory Budget Campaign

Oakland, CA – Policy Advocates for Sustainable Economies, a 501(c)(4) arm of the Sustainable Economies Law Center, partnered with Cooperative 4 the Community to support a participatory budget ballot initiative campaign in Oakland.

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Kicking off 2020 with a fireside chat with the Law Center!

2020 Hot Takes!

We recently hosted our first-ever livestream, featuring members of our Land and Resources Circle: Chris Tittle (Housing), Neil Thapar (Food & Farm),Cameron Rhudy (Grassroots Finance), and Subin DeVar (Community Renewable Energy)! If you missed our online fireside chat, fear not! We recorded the livestream and you can now go back and relive our tarot card reading and meet our surprise guest (most undeniably the cutest guest we've had in Law Center history).

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How to win land justice in a decade

Two women and a map

By Neil Thapar :neil:, Law Center's Food and Farm Director

Read time: 6 minutes

This is part two of #DemocratizeDecolonizeDecarbonize, a three-part essay series exploring the Law Center’s work on housing, land, and energy. ICYMI, click here to read the first essay, “Social housing is the only way forward.”


This is the decade of possibility. And as a new father, I feel a stronger sense of purpose and motivation than ever before to help build a just world that my daughter will grow into. Ten years from now, if we take advantage of the opportunities to secure land justice that are in front of us, I see a world where many more people feel a sense of belonging and security because they govern the land they live on, together.

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Social housing is the only way forward

By Chris Tittle, Law Center's Director of Organizational Resilience

Read time: 6 minutes 

This is part one of #DemocratizeDecolonizeDecarbonize, a three-part essay series exploring the Law Center’s work on housing, land, and energy.

It’s time to think big about housing. Twelve million beautiful and green new housing units in the next ten years. A massive reinvestment in housing under public control, resident control, and community control. Tenant protections, rent control, and anti-displacement measures across the nation.

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Major advances in 2019 toward a more democratic economy

By Juliana Broad with the Next System Project

Excerpt: Recent pro-cooperative policy changes in Berkeley, California have given rise to what could be heralded as a new “Berkeley Model” of cooperative economic development. In February, the city council unanimously adopted a set of recommendations that will support the development of worker co-ops in the city. The city council’s resolutions include giving worker co-ops preference for city contracts, providing technical assistance for existing small businesses to convert into worker co-ops, and implementing a workaround so that worker co-ops can access the city’s revolving loan fund.

The council’s workaround deserves some attention. Revolving loan funds are pools of money sustained by the U.S. Economic Development Administration that can be extended as lines of credit to businesses that have been turned down by loans elsewhere (for example, by “risk-averse” private banks). Like most small-business lenders, revolving loan funds normally require an individual associated with the business to personally guarantee to repay the loan if the business defaults. Rather tellingly, this requirement is at odds with the multiple-owner model of a worker co-op. The Berkeley City Council’s innovation—developed in conjunction with the Oakland-based Sustainable Economies Law Center—makes it easier for worker co-ops to access these loans by adding an alternative to the conventional individual guarantee. Given that there are more than 500 other revolving loan funds across the country, there will be plenty of opportunities to replicate and build off of the framework established with the “Berkeley Model.”

Read the full article here.

(Originally published December 19, 2019.)

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The East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative’s new way to build housing equity

By Jade Yamazaki Stewart of Oakland Magazine

Excerpt: [East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative's] organization uses cooperative ownership models to turn tenants into owners and give them the opportunity to build equity and intergenerational wealth. It’s part of a larger movement to make housing affordable one property at a time. In the Bay Area, the Oakland Community Land Trust, the Bay Area Community Land Trust, and the Northern California Community Land Trust are all buying properties and turning them into affordable housing. But the East Bay co-op’s funding and ownership model is unique.

