Portland

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Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon Illustration by Sebastián Sifuentes

Team Members

  • Angel L. Echevarria
  • Andrew Dana Hudson
  • Patricia Romero-Lankao
  • Amy Schwab
  • Sebastián Sifuentes

Illustration by Sebastián Sifuentes.

Solarshades

By Andrew Dana Hudson

On cloud-out days, when that listless Pacific smother hung low over Portland, and the house batteries chirped their plaintive 10-percent forebodings—the grid no help at all—Kismet clambered onto the roof to see the lit-up glitter of the Clackamas County line: a trash-strewn no-man’s land cutting through brownfields, fallow forests, and cemeteries. A little crack in the law that neither Happy Valley nor Pleasant Valley wanted to deal with.

Kismet didn’t envy the refugees, undocs, and homeless who pitched their tents and parked their RVs in the interstices. But seeing their pyramids of warm glow, hearing their music, whiffing their smelly foreign food—all while his games were forced off and his showers ran cold and his cousins ate dry cereal and squabbled over flashlights—on those days he couldn’t help but feel a little drip of resentment runneling into his soul.

His older brother Jeffers was a bit further along in this regard. Jeffers was on furlough from the firehouse and had time on his hands to stew. One day he got so mad he stacked a breezeblock wall and set red-lettered warning signs to mark the edge of their blotchy backyard.

“They got their own panels and bats,” Jeffers fumed, peeling his sweat-colored tank top away from pinked, white-boy skin. “Stolen, prolly. Def aren’t registered with the grid. But they don’t got more sun than we got. So, lemme ask you, Kit James Cole—how come they’re running hot when state and metro got us dimmed and rationed?”

Kismet shrugged. Besides Ma, Jeffers was the only one who Kismet let call him by his given name, instead of his gaming handle.

“Taxes and communism!” Jeffers crowed. “Court tears down a couple perfectly clean hydro plants to please the salmon-fuckers, and they expect us to pay the price. So every watt our roof generates gets divvied up a hundred ways by the grid and tithed off to power Salem’s carbon-capture scam. But those squatters out there aren’t sharing.”

“What about Pleasant Valley, though?” Kismet asked. “They’re on the grid, but Torko says the cloud-outs don’t bother his street none.”

“Multnomah County rewards them for being cucked by those granola-shitters downtown. Got they ass ‘sprawl-repaired,’ ‘densified,’ ‘downshifted’—the works. Spend half their time peasant farming, pedaling around, making nice with the Califugees the government got housed up in their backyards. Trust me, champ, you don’t wanna live up there. Ma moved us to get away from that lefty bullshit! Lemme tell you, that’ll be the first thing to go when Cascadia finally states-off.”

Normally Kismet wouldn’t push back on Jeffers’ rants, but the other day his classmate Torko had invited him up to a Pleasant Valley house party. Torko was good at classes, but also had once no-scoped Kismet from halfway across the map when they’d both figured out how to leave a boring lecture on subscreen. Kismet, wanting to impress, had gone along. They’d spent the afternoon in the botanical garden, watching stoned college girls pose photoshoots on mossy rocks. Then Torko, dreads bouncing, wove him between backyards that squawked with animals, through idyllic hidden courtyards, to a cluster of homes that bulged with rain barrels and conservatory glass. The party was packed, folks talking intellectual-like about 2080 urban growth boundaries and hyper-pastoralism, pierced bodies moving to the drippy bump of folk-trap deconstructives.

At first, Kismet found everyone in Pleasant Valley insufferable, heard Jeffers’ voice in his head telling him to swipe these fuckers’ good silver. But he couldn’t shake Torko’s merry waves to neighbors as he’d crossed their yards, the way he’d picked berries thoughtlessly from alley brambles. Smug as they were, the Multnomah neighborhoods were peaceful and verdant. Gleaming, clean solar panels on every roof. Everything seemed edible. No militia maneuvers on the streets. Matter of fact, there were hardly streets at all—just bikes and scooters zipping along greenway paths, buses sliding through hedge-lined tunnels, light rail linking together bustling mixed-use plazas.

“Must be nice,” Jeffers said when Kismet told him about the party, and he sent a hock of spit over his waist-high wall.

Kismet lived in a crumbling, moldy McMansion, not a garden bed in sight. His family rented from a financial firm that had scooped up the whole neighborhood after the Corona Crash; ghosts of dead or broke baby boomers haunted the barren cul-de-sac. Rent was supposed to be controlled, but the firm kept finding new fees to pile up. Kismet’s home wasn’t “densified,” but still it seemed to grow ever more crowded with relatives and Jeffers’ friends, all put out by Portland’s extractive housing market. Kismet would wake up to huge, blacked-out electric Hummers parked like fortresses on their lawn.

With this itchy pack all sharing one grid hookup, the cloud-outs stung. Sputter a screen and acrimony would cascade from room to room. So Kismet understood why the tent folk’s unregistered energy gear rankled Jeffers so much—rankled more than the cozy, out-of-sight-out-of-mind prosperity of those Pleasant Valley types who went along with the government’s reshaping of suburban life. 

One night his brother woke him at the witching hour with a mean, manic grin. “C’mon, Kit, let’s give those Califugees a shake.”

So Kismet and Jeffers and a couple of other boys heaved a wheelbarrow over the breezeblock wall and slunk down to the county line. There they got a good rhythm going: Jeffers and his buddy Leon would knock down a tent and start kicking at the flailing occupants, while Kismet and cousin Poost would peel off the solar and follow the cords to the batteries. They loaded the loot into the wheelbarrow and took off into the dark, dumped their spoils, then headed up the line to look for a spot where the ruckus hadn’t woken anyone up yet. Rinse and repeat.

Kismet felt a little rough about this nasty bit of business, but he liked figuring out how to rig the solar into a little house microgrid, off the Pacific Coast Electric books. And Ma and everyone were pretty grateful when they got the new batteries plugged in. The skies that week were a mottled gunmetal, and the grid went cruel. But for once Kismet’s screens and the rattly aircon had the juice to run all day.

Jeffers claimed the raid was a one-time thing, but of course it wasn’t.

“Shit, champ, no one’s gonna come looking for us,” Jeffers said, pulling a Cascadian flag-print balaclava over Kismet’s sleepy face. “Who they gonna tell? None of those undocs are supposed to be there or have any of that gear. State don’t care. Like sticking up a drug dealer. Ain’t really a crime, just—what?—‘informal redistribution of contraband goods.’”

