It’s been awhile! I obviously had the intention of diving into policy, and then life happened… But, for 2021, I’m bringing the blog back, with a new focus on expanding my understanding of what it will take to build a just and equitable economy. More on that in a bit- but first, a few personal updates.
My research back in 2019 about how personal choices can impact climate change did help me make a few important changes in my daily life. The two biggest were:
- Buying an electric car
- And becoming “vegan at home” as a way to reduce dairy and meat consumption
I can report that both of these changes have been great. We love our electric car, and cooking vegan at home has been delicious and easy (especially this year, when we’re having pretty much all of our meals at home). (We got a cookbook called Vegan for Everybody, from the America’s Test Kitchen collection, and it is awesome. Almost without exception we’ve loved everything we’ve cooked from it.)
But, my overall takeaway from all my reading in 2019 was that although of course individual choices matter, they will always have a limited impact compared to broader policy changes. Individual people eating less meat, driving and flying less, and generally consuming less stuff all will help; but they won’t help nearly as much as policies that will drive a shift to carbon-neutral power sources, reduce the release of refrigerants into the atmosphere or change the way land is used and managed.
While climate change will likely always be the societal issue I’m most concerned about, this summer’s protests in response to the murder of George Floyd were also really a wake-up call for me (like many white people) about how pervasive racism and racist policies still are in this country. So, in addition to continuing to learn about climate related policies, I wanted to spend 2021 learning about how we can build an economy that takes care of all people and our planet. What policies would help us move in that direction? How can we effectively advocate for them? What evidence and data are there from implementing such policies in different states or countries that suggest they will be effective? How can we make sure that policies actually move us closer to equity, rather than just perpetuating current inequities?
In pursuit of deeper understanding, I’m designing a self-study curriculum to follow for the year. I’ll be reading one book per month that will address some aspect of the questions outlined earlier. As an accountability tool, I’ll be writing a post about each book with some key takeaways or interesting facts that I learned. And, I’d love for anyone who’s interested to join me in discussing these books on a monthly call (or hopefully in person at some point!!).
I of course understand that just reading about problems isn’t enough; I’ll also share ways I’m engaging in these issues outside of reading and learning. But it feels important to me to more deeply understand implications of policies as well. When I vote, I often feel that I’m just following recommendations of local publications about what a policy outcome will be. I’d love to feel knowledgeable enough to interpret these recommendations more deeply, and be able to more actively advocate for policy changes that will bring about positive changes.
Here’s my reading list for the year:
Q1: Climate justice
January: All We Can Save, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson
February: Rewiring America, Saul Griffith
March: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Klein
Q2: How can markets address social problems?
April: Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works, Roger L. Martin and Sally Osberg
May: Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth
June: Learning as a Way of Leading, Stephen Brookfield
Q3: Understanding the history of systemic racism, and how we can move forward
July: The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, Heather McGhee
August: The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, Shaylyn Romney Garrett, Robert D. Putnam
September: From Here to Equality, William Darity
Q4: Economic Development
October: Know Your Price, Andre M. Perry
November: Our Black Year, Maggie Anderson
December: How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood, P.E. Moskowitz
A few notes on how I selected these books. I drew some books from syllabuses posted online for Margo Hittleman’s Collective Leadership: Building Capacity for Innovation and Change course at Cornell University and Andrew Samwick’s Public Policy 43/Economics 77 course at Dartmouth College. I also reached out to Jeffrey Hornstein, who leads the Economy League in Philadelphia and taught a course at UPenn on Economic Development, Equity, and Inclusion; he generously sent me his course syllabus for that class and a few additional book suggestions.
And a few of these books are just from authors I’ve come across in the last year; Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson cohosts a Gimlet Media podcast called How to Save a Planet, which I LOVE and cannot recommend enough. Heather McGhee has a TED talk about how racism hurts everyone that I found really interesting, and led me to pre-order her book immediately. And I came across The Upswing in a review in the New York Times.
This is all to say: these books reflect my personal, idiosyncratic tastes! But, I’d love company in reading any or all of them from you!
Happy 2021!! I can’t wait to get started!