Tia Taruc-Myers and her husband had been living in a North Oakland fourplex on 61st Street off of Martin Luther King Jr. Way since 2008. Although she had an absentee landlord, rent stayed at around $460 per room, so she didn’t complain. Then, last summer, the landlord painted the building a color Taruc-Myers describes as “gentrifier gray” and put it up for sale. “We were really scared when we heard the building was going to be sold,” she said. “We felt that we were definitely going to lose our home.” So Taruc-Myers reached out to the co-op's Executive Director Noni Session, and she eventually agreed to take on the property as its first project, to be known as Co-op 789.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published October 2, 2019.)

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One year in one page: is it possible?!

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Highlights from the Energy Justice Strategy and Policy Workshop

By Subin Devar, Director of the Law Center's Community Renewable Energy Program

A just transition presents the opportunity to address the social inequity underpinning the existing extractive economy and in its place build a fair and sustainable society. Leaders in the environmental and climate justice spaces have developed frameworks and advocacy tools to move the conversation forward. Yet, as it is currently playing out, the transition is neither happening rapidly enough, nor are state renewable energy laws and regulations adequately centering equity. A key gap that local communities, regional networks, and national advocates have identified is the need for law and policy resources in the drafting of equitable renewable energy legislation and regulations in support of the broader movement. 

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3 Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving a Day of Economic and Racial Justice

We put together a short list of ways to make your Thanksgiving a day of economic and racial justice:

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A New Economy or a Return to the Little Tradition?

By Tracy Bindel, Law Center Intern

How Spirituality & Economic Democracy Can Weave Communities Together

For the first two weeks of June 2019, I attended an institute at the Underground Seminary studying a Post-Colonial Survey of the Bible at the Church of All Nations (CAN) outside of Minneapolis, MN. What is the connection between the study of law and Underground Seminary? I’m glad you asked. Most seminaries do not have a lot of overlap with us at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. However, the Underground Seminary was a glimpse into a community that is pushing the edges of what it means to live in sustainable mutual relationship with each other, the land, and the planet.

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Making a More Democratic Economy, One Revolving Loan Fund at a Time

By Oscar Perry Abello of Next City

Excerpt: The Sustainable Economies Law Center supported worker cooperative members to participate in the local policy-making process that eventually led to the changes to Berkeley’s small business loan fund in September. The center’s “policy brigade” initiative brought together a group of worker co-op members into a yearlong cohort, providing hands-on experience in policy advocacy work.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published November 19, 2019.)

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Santa Clara, California is taking steps to invest in worker cooperatives

By NCBA CLUSA

Excerpt: In a unanimous vote last week, the Santa Clara City Council adopted recommendations put forward by the Committee on Economic Development, Communications and Marketing to advance worker cooperative development in the community. The motion to move the worker co-op effort forward was led by Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published November 5, 2019.)

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Berkeley Just Made its Small Business Revolving Loan Fund Work for Worker Cooperatives

From the Office of Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin

CoB Logo Mayor.png

BERKELEY, CA (September 25, 2019) Businesses that are at risk of closure because their owner is retiring or putting the business up for sale are now eligible for the City’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) for the purpose of converting them into worker cooperatives, thanks to a unanimous vote of the Berkeley City Council last night revising the RLF policy. This will help the workers acquire and democratically own and operate the business, keeping it rooted in Berkeley and elevating the jobs and wealth-building opportunities provided to its employees.

“Worker cooperatives are an essential part of our city’s economy and by helping lift them up we can develop new opportunities to promote these unique Berkeley institutions” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín. Arreguín has long championed worker cooperatives, introducing a package of reforms in 2016 as a Councilmember to promote and support worker cooperatives.

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Guest Perspective: Training for a New Economy through the Law Center’s 2nd Annual Law Seminar

Guest Post by Samira Seraji, Third-Year Law Student at UC Berkeley School of Law

Dozens of community lawyers and organizers joined the Sustainable Economies Law Center on Friday, October 11 for their 2nd Annual Social Enterprise Law MCLE Seminar. Nearly 100 participants, including lawyers and non-lawyers, attended the day-long event, which capped the Law Center’s #PeoplePoweredLaw fundraising campaign.

SELC Executive Director Janelle Orsi presenting

Janelle Orsi, Executive Director of the Law Center, presenting at the 2nd Annual Social Enterprise Law Seminar.

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