Kismet didn’t want Jeffers to think he wasn’t game, so he went along again, and again. It felt good to sit on a surplus of a rationed commodity, to be the ones hooking up the neighbors and getting those accolades. Kismet had a couple years of high school to get done, but he started logging on just the bare minimum. Until the raids, he’d spent his free time gaming and camming to supplement his meager UBI dole, which Ma took most of anyhow. Torko and his other peers were drifting toward the siren song of the big job-guarantee unions—three hots and a sleep sack out in some muddy national forest, plowing biochar into carbon-hungry soil.

Not Jeffers, though. Jeffers was newly filled with purpose, and Kismet found that hard to say no to.

One new-moon night, at the end of a long run, Poost spotted a skinny black figure skulking around the edge of the encampments. Jeffers swerved the Hummer around and ran up on the guy, downed him with a smack from the driver’s side door.

“Look at this!” Jeffers crooned, foot on the dude’s back, reading off his badge, dude choking on his own lanyard. “United States Census Bureau, out here at the ass-end of the night. Feds got you sizing these fine folks up for a landgrab, huh?”

Dude just gurgled. Jeffers pulled off the dude’s glasses, tossed them to Kismet, who put them on.

Data flicked into focus as the shades found Kismet’s green eyes. He looked toward Clackamas, saw real-estate prices and energy bills. Scanned the tents on the county line, saw the outlines of solar panels in the light-polluted darkness, model numbers and wattage estimates wafting above like steam. Blinked to zoom north, saw Multnomah County quantified in all its prim sustainability. And in the lower left corner were the letters “PCE,” set in a logo sunset. Solarshades.

“Bro, these are from the electric company,” he said. No names, Jeffers always told him. “Got all kinds of proprietary info on here.”

“Well, do he,” Jeffers said, not a question. “So, a utility man on the side, huh. You gonna finally do something about them cheating on all those regs you got the rest of us living under? Or maybe you here to snitch on my runs?”

Dude didn’t say anything, just lay there, no fight at all. For Jeffers, that meant the fun was already gone. He gave the census worker a few kicks to the spine, then got back in the Hummer.

Whole ride home Kismet fiddled with the shades. Just printed and booted, their owner hadn’t got around to locking them to his ret. Kismet had a knack for getting to the underbelly of software. When the others went to bed, he stayed up.

The PCE app was raw and unaesthetic, an off-white spreadsheet slapped over the world. But the layers held info Kismet had never seen in the JSTOR databases his Urban Understanding classes had made him install. Private info: home energy efficiency scores, rental agreements, the deals the city and the landholder firms struck with the grid to implement austerity-style energy policy in Happy Valley. The designers wanted to survey the same contraband energy equipment that had Jeffers so heated. If Kismet had to guess, the census worker they’d roughed up had a side gig tracking down the watts the grid thought it was missing.

Kismet wandered the cul-de-sac, soaking up the hidden energy lives of his neighbors, the informal settlements down the way, his own family. When his legs tired and first light began gnawing at the horizon, he returned home, climbed out his window, and turned the shades on the Clackamas County line and Pleasant Valley beyond. It occurred to Kismet, as he fell asleep on the roof, that this was how the state, the utilities, all the institutions that ran their lives saw both the informal settlements and his own little clan: a bunch of sorry metrics, many woefully wrong, thinking they’d gotten away with breaking the rules, not even knowing they were already getting punished for it. Little cracks in Portland’s sustainable prosperity that no one wanted to deal with.

By the time the glasses flickered blank—locked by whatever algo had finally noticed Kismet’s prying, or maybe remote-offed when the census worker had limped back to his terminal—Kismet felt a strange kinship with the tent folk across the way. All of them were getting screwed.

Nova Ng first saw the kid sizing up the PV that powered her office hexayurt. Not in a malicious way, but rather with a sort of professional curiosity. Except he wasn’t a professional—he was a delinquent teen in a ratty metal-band shirt, Bic-ink emoji tattoos cluttering his hands, scratched-up shades dangling from a bit of paracord around his neck.

Not one of her constituents, either. Nova had been refugee liaison for the powerful Everyone’s Portland bloc on the Metro Community Council for 18 months. A plodding, finicky organizing gig—keeping Sikhs from clashing with Salvadorians, or whoever was in a spat this week—but it gave her something to do with the social work degree she’d poured so many years into, got her away from the sniping at city hall. She knew, by face anyway, almost everyone who lived in the informal settlements on the east side. Most migrants and undocs who rolled into town showed up to her general assemblies before trying their luck at the Displacement Management Office. 

Nova didn’t think much about the townie kid—Kismet, she heard someone say his name was—but his occasional presence listening in on facilitation sessions, loitering at the back, made her wonder just who he might be repping.

One evening, unhooking her bike from her yurt’s charging rack, she saw Kismet slouch into a hulking, matte-black vehicle lurking in the drop-off loop of the Harmony Point All-Mart. There were about a hundred families camped out on the gravelly grayfield that had once been the shopping plaza’s parking lots. Nova couldn’t help but notice the informals shrinking away from the tank’s squat, street-light shadow.

Nova cornered Kismet next time she saw him at her Making Sense of Energy Enforcement learn-in.

“What’s your deal, kid?” Nova stuck out her arm to block his retreat toward the composting perm-a-potties her office had set up at the Harmony Point camps to build goodwill. He was two hands taller, but she’d bullied her way through scarier, fashier men. “You better not be casing these people. I’ve heard about the thefts, the beatings. Big, black Hummer—that your militia or something?”

It had been a wild guess, but the kid shrunk back, got this wildly guilty look on his face.

“Just m’ brother,” Kismet mumbled. “Sorry, lady. I’m just trying to learn about this stuff.” He waved at her closing slide, still projected on the yurt ceiling.

“Why? What’s it got to do with you?”

“I’m interested, is all. We live up by the county line, so the tent grids, the battery-courier economy—it’s right in my backyard.”

“Clatsop people, huh?” Nova said. “I thought you McMansion holdouts were all about minding your own business. Pretty cynical to prey on people with next to nothing just because they live in a jurisdictional gray zone.”

She was convinced that Kismet was involved in the lootings, and she wasn’t about to let it drop. His eyes darted around again, but he mastered himself and deflected.

“We get a rotten deal from PCE, too,” he said. “Cloud-outs and rationing and no concern for how many people we got in the house. So we got a little off-grid setup—”

“I bet you do.”

“—just to, you know, ease things up a bit. So I’m trying to learn more, about the rules and such.” Kismet swallowed.

