Renewable Energy and Indigenous Communities

Thursday April 7, 2022 4:00pm to 5:30pm

Historically, many indigenous communities around the world have been affected by the extraction of fossil fuels. Land displacement, the diversion of resources like water, the consequent pollution, the lack of consultation or compensation, the harmful effects of climate change, and in some cases, even the violation of human rights are all threats and risks that indigenous communities have faced over the years.  The transition to clean energy and the phase-out of fossil fuels could represent the end of those threats and perhaps the reconciliation with indigenous groups. For example, communities in Canada and Australia have embraced renewable energy and developed their own solar and wind projects. Yet, the massive demand for renewable energy may bring new issues for the communities given the amount of land required for project development and minerals for the supply chain, which today are extracted and processed with a considerable environmental impact.

This panel will review how indigenous groups worldwide perceive the growth of renewable energy. Is it an opportunity or a risk? It will also discuss how to minimize the new threats and make the energy transition more just for the indigenous people.

Históricamente, comunidades indígenas alrededor del mundo se han visto afectadas por la extracción de energías fósiles. Desplazamientos forzados, afectación de territorios indígenas y de sus recursos naturales, falta de consulta y compensación, y en muchas ocasiones la violación de derechos humanos, han sido un recurrente de esta industria. La transición energética y un futuro sin energías fósiles, podría significar el fin de esta amenaza . En los últimos años hemos visto como por ejemplo comunidades en Canadá, Australia, Estados Unidos, Ecuador y Bolivia han desarrollados sus propias empresas de energías renovables, las cuales pueden traer beneficios para las comunidades, además de contribuir a combatir el cambio climático. Sin embargo, para otras comunidades localizadas en lugares favorables para la ubicación de energías renovables, el desarrollo de energías renovables por empresas privadas, ha sido negativo. La altísima demanda por energías renovables que requiere la transición energética, así como la magnitud de los terrenos requeridos para desarrollar proyectos y los minerales para producirlos, son todos factores que pueden convertir la expansión de energías renovables en una amenaza para las comunidades indígenas en el mundo.  El propósito de este conversatorio es conocer la perspectiva de miembros de comunidades indígenas que se han visto afectados o beneficiados por el desarrollo de energías renovables. ¿Representan estas energías un riesgo o una oportunidad para comunidades indígenas en el mundo? Como minimizar los riesgos para hacer la transición energética justa e inclusiva de las comunidades indígenas?

This event is co-sponsored with Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies.


Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez

Mexican Human Rights Defender

Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez is a Mexican human rights defender and member of the Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of the Tehuantepec Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory, in the Santa María Xadani municipality, Tehuantepec Isthmus, Oaxaca. She is also a member of the movement of Civil Resistance against High-Electricity Prices, who has faced significant threats against her because of her human rights work.

Melina Miyowapan Laboucan-Massimo


Sacred Earth Solar

Melina Laboucan-Massimo is an internationally renowned advocate for climate justice, Indigenous sovereignty and women's rights. She is a 2021-2022 Kleinman Center Visiting Scholar. Melina is Lubicon Cree from Northern Alberta, Canada. She is the Founder of Sacred Earth Solar, co-founder and Just Transition Director at Indigenous Climate Action and a Climate Fellow at the David Suzuki Foundation. She is the Host of a new TV series called Power to the People which profiles renewable energy in Indigenous communities. Melina holds a Master’s degree in Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria with a focus on Renewable Energy. As a part of her Master’s thesis Melina implemented a 20.8 kW solar project in her home community of Little Buffalo which powers the health center in the heart of the tar sands.

Ganur Maynard

Judicial Clerk

Federal Court of Australia

Ganur is a Kamilaroi man from central New South Wales, but he grew up on Australia's eastern coast, near the land of the Worimi People. He has worked as a lawyer and a researcher in a variety of fields of concern to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including native title, environmental and planning law and Indigenous incarceration and sentencing.

Tulia Falleti

Class of 1965 Endowed Term Professor of Political Science

School of Arts and Sciences

Tulia Falleti is the Class of 1965 Endowed Term Professor of Political Science, Director of the Latin American and Latinx Studies Program, and Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics.