‘Graduating’ to Energy Awareness
Occasionally I have the opportunity to speak to young people about our relationship to energy. In mid-August, I had the honor of speaking at the summer commencement ceremony for Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston — a school from which I earned an associate’s degree in Mechanical Design Engineering Technology in 1977. Some of what I had to tell the graduating class might resonate with Green Energy Times readers. Here are some excerpted comments that focus on the need for our society to reevaluate the big picture of modern energy use, and also on the need to generate the will to change that picture.
“Some of you parents in the audience might remember the 1970s energy crisis. I was a teenager in the early 70’s during the Arab oil embargo, the start of a rush to nuclear power and the beginning of the environmental movement. When I first got my driver’s license, I waited in long lines to get gas for my car. Sometimes, I’d wait for hours only to reach the head of the line and find the gas station’s tanks were empty. I realized firsthand that our modern world was entirely dependent on energy to function.
“My dad brought me to the top of a nearby mountain to see the foundations of the world’s first large wind turbine to generate electricity to the grid. I got hooked — I began to dream about renewable energy. I wanted to have a career in wind power. I wanted to be part of a different energy future. The future I wanted was not one of polluting finite fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power. I didn’t know it at the time, but fossil fuels are a one-time gift, a one-time prize.
“Think about it for a second, because too often we don’t take the time: we burn by the ton and by the barrel, fossil fuels that are a creation of millions of years of geological forces acting on organic matter — the plants and dinosaurs of ages ago. We are taking, at a rapid rate, what the earth spent millions of years to create. Our modern society will probably deplete these finite fossil fuels in this century, and they are not replaceable. We’ve left you with a terrible problem. I have to stand here today and apologize to you, our next generation, for our lack of knowledge, prudence and foresight in creating this dilemma. And now I look to you to move quickly.
“Energy is the defining issue of our times. We need to switch now to renewable energy, otherwise we will fail as a civilization. Being green is a great start, but our times call for lifestyle and policy changes on a grand scale that go beyond just recycling, or driving a Prius.
“As you make choices, here are three things you can do:
- Live near where you work.
- Stop relying on cars — walk, bike, take the bus or train.
- Know where your energy comes from, and support renewables. Join or create a large energy movement.
“Today, our world desperately needs change. We’ve left you a planet and an economy that is in shambles — we’ve robbed you of finite resources and handed you the bill. Your opportunity is to turn all that around, using your hands, your head, and your heart — your considerable talents, your ingenuity, your passions, and your education.
“So, be bold, go forth, and change the world. Make it yours.”
David Blittersdorf is the President/CEO of AllEarth Renewables in Williston, VT — a company that specializes in the design and manufacture of the grid-connected AllSun Tracker solar energy system. He founded NRG Systems in Hinesburg, VT, and is the managing partner of Georgia Mountain Community Wind. The full version of David’s speech may be viewed online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bC4RW0C7D48