“Energy descent isn’t easy,” Nova allowed. “No one ever said it would be. But there’s policies to ease the burden, turn up the upsides, ‘the gentle way down’ and all that. Only problem is folks in Clackamas and Happy Valley voted down all those policies, and I’m going to take a wild guess that your brother was one of them. That’s why you get the stick end.”

“M’ brother …” Kismet began, then backtracked. He plucked at the glasses around his neck. “PCE man, he dropped these. Had their app in there for a bit, metrics and stuff. Got me thinking that … we’re a little the same, right? A lot of folks on our side of the line got some off-grid going too, just like the illegals and the fugees.”

“Language,” Nova warned.

“Sorry.” He pressed on, picking his way through a briar patch of sentiments that were probably dangerous to share in his own house. “So I’m thinking, what if that stuff was legal? Or we got a better share of our rooftop wattage? Just, you know, if everyone’s doing it, and maybe we work together, us and them, PCE or someone might, I don’t know, make it okay and stuff? Forgiveness.”

“You’re talking about amnesty?” Nova said, surprised. “On-gridding or on-booking the informal energy sector. A small generators’ union for people who run their own PV?”

Kismet nodded vigorously, for once not just trying to talk his way out of the conversation.

“Why do you care?” Nova asked. She lowered her arm from the yurt exit an inch. “You’re too young to be paying the bills.”

The boy took a long pause, itched at his forehead, like he was trying to surface into words an idea he’d barely been able to articulate, even to himself.

“M’ brother, you know. He gets riled up. And I got thinking, maybe if it didn’t seem like some people were breaking the rules and some people weren’t, or weren’t breaking them the same way … maybe if the rules were better. Not quite like up north, but just so no one feels cheated. Maybe then he wouldn’t get so … riled up.”

Nova noticed that Kismet had a way of code-switching when he talked about his brother. His accent got drawlier, his diction cruder. Other times he sounded like any youth schooled by Great Courses and bots. Probably a sensitive, brainy kid at heart, Nova decided. And smart enough to know it wasn’t always wise to show it around his brother’s crew.

“Okay,” Nova said. “Amnesty is a tough sell, but you aren’t the only agitator there. The Metro Community Council might be convinced, if you could demonstrate a like-minded interest bloc that didn’t step on any other bloc’s toes. It’ll be a touchy coalition to build, though. The infrastructure you want to formalize is a nest of code violations, probably multiple layers of theft and sale of stolen goods cases attached to half the serial numbers. As I’m sure you know. Which means there’s grudges and violence at the heart of this that have to be deescalated. The informal settlements aren’t nice places, no matter what I do. This will only work if everyone benefiting from informal energy is willing to stand together in a demand to the council and PCE. No one sells anyone out. I’ve got my hands full just keeping a few of these camps livable and communicative, but I can help you work up a letter. If you get us a supporter list—with signatures—I can take it to Everyone’s Portland for backing. Deal?”

It was, Nova knew, a lot for the townie teen to take in. That was the point. There was no use attempting this kind of organizing if you couldn’t learn fast. Kismet scratched at his inky knuckles, weight shifting from foot to foot.

“Yeah, deal,” he said, managing to sound decisive. Then, knowing he had to come clean about his ignorance, added, “how do I start?”

Nova took her arm away from the exit, pointed at Kismet’s shades.

“Those still work?”

The organizing platform Ms. Ng set Kismet up with had that nonprofit GUI sleekness the PCE app had lacked—but nothing like the functionality or data access that had piqued Kismet’s interest the night Jeffers jumped the census worker. Still, the solarshades once again became full of institutional insight. Kismet’s vision swam with ages, sexes, last known addresses. He saw voting frequency, legal history, defunct social-credit scores, political affiliations logged through social posts or petition signatures, plus records of any touches with Ms. Ng’s organization. Now when Kismet got close to the county line, the face rec began popping not with energy metrics and PV models, but with people and their stories.

Not everyone took kindly to him walking up knowing every little thing, even if it was pretty much public data. And anyway, half the intel was defunct or inaccurate. Kismet soon realized the shades were less about providing the secret key to an organizing target’s psyche and more about tracking and quantifying his own efforts.

He learned to scout people out, check his shades for red flags, then approach like they’d met at a bus stop. No “are you Mr. Contreras?” familiarity. First signature he got was someone the shades had squat on. He just sat down where she was cooking on a makeshift stove—battery wired into jerry-rigged heating element—and asked for a piece of fish.

The camp folk were protective of their energy sources. Homeless guys who bathed once a month kept their PV panels wiped spotless. Some hiked twice a week, backpacks full of batteries, to poorly secured complementary charge spots at hotels and coworking parks. Everyone had their gear locked down with bike cables—as locked down as you could get in a tent, anyhow. Kismet figured Jeffers’ raids were probably behind that impulse, but Ms. Ng said that “Clackamas fash” had been harassing and robbing the unhoused for years before the Cole clan took to it. Plus they were scared of the state, and the utility. They knew their setups were a thorn in the paw of powerful interests, and they knew one didn’t really have property rights in the U.S. without access to lawbots and the capacity to wear a suit.

The paranoia extended to talking about the amnesty demand, or anything to do with energy regs. Kismet’s list was growing slowly. Once he had—to use Ms. Ng’s words—“exchanged solidarity for trust,” the discussion of the actual contents and politics of the demand letter was usually pretty brief. So most of Kismet’s organizing time—carved out under the cover of visiting Torko—was spent getting to know people.

This was a funny turn after helping kick the shit out of them in the dark. More than once Kismet spent the night tossing with guilt, woke up red-eyed and resentful, hating Ms. Ng and anyone else with the gall to remind him that there were sapient souls in the world whose suffering he’d been accomplice to. Those days he hated himself most of all, since the whole project had been his idea, and for going along with Jeffers in the first place. He’d hole up in his curtained-off corner of his shared bedroom, listen to bad music and play worse games. But a couple days later he’d be back out there: introducing himself, cajoling, checking in, trying to demonstrate shared interest.

“Fuck do you keep goin’ up there for?” Jeffers asked when Kismet hauled himself back over the wall one sweaty dusk. “Don’t tell me you been suckered by some Multnomah side piece. I don’t care how hot they are, I won’t have my brother woozy over some stuck-up solarpunk-ass bitch!”

Kismet shrugged it off. “Nah. Just class stuff. School system got some avant-garde ideas about group projects, in-person learning shit. Torko and I figure if we do this project together, we can blow off the whole rest of the term.”

“Sure you’re not getting soft on me, bro?” Jeffers narrowed his eyes. “Been a while since you went rolling with me and the boys.”

