Up for the Challenge: Chewonki Alumni and Friends Tackle the Climate Crisis
Below are the responses that 11 Chewonki alumni and two former staff members gave to the questions we asked them about their work in the fields of energy and climate change for a story in the spring 2016 Chewonki Chronicle.
Hans AlbeeChewonki affiliation? Faculty brat, camper, wilderness tripper Your business/organization/endeavor and job title (if you have one)? Engineer for ReVision Energy, leading provider of solar energy solutions to homes, businesses and other organizations in northern New England. In a nutshell, what does your work entail? My work varies tremendously. I work with businesses and institutions to achieve their energy goals, and behind the scenes I participate in project management, staff training, system design, and project documentation. I ensure that we are offering high quality equipment and top-notch design and installation services. Did your time at Chewonki give you an experience or perspective that contributed to your choice of work and/or way of life? Chewonki endowed me with a belief in the ability and obligation of thinking, caring, capable people to work for good in the world. Chewonki gave me a supportive developmental environment in my most formative years, full of excellent role models who helped me grow up eager to learn and confident in myself. That confidence has allowed me to be successful in all my subsequent endeavors. Chewonki is intimately connected with the natural world, and I have carried within me a strong conviction that the duty of humanity is to live simply and lightly on the earth, preserving it as stewards for future generations. We must work to preserve connections and interdependencies worldwide if we hope to have a strong and resilient home. What drew you most powerfully to your work? Energy is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, and working to expand the availability and affordability of clean, renewable energy in my home state is a small but rewarding and satisfying way to use my technical skills in support of a better world. Were you in Paris for COP 21? no What do you think of COP 21’s achievements? It’s hard to be very optimistic about the commitments from COP 21 without some indication that there will be actual results. Despite the clear and overwhelming scientific consensus, and even increasing acknowledgement in the business community that climate change is a threat to global stability and security, political will for meaningful change in the United States is basically nonexistent. A challenge this big requires united and concerted effort worldwide, and the United States has been shamefully slow to embrace the work that needs to be done. What’s the most important thing (or two) a lay citizen can do to move the world toward a sustainable energy future? Be the change you want to see in the world, and live by example. At the same time, recognize that success will only come if there is strong policy commitment from governments at all levels around the world to transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Be politically active and make sure government knows you care about this subject and want to see it addressed in a meaningful way.
|Chewonki affiliation? I was a counselor in the summers of 1971, 1972, 1973. In 1971 for the Osprey program. In 1972 for the Thoreau Wilderness Trip. In 1973 for the Salisbury Island trip in Nova Scotia. Your business/organization/endeavor and job title (if you have one)? Founder and Director of Earth Vision Institute In a nutshell, what does your work entail? I use photography to reveal the ways humans have modified our planet’s natural systems. By combining art with science, I’m able to show, in visual terms, what it means to live in the Anthropocene. Did your time at Chewonki give you an experience or perspective that contributed to your choice of work and/or way of life? The education in natural history and all the times spent outdoors deepened my love of nature and pointed the way towards my career as a professional environmental photographer. What drew you to your work? My attachment to nature and the joy that I have in being outdoors. I’m not inherently wired to sit in an office. I like being outdoors in the sun. Were you in Paris for COP21? Yes, I was there with a two-person team from Earth Vision Institute. What do you think of COP 21’s achievements? The outcome of COP 21 was a vitally important step in getting us moving in the correct direction. We need to be able to set, realistic, attainable goals that policymakers and negotiators don’t gawk at if we’re to move forward. I’m very optimistic about the COP21 agreement, and it will be up to us in the coming years to ensure its targets and goals are achieved. What’s the most important thing (or two) a lay citizen can do to move the world toward a sustainable energy future? I think everybody has to look inside themselves and find their own place – their own capacities and powers and follow their own destiny to do what they can. There is tremendous human capacity and tremendous human talent. If you do nothing else, use your voice in the form of your ideas, your spending capacity, and your behavior to create a different narrative and make the world a better place.|
Will Bates“Please excuse the very brief message as I’m immensely busy with a big project right now (www.breakfree2016.org). In fact, while I was in Paris my focus was on this exact project – how we keep movement momentum going and growing beyond COP21, and Break Free is part of that.”
