This was written by Keya Chatterjee, Senior Director for Renewable Energy and Footprint Outreach for World Wildlife Fund:
I remember clearly the exact moment when climate change became personal for me.
It was 2010, and I was pregnant with my son. I was skimming an essay about mid-century projections for Arctic sea ice loss, coral reef failure and melting mountaintop glaciers. None of this information was new, but the way it affected me was. My child would be 40 years old in mid-century. Suddenly the enormity of bringing a child into a world where we are already facing climate change hit me — hard.
The previous year, I had worked myself to the bone doing everything I could to secure the best possible outcome at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen. I had also joined the amazing community of activists at home pushing for climate legislation, only to see that bill die in the US Senate.
So I had to ask myself what kind of a world would I be able to give my son if our government wasn’t reacting quickly enough to address this global problem? What kind of future would he have?
I came out optimistic.
As a new mom, I was meeting all these new parents, and they were so passionate about doing the right things for their families. These women saw so clearly how the things that gave them satisfaction also made for a sustainable lifestyle — from cloth diapers and turning off the heat to spending time outdoors with friends. I also stayed in touch with the community of climate change experts from South Africa, Japan, Brazil, and around the world, and was reminded what a brilliant, determined brain trust that is. And then, always, there was my son.
I realized we have to shift the dynamic. Nearly 90% of Americans support solar energy, but 97% also overestimate its cost. That’s a really interesting dichotomy. Somehow, despite the fact that nearly everyone wants to use energy from the sun, we don’t believe it’s something we can achieve on our own.
But we can.
Look at Germany. After the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan, the German people and government started a national conversation about energy. They asked themselves, “What do we want?” and in just over two years the percentage of home solar panels and use of wind electricity increased dramatically. By June 2013, Germany had its first day when renewable energy provided 60% of electricity — almost half of that owned by individuals. And Germany is about as sunny as Alaska, busting the myth that solar power only works in hot, sunny places.
So let’s make solar panels the next national gadget of choice. In many states, you don’t have to pay a penny to get solar panels for your home—and it will save you money every month. Going solar shows that you are cutting edge, smart and frugal — that you understand we need to share the resources this planet provides.
Here is where I get truly excited. Together, we can lead the government to better decisions. After all, the ultimate goal is to get away from our dependence on polluting forms of energy. It’s all in our hands, and I have great faith that we will get there.
Yes, the data on climate change is daunting. Yes, global carbon pollution levels must come down immediately. But Germany—and Denmark, and the Philippines—are showing it can be done. And the volume of new solar panels needed for Germany’s transformation had a happy side effect: all that increased production helped the price of solar panels to drop by 80% in the last six years.
As a parent, my job is to protect my son. As humans, it is the job of each one of us to protect the Earth, if we have any hope of this planet continuing to provide for us.
Join in. We have the opportunity, the desire, the motivation and the technology. Now, find out how to put solar panels on your roof, and help lead the way. If other countries can do it, can’t we, in America, do it too?
Keya Chatterjee leads WWF’s sustainability engagement efforts as senior director for renewable energy and footprint outreach. Before coming to WWF, she served in the Peace Corps in Morocco, as a climate change specialist at the US Agency for International Development, and as a program officer at NASA headquarters. She closely monitors human consumption patterns and their link to climate change.