“Hell no,” Kismet said. Lying to Jeffers felt worse than lying to the informals who asked how he got started organizing, but he had no choice. “Crossing their filthy camp every day has me itching to get out there and kick some ass. Just, once I’m done with my project, you know?”

Jeffers grinned toothy and eager. “Sure, Kit. That’s real good.”

Kismet started feeling Jeffers’ hot eyes on his back as he headed off each day toward the county line camp. He knew the tents were too far for Jeffers to make him, even with shades, but still Kismet decided to mix up his routine and hit the other camps scattered across Happy Valley. As he biked around, he saw the telltale signs of informal energy setups on peeling rooftops, poking out of open garages. He knew his family couldn’t be the only ones running half on the grid, half off. So he started knocking on doors too.

Portland politics—forward-thinking though it could be—was a cliquey, rancorous tangle, bursting at the seams with counterproductive animosities, suburban grudges that boiled hotter than anything Kismet had encountered in the camps. Happy Valley, for all its ornery individualism, was no exception. The refugees, migrants, and homeless soon seemed tame compared to the armed retirees, determined degentrifiers, squatters, survivalists, militias, and revolutionary cells that haunted the suburb’s McMansion hell. Controversial transit proposals and sprawl-repair policy had fractured people into NIMBYs, YIMBYs, RIMBYs, TRIMBYs, a cascade of acronyms demanding this or that infrastructure in or out of their backyard. Any politics that passed did so through deal-making, favor-trading, bargains, hard-won temporary truces. Success meant herding a vast array of interests into a messy, tentative parade.

Kismet had little experience with such delicate work, beyond keeping the peace in his own volatile house. He did, however, have an unusual kind of focus. Like his peace of mind depended on his success. And he was young; he didn’t look like the usual activist messengers. So when he pitched, people listened, if only out of curiosity.

His pitch was simple: the energy system had been through a grand revolution shifting off fossil fuels and beginning the so-called “energy descent.” But the new rules of this revolution had been written by powerful institutions far away from the streets and neighborhoods where people lived. Kismet could speak to this from right down in his gut because he’d lived his whole life as grist in the gears, in the little stubborn gaps that architects of order didn’t want to deal with. So when he talked about revising those rules to smooth over the frictions and allow for more of the harmless oddities of human life, people believed him. When he pedaled home each night, he could feel a little current of contentment stirring in his soul.

Signature by signature, the parade gathered. Kismet would get messages from people who’d heard about the demand, asking how to sign on. Maybe Ms. Ng had put other organizers on the campaign. Maybe word was just getting around. Right around when the leaden, cloudy spring turned to hothouse summer, Kismet looked down at his spreadsheet and saw a flurry of new confirmations, countersigned in the night. He was over his goal. He was done.

When Kismet came to her humbly bearing a remarkable organizing output, Nova almost cried, almost hugged the boy. He was such an unlikely success story, proof that a shared material interest could pry individuals out of reactionary, culture-war mindsets. But he needed to know the difficult road ahead.

“I’ll get this to Everyone’s Portland,” Nova said. “They’ll broach it with PCE. Then PCE will batter you. They’ll test your coalition, make sure they can’t break you up without any real work or concessions. They always do, before coming to the negotiating table. Which means I’ve got one more job for you.”

“What?” Kismet avoided her gaze. Over time, Nova had wheedled out of him the full truth of his involvement in Jeffers’ cruel enterprise.

“Keep your brother in check. That’s our weakest flank—the utility pointing out that amnesty won’t stop the predation, tying you to your brother, demoralizing the organized. Can you hold him down for the summer?”

She could see the triumph in his eyes drain, watched that well fill up with anxiety. It was always a shock to discover that even when you win, you haven’t really won.

“Can you do that?”

“Yeah,” Kismet said. “I’ll try.”

“Up, Kit,” Jeffers said, rolling Kismet off his mattress with the sharp toe of a plastic boot. “Term’s done. Time for some fun summer nights!”

Kismet had spent the last week keeping Jeffers distracted, challenging him to gaming tournaments, asking to go on hunting trips or long stoned drives out in Three Lynx and Dodge. He’d hoped Jeffers would get bored of harassing the camps. But now the way Jeffers said “fun” made bile churn up in Kismet’s gut.

“Sleep sounds fun,” Kismet tried, but Jeffers wouldn’t hear it. He threw Kismet clothes, no mask this time, and steered him out the door, into the Hummer, already humming with angry, electric potential. They drove lights-off down the hill, out towards that no-man’s-land at the county line.

“What d’ya think, Kitto,” Jeffers said, one hand on the wheel, one iron-locked on Kismet’s shoulder. “You been scouting these assholes out, right? All those trips through here, to school project or side piece or whatever the fuck. You must’ve noticed who’s got the new gear, right? It’s getting hot round here, and Clackamas families are gonna need new solar to handle the aircon load.”

Kismet didn’t answer. He contemplated jumping out of the Hummer. They closed in on the cluttered pyramids of tent-yellowed light.

“C’mon, point me to ‘em,” Jeffers commanded, harsher now. “Unless you ain’t really been doing that ‘group project.’ You’ve been off your game for months, Kit. I’m starting to wonder if you’ve gotten yourself a sympathy for these fuckin’ interlopers.”

Jeffers pulled the Hummer to a stop.

“What do you want me to do?” Kismet said. He felt himself shrinking, regressing to before he learned to organize, before the solarshades, back to when he was a scared kid doing whatever it took to avoid a beating.

“Hop out and pick a tent, Kitto. Get us some solar. We’ve got your back.”

Kismet’s sneakers found the muddy ground. Jeffers tossed a piece of rebar after him, and he picked it up. He wondered if anyone would recognize him in the dark. He had no idea what to do.

There were whoops from the Hummer, nervous rustling from the camp. He took a step forward, then another, palms clenching up on the rebar. He was halfway to the nearest tent when he worked up the nerve to turn around, tell Jeffers to fuck off. But by then it didn’t matter. The hummer had pulled quietly away. Informals were coming out of tents. And from over the line, rolling in from Multnomah, the flash and whirl of Safety siren lights.

Nova had already been having a bad day when she got the call from Safety Services. Her boss had gotten wind of her involvement in the energy amnesty campaign and had accused her of neglecting her core mandate. And now that redneck Cole kid had run out with his old crew and gotten himself held by a judge in lockup.

“I didn’t do anything,” Kismet pleaded when Nova arrived. They sat in a taupe interview cell, his hands clenched on the metal table, tracker bracelet around one wrist.

“Yeah, well, your brother sure did. He wreaked havoc in the encampment before he even woke you up.”

“That’s not my fault.”

