Collective Action Is Key For Climate Justice By Andrew Mades

January 31, 2022

My name is Andrew Mades. I began serving as a VISTA member at the National Center for Appropriate Technologies (NCAT) in November 2021 and will serve until November 2022. A historian by training, I studied in Massachusetts before moving to in Berlin, Germany in 2018. There I completed a master’s degree in project management and law and was married to my husband. While that is my background, and history is a passion of mine, I have become dismayed at the lack of urgency in addressing the climate crisis. I felt I had to act, and so began looking for a way to help others by addressing the problem. Many argue that the crisis can be ‘solved’ through new technologies, or that by tweaking the private sector everything will be okay. It is the public sector, however, where we can prevent the crisis from becoming a true calamity, and so I signed up with AmeriCorps. 

Collective action is imperative; but how? And who? Can addressing the climate crisis bring equity to those most affected? And where are opportunities to address the crisis for folks that aren’t STEM experts? So much of the climate crisis is tied up in resource allocation, government policy, and decisions made at every level of government that an individual can feel powerless. The big questions of how we structure our society; what kind of work people do, what modes of transportation do we use, and how/why we consume cannot be answered by consumer choices but by decisions made our local, state, and national legislatures. Individual action can only accomplish so much, but by working together we can develop resilient communities for decades to come. 

I have, until now, been on the individual side of the climate question; reading depressing reports about the burning of the Amazon, or how there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans, or that too much of the Antarctic is already melting. It makes one question whether it would even be moral to have children in a world where Boston is underwater. Serving at NCAT has put me on the other side of that line; action is possible, and there are so many people working on climate mitigation as well as necessarily adapting to the changing climate. This is especially true in Montana where a multitude of strong grassroots organizations are moving the state towards a sustainable, equitable, and resilient future. It’s truly exciting to support these groups and their many projects, from a county-level movement to bring the Hiawatha passenger rail network back online (servicing southern Montana from east to west), sustainable agriculture and fire mitigation projects, and the development of in cities such as Bozeman, Missoula, and Butte-Silver Bow, the work being done in Montana gives me hope that we can have an equitable, green future. I’ve met dozens of folks making real progress and hope to continue doing so. We have a major project in the works which will hopefully be the subject of my next blog post. 

Andrew (left) and his husband Johanna (right) posing for their wedding photo.