In War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy argued that history is an inexorable process, and that indivudals are but actors shaped by the unrelenting march of time and circumstance. Well, it so happens that I only agree with Tolstoy on one of those two points; history most certainly is an inexorable process, but my entire life is predicated on the notion that individual actions shape and define history. I therefore violently disagree that history simply shapes individuals, and as another new year begins, I resolve to act with wisdom and integrity as I move into the working world. So yes, another year has come and gone, but my struggle to bridge the gap between who I am and who I long to be, continues.As part of that struggle, I am about to enter my second semester as a graduate student in Environmental Studies at Brown University.
While it may sound odd, I found it very difficult to make the decision to go to graduate school after completing my B.A. in Spanish Language and Culture. The fear was that by going to graduate school I would somehow be turning my back on the longing to lead a passionate, idealistic, and adventurous life. Of course, I have come to see that, to the contrary, being in graduate school has made it possible for to me to do something truly great, namely, take my ideals and apply them to the real world in practical and tangible ways. Still, I always take on new challenges with trepidation, as I am forever wary of the potential for “losing my ideals.” That fear has its genesis in when I was in 8th grade and was first becoming idealistic.
At the time, the message I kept hearing was clear: “your ideals are cute, but one day you are sure to lose them.” Even then, I knew that it isn’t that people lose their ideals because the ideals are wrong, rather, they lose their ideals because they are unable to live up them. And that is a key distinction. So for all the years since then, I have struggled, viciously at times, to adhere to my beliefs, and to, quote Thoreau, “lead the life I had imagined.”
So as this New Year gets underway, I am more focused on pursuing my plans, projects and Ideas, than I am on fighting against myself. The reason is simple: I’m finally in a position to bring my ideas to life. And what are those ideas? At the moment, I have three projects going on.
1) A new website called http://www.windtourism.com. The idea behind the site is to establish the link between renewable energy, water, poverty and economic development, and then to create a community forum in which people can voice their support for renewable energy projects. One of our goals is to bypass some of the regulatory process involved with renewable energy. Still another goal is to “bring open source to renewables.” What that means is a post unto itself. There will be much more on this idea as time goes on.
2) Brown received a $350,000 grant to do student-run projects in the Providence community that will offset some of Brown’s greenhouse gas emissions. Mike (and fellow grad student) and I have come up with a proposal whereby Brown would use some of the money to purchase and install low-flow shower heads in people’s homes. Not only would the project save a lot of water, but it would also save a lot of energy. We calculated that if every home in Providence were to receive and install a low flow shower head, there would be a carbon savings of 5,500 tons due to the fact that less water would have to be heated for showers. The project would also provide us with tremendous experience working within a community, getting and disbursing grant money, etc.
3) Mike and I are in the early stages of batting around ideas for a possible environmental consulting company after we graduate. We have had numerous discussions surrounding the linkage between water, energy, poverty and economic development, and we want to start a company that really connects the dots between all those things. Some of the specific projects we have discussed are training people to do green jobs such as energy audits and wind installations; consulting companies to use less water and energy; and working on the policy side to push the state of Rhode Island to incentivize all these things based on the economic and other benefits. With all that going on, it’s hard to believe that I’m also finding time to audit a class called the Law of Climate Change at Harvard Law School, but that’s precisely what I’ll be doing Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM-12:00 for the next two weeks. So I will do my best to keep posting here, while I also take that law class, write four posts a week for treehugger.com, write for windtourism.com, and work on my other projects.
Happy New Year to everyone!