Welcome, my name is Georges Alexandre Lenferna, although I typically go by Alex. After moving to the United States in mid-2012 as a Fulbright Scholar, in December 2018 I completed my PhD in Philosophy at the University of Washington with a dissertation entitled Equitably Ending the Fossil Fuel Era: Climate Justice, Capital and the Carbon Budget. Currently, I am back home in Johannesburg, South Africa, spending time with my family, turning my PhD dissertation into a book, and looking for work doing climate justice advocacy, research, and/or teaching.
For an overview of my academic and advocacy work, you are welcome to read the respective sections below. In brief, my research specializes in climate justice, and my writing and research are freely available here (and at the respective links in the above menu). I have also engaged in a range of climate justice advocacy on international climate finance, fossil fuel divestment, reducing fossil fuel extraction, and carbon pricing, among other things. If you’re interested in connecting, you can contact me at: alexlenferna [at] gmail dot com, or connect on Academia.edu or Twitter – I use those platforms primarily to disseminate information relevant to issues of environmental, climate and social justice.
Academics and Writing
I recently completed my PhD at the University of Washington Department of Philosophy, specializing in climate justice. In my research I attempt to take a philosophically grounded interdisciplinary approach to climate justice, poverty and inequality in a way which hopes to recognize and elucidate the intersections between climate change and other forms of justice. My UW masters thesis focused on climate justice and migration, a version of which you can view here. My PhD dissertation, which you can view here, focused on climate justice and the need to rapidly and equitably transition away from fossil fuels. My broader research examines a range of related topics including international climate finance, supply side climate policies, fossil fuel divestment, geoengineering, carbon pricing, climate reparations, global poverty, philosophy of climate science, and the rights of nature. All my written work, including my various media contributions, are freely available here.
In the Fall of 2018, I worked as a lecturer in the University of Washington Philosophy Department, teaching environmental ethics. Previously, at UW, I have worked as: a research assistant for a National Science Foundation funded grant on Geoengineering, Political Legitimacy and Justice; a lecturer and a teaching assistant in the Philosophy Department; a Research Assistant for the Program on Ethics; a research associate at the UW’s Program on Ocean Change; and as research assistant working on climate ethics under Prof Stephen Gardiner. I also completed the UW Program on Climate Change‘s Graduate Certificate in Climate Science, and was a Graduate Fellow in Environmental Politics and Governance at the UW Center for Environmental Politics. From February to August of 2018, I undertook a 6 month Endeavour Research Fellowship at the University of New South Wales, Practical Justice Initiative, Climate Justice Research Stream. For a fuller work and academic history, you can view my CV here.
Climate change is one of the greatest moral challenges of our time, and one that urgently requires action. Thus outside of the my university work, I have occupied a number of mostly volunteer roles aimed at actively working towards climate justice. Here is a list of some of the recent roles I have played within climate justice advocacy. If you are interested in finding out more or getting involved, please do not hesitate to contact me.
- A Climate Justice Steward with the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a broad coalition of organizations, which put Initiative 1631 on the 2018 ballot in Washington State. The Initiative would have put a fee on carbon pollution and used the revenue to fund investments into clean energy, environmental projects, and local communities, particularly low income areas and those hit disproportionately by pollution, climate change, and the transition away from fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the oil and gas industry flooded the state with a record breaking $32 million in spending against the initiative and successfully killed it.
- Advocating for sub-national efforts to fill the gap in international climate finance created by the Trump Administration reneging on the U.S. government’s $2 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund – a key channel for international climate finance, which helps developing countries pursue low-carbon and climate resilient development.
- A founding member of the UAW Local 4121 Climate Justice Caucus. We are also a founding member of the Martin Luther King County Labor Council Climate Caucus.
- A volunteer with 350 Seattle, where I have volunteered, worked on and/or provided research for their fossil fuel divestment campaigns targeted at the city of Seattle, the city of Seattle pension fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and their work in partnership with Mazaska Talks aimed at banks funding tar sands projects.
- I worked as a research consultant with 350.org (international). I provided research and broader support to several of their iconic climate justice and fossil fuel divestment campaigns in the North America and Africa regions.
- For a number of years I was a leader of Confronting Climate Change, a Seattle based student-group dedicated to the fight for climate justice. We were successful in divesting the University of Washington from coal, making us the largest and richest public university to do so at the time. We also successfully lobbied for the university to: invest $10s of millions in clean energy, include Environmental and Social Governance principles in their investments, and more (see p.52).
- From 2014-16, I was a fellow and steering committee member with Carbon Washington, a non-profit organization dedicated to passing a carbon tax in the State of Washington. We put the first statewide carbon tax initiative in the U.S. onto the Washington State ballot in 2016. Unfortunately, as I have written about, due to a complex range of factors the first of its kind initiative did not pass, but it has hopefully helped spur on and provide invaluable lessons for future such initiatives.
Both sides of my family are from the small island nation of Mauritius. In 1983, my parents moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I was born, grew up and went to school. At the age of 19, I moved from Johannesburg to the town of Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown) in the Eastern Cape of South Africa to attend (the university unfortunately still known as) Rhodes University. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Organizational Psychology, I went on to study a Master of Arts in Philosophy with a focus on global poverty and environmental ethics. In the second year of my masters, I had the honour and the privilege of being selected as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar – an experience which introduced me to incredible leaders from across the African continent and further inspired me to dedicate my life to fighting climate change and global poverty. Alongside my studies in South Africa, I was involved in, helped found and/or led a number of primarily youth-driven social justice, climate justice, and sustainable development-focused organizations and campaigns. As part of those organizations, I worked on a number of projects, including: using indigenous amaXhosa knowledge to help low income communities build resilience; a project to promote social and environmental sustainability through wildlife conservation; a campaign to fight against proposed fracking plans in South Africa; and a campaign advocating for South Africa to put in place a robust and meaningful carbon tax.
After my studies in South Africa, I worked for the Environmental Learning and Research Centre, where I worked on community-based sustainable development and education projects. I also worked with the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science, where I helped coordinate interdisciplinary educational workshops on earth systems science for university students across southern Africa. Then in 2012, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to undertake a PhD in the United States – I had applied because I thought the United States was the metaphorical belly of the beast where action on climate change was most urgently and ethically needed. So I packed my bags, and headed to the United States where for six years I researched, taught and advocated for climate justice. In 2018, I also undertook a 6 month stint doing research and advocacy in Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter and a major climate polluter, ranked last in the world on climate action. I then finished my PhD in December 2018, and am now back in Johannesburg spending time with my family, turning my PhD dissertation into a book, and looking for work doing climate justice advocacy, research, and/or teaching.