Raya Salter is an attorney, educator and clean energy law/policy expert, focusing on climate justice. She is a member of the New York State Climate Action Council, which is developing NY’s plan to reach the nation’s leading climate action goals, and a policy organizer with the NY Renews environmental and climate justice coalition.
Raya is an experienced advocate, having practiced energy law and regulation in multiple jurisdictions, including New York and Hawaii. In prior roles she was a Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a Regulatory Attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund. She has written widely on energy policy and her book, "Energy Justice, Domestic and International Perspectives" was released in 2018.
Because of climate change, Urban Heat Islands - areas significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas due to human activities - are becoming more and more apparent, from places such as New York City to Hawaii. Statistically, these are more likely to affect low income, communities of color. Raya discusses the importance of not just reducing fossil fuel usage to combat climate change, but by also cultivating resilience in our communities, especially those of lower income. It will not be enough to simply lower emissions at this point,
“We have to be investing in communities and local power systems that will be resilient in the impacts of climate change as we seek to shift the playing field, also economically for those same communities.”
With a focus on clean energy and resilience, Raya emphasizes the importance of bringing communities and power systems together to create a more equitable, long lasting, and sustainable energy system, where people have influence over how local and large scale decisions are made. By implementing community involvement through things such as co-ownership, Raya makes it clear that this is a shift that is not only possible, but essential.
The Real Work
There are many ways individuals can contribute to positive change but at the top of that list, for Raya, is “decolonizing yourself,” the act of restructuring a perspective, and in turn society, to support all communities and put forth the needs of all citizens, equitably. This means to be responsive to the particular needs of each community, particularly the disenfranchised. Resulting in the space for people of color to rise up and take action in the decision making process, shifting the narrative from a white centered movement, to an inclusive, multicultural action.
“Sometimes, you may feel like you’re being tokenized, but you have to stand in your power
and stand in the room and bring your worth to bare at the table, and take what you need from
the situation as well.”
This interview is packed wall-to-wall with topics ranging from the Civil Rights Movement, to the importance of grounding ourselves in local movements, to what Raya wished she knew before she began on her journey through environmentalism, and so much more. Tune in this week for a fascinating look into the life of Raya Salter on Breaking Green Ceilings!