Isabel Miranda, Santa Clara University, Economics, 2017
I want to start off by sharing my story…
I was born in México, a developing country, but primarily grew up in the Bay Area. While traveling back and forth between México and the Bay Area, I quickly realized how privileged we are to not feel or see the “1st wave of climate change,” one that disproportionality affects the poor. I always wanted to build a career aimed at supporting developing countries, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I had my “aha moment!”
There is a myth that obtaining sustainable energy is very expensive relative to other forms of energy such as coal or natural gasses, and moreover, that it’s impossible for a country to develop sustainably. I had a firsthand experience of watching both of these myths being debunked. Last year, I had the opportunity to work with the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship as well as ILUMÉXICO, a social enterprise whose mission is to provide solar energy to off-grid rural communities. ILUMÉXICO has installed over 8,000 solar homes in communities where people make less than one dollar a day. These people have managed to purchase solar energy, which has expanded their opportunities while being significantly better for the environment and individual health.
This experience ignited a passion for me to advocate for sustainable development for the sake of the less fortunate and our planet. This chapter of my life is also what led me to apply for and attend The Climate Reality Project’s Leadership Training in Denver from March 2nd-March 4th.
As I walked into the Colorado Convention Center that Thursday morning, I was overwhelmed and excited by the diversity and the amount of people I saw that were as passionate and eager as me to learn and become leaders on climate change.
As Former U.S. Vice President and Founder of the Climate Reality Project Al Gore stepped onto the podium, he presented three questions that shaped the rest of the conference:
- Do we really have to change?
- Can we change?
- Will we change?
After having completed the training and getting certified as a Climate Reality Leader, I can confidently answer all three questions with a yes!
Contrary to what first comes to mind, climate change is much more than melting ice caps and rising sea levels. It is much more complex and affects virtually everyone and everything! Climate change means worsening air quality, which kills 6.5 million people every year due to air. It means declining growth rates by as much as 6 percent of GDP by 2050 as a result of water-related losses in agriculture, health, income, and property. It means disease outbreaks spreading such as malaria moving through the highlands of eastern Africa, to the rising incidence of Lyme disease in North America in which studies are increasingly naming the changing climate as a major factor. If we want any chance of living, and having a habitable planet for future generations, we must immediately change our ways!
As Winston Churchill once said: “A pessimist is someone who sees the difficulty in every opportunity, and an optimist is someone who sees an opportunity in every difficulty.” There will always be those that claim that making a change isn’t realistic, but to all those people I say, “we have the tools and solutions in front of us, and we can change!” Globally, wind could supply worldwide electricity consumption 40 times over current demand. In 2015 renewables accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation globally. By 2030, new renewable energy capacity added is projected to exceed new fossil fuel capacity by more than four times.
Over the course of 3 days, I became part of a network of over 11,000 climate reality leaders committed to changing. While there are many deniers of climate change, data shows that we are transitioning to a sustainable future, because the economics of sustainable economics is more powerful than any one administration, because we have an immense opportunity with the tools to solve this problem, and because at the end of the day it is the morally right thing to do.
Al Gore ended his presentation on climate change and the conference by sharing one of his favorite quotes by Wallace Stevens, “After the final no there comes a yes and that yes the future world depends.” He talked about so many movements that were faced with a final no and then change happened; women’s suffrage, civil rights, same-sex marriage. This is another one of those movements, and as we come together across the world to fight climate change, we will achieve change and save our planet for future generations and ourselves.
From start to finish, I was at the edge of my seat, filled with emotions ranging from fear, concern, sadness, hope, excitement and confidence. My life has truly been changed in the past year, and my eyes have been opened by the exciting possibilities to make a positive impact and change in this world. I now move forward to the journey ahead.