It’s no secret that we are facing vast and complex problems in the world today--among them overpopulation, deforestation, food security, dwindling clean water supplies, growing economic disparity, and increasingly tangible impacts of a changing climate. All of this can be overwhelming, and let’s be honest: who among us hasn’t doubted our own ability to effect any meaningful change in the face of these massive challenges? It’s perfectly normal to have these thoughts, but the important thing, at the end of the day, is to put them aside and get to work. To quote the anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
So where to start? In the course of our daily lives, how we use (and think about) energy is a perfect place to start making a difference.
I joined Groundswell in November 2015 after nine years consulting to federal government agencies on energy, sustainability, and climate change adaptation, but my story starts in my hometown of Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Throughout my childhood, I spent a lot of time traipsing around the hills and lakes of New England. My desire to protect the natural world grew out of a deep affinity and appreciation for these places. This led me to study conservation biology at Middlebury College in Vermont. It was there that I grasped for the first time the implications of the industrialized, global food system and was inspired by author-activists like Vandana Shiva, who described the unjust treatment of subsistence farmers in India by faceless, multinational agribusinesses.
I came to Washington DC to work on clean energy and efficiency projects at the federal level, as a consultant to agencies like EPA and DOE. I helped these clients figure out how to comply with the requirements of Executive Order 13514--crafted by Groundswell’s very own CEO Michelle Moore during her previous tenure at the White House Council on Environmental Quality--and other sustainability mandates. I helped raise the bar within the federal community for reducing annual energy and water use in some of the most resource-intensive buildings; lowering greenhouse gas emissions; using more renewable energy; and planning for the anticipated impacts of climate change.
While professionally focused on environmental sustainability at the federal government level, I gained exposure to marginalized communities living right here in DC. I volunteered for a program that combats homelessness through the power of running, community support, and housing resources. I also taught English as a Second Language to immigrant families who were struggling with the challenges of cultural assimilation. By immersing myself in the urban fabric of this city for the past decade, I have become keenly aware of comforts and conveniences in my life that aren’t shared by all members of society. Having a positive social impact has become centrally important for me, and I knew I wanted to work toward these kinds of outcomes day in and day out.
And that’s what attracted me Groundswell. Every day, I have the opportunity to educate people about the enormous opportunity that clean energy can represent. I’m working to make the economics of clean energy more equitable, and to make the community of folks who choose to buy or use clean energy more diverse. As a bonus, I also get to learn from my amazing colleagues here at Groundswell in the process.
It makes me happy to help a working family save some money on their monthly utility bill. It’s also tremendously exciting to see new solar panels sprouting up in different neighborhoods across the region. But at the end of the day, if we can do that at scale, we’re doing something greater. We are empowering communities. That means more money circulating among the people and institutions that make up the community itself, and less money draining into the coffers of a distant, publicly traded corporation. And that means a more robust local economy, in which everyone is better off.
As a wise person once said, “think globally, act locally.” In this sense, I feel deeply that clean energy is a right, not a privilege, and I’m committed to fighting for that.