“I told you to control him.”

“That’s why I came to you!” Kismet raised his voice, exasperated. “For help with him! Instead you just had me do your grunt work.”

Nova leaned back in her chair, stern. “I sincerely hope you don’t actually believe that narrative.”

Kismet leaned back too, chewed on this, deciding how defiant to be.

“Because,” Nova added, “then you’ll be no good when we go see the judge.”

“You’ll vouch for me?” He looked hopeful again.

“Anyone else going to bother?” Nova said, which was meaner than he deserved.

Kismet stared out the wire-laced window at a dawn-touched cloudbank, sliding in toward downtown.

“What’s going to happen to the amnesty?” he asked eventually. “To the folks in the camps?”

“PCE will be crowing about this by the afternoon,” Nova answered. “No doubt they’ll get the word out in the informal settlements. The judge won’t let you keep working there. We’ll just have to see how many of your signatories decide to bail.”

Kismet put his head on the table, breathed long and deep, a sigh not quite a sob.

The recruiter at the job-guarantee office told Kismet he didn’t need to bring anything to the bus—just his body, his brain, and a willingness to work and learn. Might be appealing if it didn’t feel forced. The judge had made it a condition of his freedom: get out of town, “away from troubling family influences,” make himself useful, catch up on school. Kismet packed a bag anyhow, claiming that sliver of agency. Toothbrush, flashlight, seeds from Torko, and the blanked-out solarshades, wrapped up in a sock.

Jeffers didn’t see him off, just Ma and Poost. Jeffers lurked upstairs, nursing his house arrest. Safety had picked him up trying to roll the Harmony Point camp. Kismet was pretty sure Nova had seen him coming.

The bus glided up, garish green and PV-roofed. When the honk came, Kismet clambered out his bedroom window, took one last look at the Clackamas county line.

It was a couple months before Kismet heard from Nova. Not that long in politics time, but it seemed a lifetime to him. He got the ping, and they arranged an evening to chat—her lounging alone in her office yurt, now moved out to West Slope, him hunched over a screen in his pup tent, at the edge of the Malheur Forest Expansion Zone.

“How’s union life?” she asked.

“Not bad,” Kismet said. “Way I figure, sooner we get the carbon down, sooner energy rationing can ease up. So I tell myself I’m still doing my part to win energy amnesty, after a fashion.”

“Well, I got some news there,” Nova said. “PCE announced some dispensations today. Not everything we wanted, but it’s a good step. Funny, they claimed they were planning it all along, soon as they finished their informal energy survey, that census worker whose shades you stole. But they wouldn’t have gotten moving if we hadn’t pushed.”

Kismet felt something settle inside him, some small seed that had been rattling around in his veins.

“How?” he asked. “Figured the parade would fall apart. Figured folks would feel cheated about who talked them into signing.”

Nova gave that exaggerated vidchat shrug. “Mostly we had people asking after you, wondering if you were okay. You had a good idea, and that got bigger than you. A lot of policy starts as something personal. But what’s personal to one person can be political to a thousand.”

After the call Kismet crawled out of his tent, watched the sun go down and the stars come out. Up and down the line, at the edge of the forest they were rebuilding, with just the sun to keep their bats juiced, the tents of his compatriots began to glow. 

Quiet Mobilization, Inclusion, and the Energy Futures of Cities

By Patricia Romero-Lankao

“Solarshades” is a story of intertwined partisan, family, and community identities and obligations. It traces nuanced, contradictory, and contested actions around energy policies in Portland, Oregon. It shows that the energy futures of cities are not only about the technical challenge of decarbonization and options for transitioning to solar energy, but also about who owns energy systems, how inclusive management modalities are (such as grid, legal-distributed, and illegal-distributed), and who pays for, who benefits from, and who bears the risks brought about by these technologies. 

The story reminds us that energy and sprawl-repair policies and strategies, no matter how forward-looking and beneficial, are not always inherently wanted. Rather they become unwanted, or not, through in-situ social and political interactions. Sprawl-repair policies seek to transform auto-dependent, single-use places into more diverse, environmentally friendly, and economically viable communities, by creating viable human-centered neighborhoods that are walkable and fueled by renewable energy, with mixed uses and public transportation options.

As it happens with the parade of yes-in-my-back-yard (YIMBY) and right-in-my-back-yard (RIMBY) reactions alluded to in the story, Kismet’s family’s not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) engagement against solar and sprawl-repair strategies might, objectively, be seen as self-defeating in the context of their long-term well-being. Given the crumbling living conditions the family experiences, it would be fair to ask why people like Kismet’s mother—and particularly Jeffers, his brother—oppose ostensibly sustainable energy policies.

Actions and responses to policy-making are not necessarily and uniquely driven by cool rational considerations of benefits and costs. Values, identities, feelings, and loyalties are also deeply intertwined with actions. People often situate their actions towards energy policies in relation to their cultural, political, family, and clique identities. Political ideologies, in particular, create rationales that are at the heart of enthusiasm for action that might be counterintuitive, both at a first glance and from a longer-term urban sustainability perspective.

Jeffers and his clan and gang, for a variety of mixed-up, at times conflicting reasons, view government sustainability efforts such as solar energy as a menace to personal autonomy. Below the surface of Jeffers’ behavior lies a contradictory and subtle force: a hodgepodge of values, identities, feelings, and loyalties about a wide variety of things, and to a variety of different groups. Jeffers represents sectors of the population whose mix of feelings and impressions is pivotal to their mistrust of sustainable energy policies and of supporters of those policies, “those granola-shitters downtown,” the self-identified progressives, liberals, or Democrats who often push for sprawl repair and solar energy in the name of the public, sustainable good.

In the future, struggles over urban energy transitions are going to be less about ending coal or oil, and more about how prosperity and opportunity opened up by solar, electrification, and other technological deployments plays out in complex socioeconomic and political landscapes. In this context, “Solarshades” also emphasizes that a focus on rallies, boycotts, and other public forms of open policy action can lead scholars and pundits interested in fostering inclusive, decarbonized cities to overlook the political significance of more person-to-person interactions.

Although understudied, person-to-person interactions are far more pervasive than formal political gatherings for the vast majority of people in the U.S. and around the world. They include forms of interpersonal engagement such as Kismet’s conversations with his brother Jeffers, his friend Torko, and their neighbors, whose signatures he was asked to gather in support of an effort to bring extralegal, unregulated, off-grid solar collectors into the official energy system. At first glance, any of these conversations might look to be something personal and irrelevant. However, after a careful look, this story shows us that what is personal to some can often be “political to a thousand.”

