One of our Sustainability Interns, Deb Ong, recently returned from a conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan. You can read all about her experiences below!
This weekend I travelled to Ann Arbor Michigan for a C2C fellows workshop on leadership in sustainability in business and politics. The workshop was part of an on going series of workshops on leadership that aims to develop leadership skills such as pitching and public speaking in young individuals that are interested in sustainability and climate change. More importantly, this workshop series serves as a networking opportunity and resource for young undergraduate and graduates in the sustainability field.
I write this post on the flight back to Charleston and my heart is heavy; as what began as slow start to the weekend quickly turned into a humbling and inspiring experience. From the moment I arrived, it became apparent that there was a strong focus on environmental issues, in particular efficiency, divestment and renewable energy. In addition, the majority of the group had activism backgrounds having attended Power Shifts, protests against the XL pipeline, and even attended the Copenhagen Climate summit in 2009. There was a strong belief in counter-cultural movements and an advocacy of civil disobedience, modes of actions that I am quite cynical about, but a little less so now. What I came to realize over the course of the weekend, and it is more of a personal realization, is that while the environmentalist and sustainability approaches may differ, they are very often parallel paths on which a growing group of young, and extremely passionate and compassionate people are traveling on. Between these two paths, there are intersections, that is, areas of agreement as well as divergence for areas of disagreement, yet, the issues which drive us so strongly such as inequality which stems from exploitation and degradation connects us in a manner that allows us to share and develop ideas, and ultimately inspire and be inspired by each other.
The highlight of the weekend came out of the section where we had to create and share our stories. How did our story lead us to where we are today, shape what we care about, and in turn influence what we want to do in our professional futures? Just take Dorthea E. Thomas, a strong articulate, native of some of the worst neighborhoods in Detroit who has experienced personal losses and is running for city council. Or Lydiah Maxmillian, a resilient, cheerful soul whose hard work paid off when she was given an anonymous scholarship to attend school in the United States. She hails from Nairobi, Kenya, but specifically from the largest slum in Africa. She hopes to one day be able to return to her home and inspire other young boys and girls through her example and eventually enter Kenyan politics. Or Ruth Powell, who has worked all her life, bounced from nursing to bike mechanic school, was one of five siblings raised by a hippy mother and whose father abandoned the family. Last year, her world was shaken as her inspiration and strength, her mother was taken by cancer. And yet, all of them carry on, and are driven by their passion for issues of environmental and social justice.
As I fly home to Charleston, I am humbled and inspired by the strength of their human spirit. The ability to overcome the odds and push on with great joy and belief that change can happen, in any case, they will make it happen…
The workshop is all expenses paid, except for transport to and from the workshop. I would encourage anyone who is interested in or exploring the sustainability field.