|Chewonki affiliation: MCS XXIII Your business/organization/endeavor and job title (if you have one)? I’m the president and technical director of Efficient Fuel Additives which I cofounded in January, 2016. I also work as a senior engineer for Longtail Consulting which I joined in 2016 as a mechanism to complete some CO2 capture research contracts. In a nutshell, what does your work entail? At EFA, I keep all types of solid fueled power plants or boilers running cleanly and efficiently. At Longtail Consulting, I develop CO2 capture and sequestration technologies from industrial sources and provide consulting services. Did your time at Chewonki give you an experience or perspective that contributed to your choice of work and/or way of life? I was drawn to Chewonki for the same reasons I was drawn to my work. I appreciate knowing where my food, heat, and energy comes from and always felt a deep connection to the natural world. The semester at Chewonki was a natural attraction for me. Even though I’m in a city, my wife has a garden, we signed up for community supported agriculture, and I head to the mountains to hunt because we need to have a connection with, and appreciation for, our food. What drew you to your work? I’m an engineer and skier. As an engineer, I wanted to find solutions to preserve skiing because skiing is how I heal. I know preserving skiing is selfish and silly, but I also wanted to contribute to society through my work. I have to work on something that benefits society. Were you in Paris for COP21? I was not. I figured I’d save the fuel. What do you think of COP 21’s achievements? I’m a cantankerous engineer and I think it’s an agreement only a diplomat could love. Nothing holds nations accountable to their pledges. I strongly agree with the science of attempting to limit warming to 1.5C, but the real work just started. A binding treaty with tremendously painful consequences for non-compliance is required. Climate change is the ultimate example of the tragedy of commons in human history and COP 21 pulled out a bandaid for a patient that needs to go to the ICU. But, at least we collectively agreed to start thinking about treating the patient. Maybe there’s hope. What’s the most important thing (or two) a lay citizen can do to move the world toward a sustainable energy future? Vote. Vote for people that understand climate change is a problem but also understand there is no magic solution. Everyone loves grassroots soundbite solutions, but this is not a problem solvable by growing a garden, changing to LED light bulbs, or not driving. Altering the fundamental basis of our global economy and nearly 90% of our global energy use is more complicated technically, and infinitely more expensive, than the Apollo moon landings. Different regions will be best served by different strategies. Vote accordingly, and feel free to change your light bulbs if it makes you feel better.|
|Chewonki affiliation? MCS 28
Your business/organization/endeavor and job title (if you have one)?
Campaign Director, The Climate Reality Project
In a nutshell, what does your work entail?
The Climate Reality Project was founded by former Vice President Al Gore in 2007 to catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every level of society. As the Campaigns Director I am responsible for the development and implementation our international and domestic campaigns.
Did your time at Chewonki give you an experience or perspective that contributed to your choice of work and/or way of life?
The Maine Coast Semester had the single biggest academic impact on my career choice. I distinctly remember learning about climate change for the first time in Bill Zeuhlke’s Environmental Science class. That class lit the spark that turned into my career.
What drew you to your work?
Climate change is the single biggest threat facing humanity. From MCS I went to Johns Hopkins University to study climate change science, but it soon became clear to me that we don’t lack science or solutions. What we lack is the political power to implement those solutions. I’m drawn to my career because I get to build the political power we need to solve the climate crisis.
Were you in Paris for COP21? Yes
What do you think of COP 21’s achievements?
Paris gives me hope for 3 reasons. First, the fact that there is an agreement is unprecedented. It is far from perfect, but without it we’d be lost. Second, the 5-year ratchet and review mechanism will require countries to continue increasing ambitions every 5 years. Third, the long-term goal to decarbonize the economy by 2050 and set a cap at 1.5 degrees Celsius is a shot across the bow of the fossil fuel industry and sets us on a course to ward off the worst climate impacts. The lion’s share of the work lies ahead, but Paris means it’s achievable.
What’s the most important thing (or two) a lay citizen can do to move the world toward a sustainable energy future?
The most important thing that someone can do to fight climate change is get political. Nearly 75% of American adults support regulating CO2 as a pollutant, but 26 Governors and State Attorney Generals are suing the EPA to stop it from doing so. Those elected officials are banking on the political power of the fossil fuel industry being greater than the will of the people. But we can change the politics of climate change if enough people get active. You need to vote in every election, consistently lobby all of your local, state, and federal elected officials to demand climate action, become an activist with a climate change advocacy organization like The Climate Reality Project, and help us build the political power it takes to win.
Bessie SchwarzChewonki affiliation? MCS 30 Your business/organization/endeavor and job title (if you have one)? Chief Strategist at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communications (YPCCC), and Founder of Cloud To Street In a nutshell, what does your work entail? At YPCCC, we study the way people understand and respond to the issue of climate change. I turn that research into insights and strategies for journalists, advocates, city planners and other communicators. Did your time at Chewonki give you an experience or perspective that contributed to your choice of work and/or way of life? Those three months on the Neck when I was 17 connected my passion for the natural world with democracy and political solutions for the first time. We would discuss ecosystem science in class or the legacy of Thoreau around the wood-fired stove (things I was very familiar with already) and then be invited by teachers to demonstrations in Portland or talk about the civil rights movement and how the political system drove changes in the past (ideas which were much newer to me at the time). What drew you to your work? I moved from a focus on lands protection when I was at Chewonki and in College to dedicating my career to climate change because global warming is transformational. Its is not only biggest potential threat to society but it could be the biggest chance to bring communities and countries together for a new and more equitable future. As a organizer by training and at heart that opportunity is inspiring. Were you in Paris for COP21? Yes What do you think of COP 21’s achievements? Having 196 countries agree to global standards on climate pollution and adaptation is a remarkable step forward for the world. Its gives me hope for our future. However, the achievement of COP 21 will be determined by what happens next. Whether and how the US and major polluting countries rise the challenge laid out by the agreement is yet to be seen. Countries and their supporting groups (Think Tanks, NGOs, academics, citizen etc.) within them don’t have time to waste on planning to meet their commitments and how to racket down the existing goals. What’s the most important thing (or two) a lay citizen can do to move the world toward a sustainable energy future? Engage in the political process by voting and make the argument for climate action to your elected officials at all levels. Keep in mind that your mayor or county commission might have a significant role to play, perhaps in land restricts for fossil fuel facilities or making sure your town is prepared for climate impacts like sea level rise. The other best thing to do is simple: talk to your friends and family. Our research (YPCCC) shows that those closest to you can be the most influential in shaping views and yet very few people report talking to those closest to them about it.