Such interactions are the backbone of quiet mobilization, a term used by sociologists to denote a form of political engagement by an apparently silent majority of people. Although understudied, quiet mobilization is key to understanding the influence, on the energy futures of cities, of the hodgepodge of factors shaping actions and responses by this majority. Quiet mobilization, either for or against solar, transit, sprawl repair, energy and sustainability policies, or social and cultural practices, entails daily chats with neighbors and colleagues, the formation of local interest groups, civic meetings, discussions at churches and recreational centers, conversations with colleagues, and other forms of daily engagement in civil society.

Quiet mobilization frequently reinforces sentiments of identity and belonging to a family, a gang, a group, or a place. It is crucial to understanding Kismet’s ambivalence, as reflected when he, for example, while self-conflicted about the looting of informal communities, “didn’t want Jeffers [his brother] to think he wasn’t game, so he went along again, and again.” Quiet mobilization involves interpersonal conversations about political and contentious topics. These conversations require mutual trust and often arise in nonpolitical places. They also happen in face-to-face situations where people like Kismet choose not to openly confront contentious issues, but rather to tackle them with cautiousness.

Social scientists such as Colin Jerolmack and Edward T. Walker suggest that quiet mobilization is an especially attractive option for collective action in rural, white, conservative communities, where open forms of mobilization against fracking or for disinvestment in coal and the fossil-fuel industry are viewed with disdain and mistrust, as something that only Democrats, urbanites, or liberals do. I would argue that this is the preferred option for the majority of populations who, like Kismet, embrace their inner orbits (families, clans, or neighbors) as outlets for their political interactions, rather than engage directly with the wider political structure of their society.

Although quiet mobilization is not undercover or clandestine, it differs from more conventional and open forms of resistance in that it does not necessarily entail a logic of oppositional awareness. Rather, it is employed because it can help people like Kismet achieve their goals. Visits to folks—talks that touch on their immediate needs, fears, hopes, dreams, or concerns—are the preferred and more effective means to “work up a letter” and “a supporter list—with signatures.” They are intimate ways to achieve political goals without openly disrupting family, gang, or community bonds, expectations, or rules. They are also a space needing a deeper understanding in any effort seeking to foster more inclusive approaches to building decarbonized and sustainable futures.

“Solarshades” clearly points to the structural power asymmetries at play, which are the consequence of the characters’ comparative positions in the political and socioeconomic order of Portland. Within this structure, Nova, along with the Metro Community Council for which she works, has the power of knowledge. They create an augmented-reality app to map their vast “institutional insight,” which helps them inform their policies and navigate their politics. Through the app, Kismet becomes aware that dwellers of the informal settlements are living incredibly precarious lives. He also realizes what his family, his gang, and these settlers have in common: all of them are often getting screwed by powerful forces they can’t control.

Nova and the reader know that even though Jeffers and his Cole clan, and the “Clackamas fash” before them, have been looting “the unhoused for years,” their circumstances are but a scintilla in Portland’s constellation of powerful interests. Clearly, in Portland—like everywhere—those who own the land and money have the power to call the shots. And “Solarshades” dazzlingly highlights that nobody actually has property rights in America and worldwide without access to the assets and options, such as money, lawyers, and lobbyists, needed to shape policies in ways that benefit them.

However, differences in the characters’ comparative positions in the sociopolitical order of Portland cannot alone explain the challenges that the city’s changing acrimonies, resentments, and disagreements pose to the successful realization of its forward-looking policies. These conflicts also result from the abilities and power of the characters (the characters’ agency) to act upon, take advantage of, negotiate, and contest these policies. These challenges take place in a context of multiple changing coalitions built and rebuilt through deals, bargains, and temporary truces. The dynamic interplay between antagonists, supporters, and affected people often leads to the messy, wicked, and provisional outcomes of policy attempts aimed at sustainability.

Such problems arise because knowledge of the sociopolitical realities portrayed by “Solarshades” is omitted by precisely those experts, pundits, and practitioners responsible for analyzing and informing energy sustainability policies in cities. Focused as they are on quantitative and “objective” representations of sociopolitical realities, they tend to assume that successful policy depends on rational action and decision-making, fully informed political actors, and an empathetic planner. In so doing, they omit that, in reality, any energy policy, no matter how well-intended and forward-looking, creates a new and messy constellation of winners and losers immersed in numerous contradictions that can ultimately bring failure. They do so as they move from idea to reality, thought to action, from a clean conception in a committee conference room to the gritty and grim reality of daily existence.

Kismet ends up being forgiven by the judge with the condition for his freedom that he get “‘away from troubling family influences,’ make himself useful, and catch up on school.”

“Solarshades” touches a series of personal questions in me for which, sadly, I have no answers. What would an understanding of quiet mobilization by multiple sectors mean for the energy futures of cities? Given that energy transitions require collective action, how can we engage with the antagonists in today’s energy policies and politics? How can we engage with the quiet mobilizers, and also with the open mobilizers such as the oil or renewable-energy industries? Is there a bigger and more coherent strategy for social and political energy change that speaks to the fears, needs, dreams, and identities of the messy mosaic of urban groups involved? Or do we need to accept that there are many ways to construct inclusive and sustainable cities, ways that may be more enigmatic, more irreverent, or more ordinary than we think?

While I don’t have answers to these questions, I believe that understanding quiet mobilization offers a potentially powerful tool for building inclusive coalitions that consider the more personal and intimate interactions prevalent among the majority of people across the spectrum of urban to rural places. This story is primarily about white communities. However, many of the same kinds of disenfranchisement, and failures to engage, plague the relationships between the energy sector, advocates of sustainable energy, and African American, Latinx, and Native American communities. Furthermore, analysis of the rich mosaic of needs, identities, fears, dreams, and hopes shaping action among this majority is crucial. By including not only the open mobilizers but also the quiet mobilizers, we will be able to forge more inclusive coalitions in support of more equitable energy and sustainability outcomes.

Encountering Energy Systems

By Angel L. Echevarria

When you gaze at an energy system, who and what do you see within it? Whose relations are entangled in its webs? What elements of our world are at stake in the project of energy transitions?

These are the questions we confront when we encounter the “Solarshades” of Andrew Dana Hudson’s story: augmented-reality glasses that, through data-driven overlays, open up new vistas that allow the wearer to explore how energy systems structure the relationships between people, across vast distances of space and time. This essay is about the challenge of transforming human-created energy systems—the ones that make it possible for billions of people to access and use electricity. The purpose of this essay is to help you identify, relate, and start connecting the dots of what needs to be considered if we hope to transform our energy systems to better serve societies around the world. To do that, we need new lenses.

