2021 Fall Student Blog Competition

Explore insights on a variety of topics from our fall 2021 student blog competition.

The below posts highlight the winners of our fall 2021 student blog competition. The insights tackle topics from air pollution in Mongolia, to energy justice in New York City, to mining in the Navajo Nation.

Competition Prompt:

In the midst of the global energy transition to sustainable power, we often focus on carbon emissions. However, sustainability is also determined by energy access, public health, community displacement, changes to employment, and other social factors. Simply put, a sustainable energy system must also be a just energy system. Please submit a short essay (600 words) that explores a facet of energy justice. Include specific examples of how energy and the energy transition is impacting communities now or in the future, how those impacts affect social equity and justice, and what we can learn about the relationship between the energy transition and social sustainability. Your essay can have a U.S. or international focus, highlight a specific community, or explore a specific element of the energy system.

First Place

Rusted old "No Trespassing" sign on a sandstone hilltop outside Madrid, New Mexico, a former mining area now a ghost town. Cedar trees, desert brush, cholla cactus and wild grass dot the hillside. Madrid is located outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico and is part one town along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway.

Mining Indigenous Communities: A Long Legacy

Sheil Desai

Years after mining companies rushed into Navajo reservations in search of uranium, the communities are still dealing with a legacy of contaminated water. Looking forward to today’s clean energy transition, indigenous voices are vital so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

Second Place

Air pollution and climate change are closely linked. Some pollutants, such as black carbon and methane (both short-lived climate pollutants) contribute directly to air pollution and climate change, and many sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are also sources of air pollutants. In Mongolia, this is also the case, coal consumption by households, and for power generation, as well as emissions from industry, agriculture and road transport are the major source both of GHGs, short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), and other air pollutants.

Life with Pollution vs. Life in Poverty: A No-Win Dilemma

Evan Qiang

Curbing fossil fuel use can help alleviate air pollution. But in Ulaanbaatar, a shift from fossil fuels proved to increase class divisions and inequality

Third Place

Middle to low class residential district contrasts with the modern skyscrapers of the business district of Jakarta in Indonesia capital city.

Not Just Energy: Energy Policy and Citizenship Affirmation

Gaby Utomo

The energy transition is about more than technological progress. Progressive policies can spur positive change, which creates a more equitable society and extends beyond energy.


Crowds of people walking through a busy crosswalk at the intersection of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City NYC

Energy Justice for New York City

Eliza Nobles

Energy inequities are evident across New York City. As the city’s energy landscape changes, it is important to shape a grid that more justly distributes the costs and benefits of the energy system.

Old apartment condo building exterior architecture in Chelsea, NYC, Manhattan, New York City with fire escapes, windows, green ladders

Energy Inequity in Low-Income Housing

Owen Frausto

Many federal initiatives have attempted to improve the efficiency and sustainability of America’s housing, but such policies often miss low-income households, who don’t always have the resources needed to take advantage of these programs.