New Energy Justice Course and Clinic Give Dartmouth Undergrads Hands-on Experience in Supporting Equitable Energy Transitions

During the winter and spring '22 terms, Dartmouth students can gain hands-on experience in supporting communities that are seeking socially just energy transitions through the new Dartmouth Energy Justice Clinic. 

Created by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Maron Greenleaf and Dr. Sarah Kelly, post-doctoral scholar in the Anthropology Department, the clinic will focus on two projects over the next year. The first supports the Town of Hanover and the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire in developing and implementing "community power," in which communities collectively purchase renewable power. The EJ Clinic will help the transition to community power be inclusive and equitable. The second EJ clinic site is in Futawillimapu, which is Mapuche-Williche territory in southern Chile, and will support a water-energy justice court case involving Mapuche ancestral territory rights.

The course and clinic evolved from a 2020-21 Irving Institute Seed Grant funded project which provided funding to Dr. Laura Ogden, Dr. Greenleaf, and Dr. Kelly to develop the Social Lives of Energy course and further social science and energy curriculum development at Dartmouth. Dr. Kelly said, "I taught the Social Lives of Energy last spring and each Thursday I operated a Lab where we conducted engaged research on energy issues. Shalanda Baker also recently published a book on Energy Justice (Revolutionary Power) that really inspired the class." 

Dr. Kelly continued, "Maron and I began talking about the possibility of creating an Energy Justice Clinic that facilitates community-based research between Dartmouth students and communities facing energy justice issues. We applied for Irving funding again to run the clinic this year by integrating the clinic with two classes, Environmental Justice and Energy Justice, offered winter and spring terms by the Anthropology Department."

Both Dr. Kelly and Dr. Greenleaf found Dartmouth undergraduates to be enthusiastic about the opportunity. "While meeting with undergraduates to select cohort members — anyone participating in the clinic in multiple terms, as either research assistants or students in the two courses — many expressed that they were looking for something just like this. Some are interested because it is a tangible learning experience related to climate justice .... Others are drawn specifically to the field of Energy Justice, which provides tools to consider social equity and inclusion issues associated with the low-carbon energy transition happening globally."

The cohort will meet frequently as a group starting in the Winterim. This will create a learning community that extends beyond the classroom and beyond an individual course. Students will receive training in social science methods and learn from scholars and practitioners working on environmental, climate, and energy justice, working together to address and reflect on how these important topics of energy justice manifest in different places and affect different communities. 
Drs. Greenleaf and Kelly are excited about the work ahead. "Meaningful community-based research is energizing and inspiring. We're connected with great partners here in the Upper Valley and in Chile. The first group of students are a dedicated and talented group that are bringing the clinic to life. It's wonderful to see it start to take shape and feel like we're building a solid foundation," said Dr. Kelly. 
"There's really innovative work being done on transitioning to renewable energy right here in the Upper Valley and we're excited to enable Dartmouth students to learn about and contribute to it. We're also excited to have students working on these two cases so that they can see the differences and similarities in energy justice issues across divergent contexts," added Dr. Greenleaf.
The clinic is housed in the College's Anthropology Department and receives additional support from the Center for Social Impact. The clinic website can be found here.