Throughout the essay I use different examples to show how big the challenge is to transform global energy systems using the tools of science. Too frequently, when we look at the world through scientific lenses, we find our gaze narrowing, seeing only a fraction of what is really there. By contrast, when our lenses reveal the complexity of our contemporary energy systems, as in “Solarshades,” we recognize that the challenge is not simply to substitute the current electricity-producing technologies, and the services they currently provide. Instead, the challenge is to critically transform the social structures, institutions, and processes of energy—social relations that in our existing energy systems are too often violent, extractive, and colonizing—1 together with the kinds of knowledge and everyday actions that have tied us to the energy-producing technologies that were pushed by the deeper political economies of the world.2 To transform our energy systems to be sustainable, it is indispensable to go beyond climate change to decolonize our world, to end racism, to end poverty, to end refugee settlements … and that means we need to transform not just the fuels and technologies of energy systems, but also how they operate and how they are organized.

The energy system is already in transition—or at least parts of it are. If societies endeavor to design just, equitable, and secure energy transitions towards a sustainable future using the tools we have developed in science, we inevitably start by looking at energy systems through a lens or a framework. These lenses are part of the tools science uses to shape our thinking, helping us to make sense of the world. But science itself will not suffice, in part because the evolving nature of scientific tools are in contrast to the habits of the humans that use them. To our disadvantage, we tend to stick to the categories, models, theories, and frameworks we have created in the past. Very often we forget to scrutinize how these were created, and on what basis, in what context, what their relation is to the whole, how we understand and interpret what the tools tell us, their purposes, how they affect what we understand, and how they constrain what we imagine goes on in the world.3 Scientific institutions are slow to transform and even slower to change their fundamental processes, which are deeply rooted in old paradigms.4 Some of these paradigms are in the range of thousands of years old. In contrast, the energy systems I am talking about here are in the range of a century.5 To build today’s energy systems took a hundred years of effort, and now, due to changes in the climate, we need to transform them three times as fast. This is part of the challenge, too: we are against the fast-rising temperatures of the oceans and the atmosphere at the same time that we are against the inertia of structures and institutions that need to change. 

Lenses for Viewing Energy Systems

To show this, here I share with you three lenses on energy systems. The first includes two examples of narrower lenses provided by conventional tools of science, which both fall short of providing vantage points from which to transform energy systems. The second lens combines the social and technological aspects of science to show a complex vision of energy systems. This way of understanding energy systems includes the people inhabiting them, such that energy systems are understood to be socio-energy systems. The third lens draws from a holistic vision of energy systems to help us understand that we can relate to energy systems differently. 

Lens 1: Scientific and Engineering Approaches

The first example of a scientific lens on energy systems is the concept of the energy burden. There are places within the U.S. mainland where households pay 14 percent6 of their total income in energy bills, not including the gasoline for their car. While this is already difficult enough, there are other places where that same number can range from 48 to 55 percent,7 as is the case for low-income households in the central mountain region of Puerto Rico. This fraction of household income is called the energy burden. Sociologists use it to measure the financial cost that energy systems impose in people’s lives, illustrating just how thoroughly existing energy systems are implicated in reinforcing and even exacerbating poverty. Yet, even on its own ground, the measure is inadequate. Energy burdens run far deeper than just money: those facing the prospect of having their electricity cut off, for example, routinely feel anxiety, depression, shame, anger, stress, and other health issues caused by the different trade-offs and decisions they have to make, day after day. These are other types of burdens caused by energy designs that are centered on access, selling electrons for consumption. The impact of the human dimensions of energy systems was not included in the design of the energy systems we have now. Nonetheless, these are crucial aspects that are immediately present in our lives as we relate to and inhabit energy systems. 

Another scientific lens on energy systems frames them in terms of power plants generating electricity, which travels through a set of cables and infrastructure that transmit and distribute electrons over long distances, all the way to the outlets into which we plug our electrical devices. To understand such systems, electrical engineers use theories of electricity from physics, mathematical equations that describe the behavior of electrical circuits, and computational models that let us design and analyze those circuits. However, this way of framing entirely ignores people, the places that transmission cables travel through, the locations where power-generating plants operate, and the threats to the environment and human health that they pose. People imagine, design, finance, and build energy systems, they operate and maintain them, and they use and live with them. Yet, when we use the tools of engineering to model energy systems, all of that is left aside. The energy systems that electrical engineers see do not include people at all, except in the traces of their lives measured by their “load”: the electrical needs of their devices and appliances. 

Lens 2: Socio-Energy Systems

To include people in our understanding of energy, we need to use tools that are not found in the disciplinary toolkits of science and engineering. Langdon Winner, in The Whale and the Reactor, his book about the political philosophy of technology, explains that the construction of a technical system that involves human beings as operating parts brings about a reconstruction of social roles and relationships.8 That reconstruction, in turn, feeds back into the design and operation of the technical system, creating continuous interactions between technical systems and social systems. This way of framing energy systems describes them as socio-energy systems,9 in which the interactions between the social and the technical define both systems through the activities we do every day, the ways that technologies get assembled to meet those needs, and the ways that our activities then adjust themselves to conform to the opportunities that our technologies offer. Energy systems are, in this way, co-produced at multiple levels.10

Viewed this way, we can better understand not only how energy systems work to structure human lives and livelihoods, but also how energy systems replicate larger systems of oppression that have been in place for centuries, even before the Industrial Revolution.11 When paying attention only to power plants, wires, and electrical devices in the design and analysis of energy systems, we perpetuate all of the social injustices that are wrapped up in the people and put them into our designs. Despite the promises of electricity to create prosperity for all and to ensure fair distributions of the costs of energy systems, energy burdens are not equal and fall disproportionately on Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Indigenous communities.12 The same pattern holds true for the environmental and health risks imposed by energy infrastructures.13

Lens 3: Energy Encounters

Fortunately, the evolution of scientific knowledge allows us now to move past disciplinary boundaries, to include other forms of knowledge and perspectives to achieve a holistic understanding of the challenges that different societies face. Instead of asking a specific set of questions that are normally bounded to any given discipline, transdisciplinary science aims to ask all sorts of questions that transgress the intellectual blocks imposed by academic disciplines and well-established roles in societies. When we rethink our daily interactions with energy systems in a way that engages the complex socio-technical relationships that emerge out of them, it can put us on track to a sustainable future. In doing so, it is essential to pay attention to micro-level interactions and macro-level outcomes alike, because they both shape the evolution of a system.14 Our inner worlds, such as emotions, thoughts, identities, and beliefs, no less than our great systems of technology and infrastructure, lie at the root of sustainability, and are fundamental to the solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.15

Following this lead, we now take a look at the micro-level interactions we have with energy systems using a relational lens. Imagine one day you come home to discover an energy officer at your door, a visitor from your local utility. You have a choice, the officer informs you: either pay your energy bill, or the energy service to your home gets shut off. What will you do? At this point, you are facing a trade-off. Do you pay the electricity bill and spend days without money? Do you use money from the cellphone budget? Eat less food for the next few weeks? Try to land a second job? In the extreme, perhaps you can do nothing.

