For all the people who feel helpless after graduating or being stuck for some time: it’s fine. Sometimes the change takes longer to materialise and it’ll take a lot of detours, but everyone will find their way eventually. It only took 5 years to find mine 🙂
I recently found an essay I had written for a course during my bachelor studies on ‘My future profession’. I had speculated about rubbish collector being an attractive job in the near future. Arguing that there will be time when we would need to start reusing our junk for energy and think more about sustaining the available resources. To my surprise – I had completely forgot about this essay – I am actually following the thinking of my younger me. Not as a rubbish collector per se, but as a sustainability freak and a renewable energy advocate (and growing professional).
Influenced by New Zealanders
It all started in New Zealand, where I had attended Powershift and heard stories from people living on the Pacific Islands. They all were fully aware of climate change and its consequences for their livelihoods. Some of their islands will cease to exist for the next generations. I was touched, but I did not know what I can do to help.
New Zealand is a country with no nuclear reactor and with an abundance of renewables: solar, geothermal, hydro, wind – it has it all! It was very eye-opening that people are actively pursuing self-reliance within power sector. Sure, it is largely because New Zealand is located on islands, so there is no other choice for them but to be self-dependent in energy supply. But thinking about sustainability and decentralised solutions to the extent it sounded ‘mainstream’ was new to me.
Living off the grid
In New Zealand, I had gone through the period when I was very aware of my energy consumption and dependency on others. Living in a shanty on premises called ‘Sanctuary’ might sound romantic, but believe me, it isn’t when you want to cook, have a light and a fridge on at the same time. The power provided by an extension cord from our landlord living 100 meters above us would constantly go off. Frustrating and eye-opening. I altered my consumption times, I adapted to the situation. And I was determined to learn more about power generation, its sustainable consumption and the consequences of ‘business as usual’ scenario.
My decisions brought me to Scotland – another island that has a lot of common with New Zealand. At first, I was discouraged by a rejection from University of Edinburgh to study an energy engineering programme there. I didn’t have enough engineering background. Sure, I knew that. Then University of Dundee accepted my application and without knowing it I was set on becoming someone my younger me envisioned. I would learn knowledge that would help me with understanding of community-driven sustainable solutions as well as high-level policy-making. Scotland was driving UK energy transition and it was a perfect time to study there. I spent every free minute in the Highlands or on islands, this time enjoying the off-grid life.
I still doubt my work on a weekly basis and regularly ask myself if my contributions make a difference. But I know now a little more how to help, so I keep trying to drive the green energy transition by my actions. I also realised that no way I am going to achieve it alone. Cooperation is the key. Sharing the knowledge and ideas is useful. We have a great challenge ahead of us, but the shift in our thinking towards sustaining our planet for next generations has started. So let’s continue – everyone makes a difference. Better to start small and late than never.