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What is "Just Transition"?

Just transitions/Design for transitions: Preliminary Notes on a Design Politics for a Green New deal

This article argues that the field of design for transitions should be brought into dialogues pushing for just transitions to best meet the technical, cultural, political, and economic needs of a low-carbon future.


This article makes a case for incorporating design politics into just transitions. The author argues that the discourses and movements for just transitions and design for transition have low levels of overlap at present; however, they would greatly benefit from increased collaboration to better meet the needs of a low-carbon economy.

The article first explores the transformation of just transition discourses, as well as the diverse, and sometimes, conflicting visions of what a just transition looks like, and how it should be implemented. The author also traces the dialogues surrounding the contribution of design and modes of design futuring in the shift to sustainability. The author argues that applying design to just transitions approaches can expand the scope of the possible visions for a low-carbon, high-quality future by incorporating elements of prototyping, prefiguring, speculative thinking, and scenario building.

The author concludes with several examples of how design approaches could contribute to just transitions. One such example is in the case of intensified land displacement due to expanding renewable energy technologies. Participatory design and social planning for the energy transition could help prevent green grabbing and better address the social and environmental challenges of the renewable energy transition. The author argues that these approaches and other modes of design politics will make low-carbon transitions more just.

Transitioning to Sustainable Agriculture Requires Growing and Sustaining an Ecologically Skilled Workforce

The authors suggest that agribusiness practices in the United States that pursue productivity as the primary goal, have been trending in an unsustainable direction and propose that place-based knowledge development, agroecological practices, and decentralized decision-making are key to sustainability in the agricultural sector.


The article argues that agricultural practices in the U.S. are unsustainable and unjust to farmers, largely because of agribusiness and supporting policies. Over the past century, U.S. agriculture has been trending in an unsustainable direction, rapidly replacing knowledgeable people with non-renewable resources and eroding rural economies in the process. The authors suggest that U.S. policies, technologies, and economic pressures have tended to “deskill” rural labor—a trend that has been linked to labor under capitalism in general. They cite a national census that counted 6.5 million farms in the 1920s, with only 2.04 million left by 2017.

The authors argue that agroecological farming systems mimicking natural ecosystems that create tightly-coupled cycles of energy, water, and nutrients are already known to farmers and researchers. As such, they offer a well-studied pathway to an agricultural transition. A critical and under-appreciated feature of agroecological systems is that they replace fossil fuel- and chemical -intensive management with knowledge-intensive management. The authors argue that the biggest challenge in achieving agricultural sustainability is the replacement of non-renewable resources with ecologically-skilled people in ways that create and support desirable rural livelihoods.

The authors suggest ways in which U.S. policy could pivot to enable and support the ecologically skilled workforce needed to achieve food security and decent livelihoods. They highlight the need to: provide enabling conditions for new farmers to enter the system and sustain a decent livelihood; develop agroecological skills and supporting policy tools (or removal of policies that currently act as a barrier); decouple farmers from the trap of overproduction and low market prices; and strengthen farmer-to-farmer networks to promote knowledge exchange. The authors also briefly lay out the history of discrimination and injustice in the agricultural system in the U.S. and highlight the need for a foundational commitment to justice to guide the allocation of resources, affirm rights, and prioritize the agricultural needs of historically marginalized groups.