Electric Vehicles, Smart Growth, Environmental Justice & Avoiding Eco-Colonialism

Electric Vehicles are touted as a key component to solving our climate crisis. Many consumers are jumping on the EV bandwagon, and companies like Amazon are building a fleet to ship goods by electric truck. Likewise, national environmental organizations are pushing EVs as key to lowering GHG emissions and transitioning to a green economy. So are we and many of our allies.

This is all understandable, but are EVs a real climate solution in and of themselves?

Auto-centric urban and regional designs reinforce systemic inequalities, regardless of fuel source. Electric vehicles are an important tool in the fight against the climate crisis, but they are not the only tool we need if we wish to have transformative human and environmental justice, as frameworks such the Green New Deal propose.

This discussion will investigate how electric vehicles can work in unison with a mode shift from cars and trucks to rail, Smart Growth development policies, lithium battery recycling, and the mitigation of lithium mining impacts on the Global South, for a comprehensive and equitable response to the climate crisis. 

We need to ask:

  • How do we avoid trading one extractive model with another?
  • How do we center community self-determination and localization, instead of furthering the worst aspects of globalization?
  • How do we invest in public works in a way that is just, reduces harms, and addresses historic harms?

Solutionary Rail seeks to harmonize our transportation system, and we work with people like Robert to protect our natural areas, design communities that meet people's real needs, all while reducing GHG emissions. Real solutions - like mode shifting long haul freight, building mass transit and passenger rail - would have an immediate impact on pollution and emissions and would contribute toward racial, environmental and transportation justice.

After watching this video, we recommend reading our supplemental briefs Facts and False Solutions and Moonshot Modeshift

You may also be interested in our draft document on Assessing Catenary Power for Trucks & Trains (and other public interest considerations for a just transition). Bill refers to this new work in during the conversation.  

Robert's slides are available HERE.

Robert's Bio:

Robert Colón (he/they) is an interdisciplinary landscape and urban designer with a background in research chemistry, civics, and public health advocacy.
He graduated from Florida International University’s Master’s of Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design program and from Northeastern University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry and a minor in Biology.

In 2020, Robert was awarded the Olmsted Scholar award for dedicating his career to bridging the gaps between the bountiful and innovative knowledge produced by science and effective action through design. Robert is passionate about mass transportation and freight mode shift to rail as catalysts for the transformative change we need to confront the climate crisis and bring equity to our communities.


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