3 Reasons Millennials Should Care About Our Energy Future
Kali Taylor is the co-founder and Executive Director of Student Energy, a global not-for-profit that is creating the next generation of energy leaders dedicated to transitioning the world to a sustainable energy future by providing empowerment and educational initiatives. Kali is also a member of the volunteer Energy National Advisory Committee of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation.
Energy is the lifeline of society and yet for many of us it is simply background noise. When we flick a switch, the light comes on. When we crank the thermostat, the room temperature rises. When we stop at the gas station, we are able to easily fill our tank. But what we often neglect to remember is that the systems that are in place to allow this kind of simplicity and convenience are incredibly complex and multidimensional. And more importantly, these systems are largely a comfort of the developed world. There are still over 1 billion people globally who do not have access to electricity and 2.5 billion who use traditional biomass for heat and cooking. Overcoming this great disparity while simultaneously addressing the environmental issues that come from energy development represent two of the most difficult challenges the world has ever faced. Strong will and a brave vision of the future will be required to develop creative solutions and it is today’s Millennial generation that will need to step up. But why is this our responsibility? And why should we even care? Here’s why…
3) Energy means quality of life.
Energy is not valuable because of what it physically is; it is valuable because of what it gives us. Energy allows us to do work with much less effort, it extends our productive working hours, and it makes communication and travel across the planet possible. And those are just a few examples of its benefits. It is no wonder then that the use of energy is often associated with GDP growth and quality of life and that access to energy is a key element in fighting poverty globally.
And so, caring about energy is not only a matter of recognizing its importance in our every day lives but also a matter of equity. The industrial world has reaped the benefits of access to cheap, abundant energy for nearly a century and we now have the majority of the world’s population looking for these same benefits. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, recently launched his special project – Sustainable Energy For All –indicating that providing access to clean, reliable energy is now a global priority. This is a huge opportunity for the Millennial generation; our legacy on this planet can be as the generation who was able to strike the precocious balance between a vibrant economy and a healthy planet so that all the people of the world can thrive.
2) Status quo is not good enough.
In 2011, the world’s population passed 7 Billion people. With this tremendous growth, energy demands are growing and the Earth’s capacity to sustain this population is quickly shrinking. Put quite simply, current methods of energy production and distribution will not allow society to satisfy its energy appetite within the bounds of the environment’s capabilities.
The International Energy Agency has published several scenarios for how the world can develop its energy resources and in all cases one thing is clear… business as usual will not do. There are many technology and policy options that can be explored, however applying the same thinking that got the world into this predicament won’t work. This is an opportunity for the Millennial generation to be creative, challenge status quo and to be innovators.
1) We are the leaders of tomorrow… it’s up to us.
World leaders may be setting 2030 and 2050 emissions targets and energy strategies but these leaders will not be the ones responsible for seeing them through. It will be the generation who is currently under the age of 30 that will need to step up. Issues around energy and the environment have become increasingly polarized over the last 20 years and little progress has been made, now more than ever the clock is ticking.
We all have a responsibility to the generations that will inherit the planet after us and we get to choose the legacy we will leave. It won’t be easy. It will require commitment, vision, creativity, positivity, pragmatism and collaboration. Are we up for the challenge?