I call this an energy encounter. Energy encounters take many forms and flavors, but what you encounter is the energy system itself. The combination of its many elements, its design, its infrastructure, its politics, its regulation, its law, its numbers—all fused—confronts you altogether. It can be in the form of stress, or in the form of planning ahead of time to adjust your routine accordingly, or all of a sudden—in any case, the energy system presents itself to you, not as an object that you can experience, but as something to which you relate.16 That is an energy encounter. Someone can argue that a person who has financial freedom would not have to deal with such an encounter. In this case, we can consider the macro-level interactions between energy systems and people. Wealthy people also encounter energy systems, but in different ways. They encounter them as investors, as partners in creating a clean-energy future, as objects of policy and regulation—just not as an officer, asking for money lest they turn out the lights.

Solarshades and Social Relations

If you were asked to imagine a future that is sustainable, how far would you dare to imagine with respect to addressing society’s biggest challenges? Are homelessness, refugee camps, hunger, poverty, gender and race inequalities, deforestation, land appropriation, war, colonialism, and cultural eradication still present in your imagined sustainable future? All of these are issues that people encounter in the world as result of the mechanisms of current geopolitics, including the economics of energy systems. They are issues that could be addressed, at least in part, through a reorganization of the energy sector. From this perspective, energy systems are a social issue that encompasses not only climate change and the institutions that have allowed it to accelerate, but a whole host of energy encounters that are often invisible to those making global clean-energy policy. 

The narrative of climate change and energy system transitions is narrowly fixated on a single outcome: to eliminate carbon emissions, often via a technological fix—deploying solar energy. There are many ways of achieving that particular outcome, most of which leave space for the continuation of the same mechanisms that have oppressed people at a range of social scales, from impoverished households to entire civilizations. In other words, you can replace the source of your energy and the technologies that provide it, but if you keep the same mechanisms of interaction between energy systems and societies there will be no transition at all. 

When you use a relational and holistic approach, the picture you get of the energy system tells us that we need multiple outcomes of the ongoing energy transition—that whatever the technology, it is only but a component of the solution. “Solarshades” reminds the reader (and the wearer) that what is at stake is far more than just electricity. The shades offered the energy officers of the future information not only about electricity use, but also about real estate, energy bills, home energy-efficiency scores, rental agreements, proprietary information, energy theft, illegal connections, consumer debts, ages, last known addresses, and so on. The solarshades are a symbol of the different institutional paradigms that today shape energy systems, old and new. They are a reminder that what we are doing when we design and build energy systems is to simultaneously shape societies in all of their relations.


1 Sandy Smith-Nonini, “The Debt/Energy Nexus behind Puerto Rico’s Long Blackout: From Fossil Colonialism to New Energy Poverty,” Latin American Perspectives 47, no. 3 (2020): 64-86. [Back]

2 Maria Pastukhova and Kirsten Westphal, “Governing the Global Energy Transformation,” in Manfred Hafner and Simone Tagliapietra, eds., The Geopolitics of the Global Energy Transition, Springer International Publishing, 2020: 341-364. [Back]

3 Rupert Sheldrake, “Setting Science Free From Materialism,” EXPLORE 9, no. 4 (2013): 211-218. [Back]

4 Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1962. [Back]

5 Thomas Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983. [Back]

6 This is the average energy burden for people at the lowest 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) of Clackamas County, Oregon, based on data available in 2020. The AMI is the midpoint of a region’s income distribution—half of the families in a region earn more than the median and half earn less than the median. See “Low-Income Energy Affordability Data Tool,” U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, https://www.energy.gov/eere/slsc/maps/lead-tool. [Back]

7 Based on data available in 2020, the average energy burden for people at the lowest 30 percent of the AMI in the municipality of Ciales, Puerto Rico is 52 percent. For Puerto Rico as a whole, the average energy burden is 26 percent. See “Low-Income Energy Affordability Data Tool,” U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, https://www.energy.gov/eere/slsc/maps/lead-tool. [Back]

8 Langdon Winner, The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, University of Chicago Press, 1989. [Back]

9 Clark A. Miller and Jennifer Richter, “Social Planning for Energy Transitions,” Current Sustainable/Renewable Energy Reports 1, no. 3 (2014): 77-84. [Back]

10 Clark A. Miller, Nigel Moore, Carlos Altamirano-Allende, Nafeesa Irshad, and Saurabh Biswas, “Poverty Eradication Through Energy Innovation: A Multi-Layer Design Framework for Social Value Creation,” joint working paper from the Center for Energy and Society and Grassroots Energy Innovation Laboratory at Arizona State University and Affordable Energy for Humanity, 2018: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.15751.09125. [Back]

11 Mark Swilling, Just Transitions: Explorations of Sustainability in an Unfair World, United Nations University Press, 2012. [Back]

12 Ariel Drehobl, Lauren Ross, and Roxana Ayala, How High Are Household Energy Burdens? An Assessment of National and Metropolitan Energy Burden across the United States, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 2020, https://www.aceee.org/research-report/u2006. [Back]

13 Sharlissa Moore, Sustainable Energy Transformations, Power and Politics: Morocco and the Mediterranean, Routledge, 2019. [Back]

14 Maya Schlüter, L. Jamila Haider, Steven J. Lade, Emilie Lindkvist, Romina Martin, Kirill Orach, Nanda Wijermans, and Carl Folke, “Capturing Emergent Phenomena in Social-Ecological Systems: An Analytical Framework,” Ecology and Society 24, no. 3 (2019): https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-11012-240311. [Back]

15 Christopher D. Ives, Rebecca Freeth, and Joern Fischer, “Inside-Out Sustainability: The Neglect of Inner Worlds,” Ambio 49 (2019): 208-217. [Back]

16 The concept of “encounter,” as used in this essay, is borrowed from Martin Buber’s dialogical philosophy, which I apply as a relational lens to analyze energy systems. See Martin Buber, I and Thou, Scribner, 1970. [Back]