by
on October 11, 2017 on 10/11/17

Environmentalism Across Borders

My love for the environment comes from growing up in a beautiful place in upstate NY, the Thousand Islands.  When I was young, my brother and I would spend entire days making things out leaves, jumping on bails of hay, and making snowmen. I grew connected to nature at a young age, and this connection has only grown with time.

Starting in high school, this connection to nature became a desire to want to preserve it. I grew interested in recycling, renewable energy, and sustainable development. Through the Adirondack Semester at Clarkson University and my studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I have started to grow into the environmentalist that I had hoped to become when I was a child.

During my two months here in Hanoi, I am very fortunate to be interning with Green Innovation and Development (ID). As a double major in Environmental Studies and Cultural Anthropology, this organization focuses on both environmental and social justice and aligns directly with my interests and educational background.

This week, Green ID is holding workshops on Just Transition. Throughout Vietnam, there are over twenty coal fired power plants, which cause not only environmental issues like pollution and increase in greenhouse gases, but also social factors such as displacement and negative health impacts.

The idea of Just Transition is moving toward more renewable energies, while keeping in consideration the social factors that might come into play when making such a huge change in the energy sector.

  • What would happen to people’s jobs if we moved away from coal? What new jobs would be created with renewable energy?
  • What would be done with the old plant? How could we make positive change to that space, and reuse it in a new way?
  • How would marginalized groups of people be affected? How do we ensure equitable access to clean energy?
  • How do we translate all of the ideas of “Just Transition” into the Vietnamese context? What will have to change, and what can remain the same?

These are the kinds of questions that are working on being answered not only this week, but in much of Green ID”s current work.

At these workshops, people from all over the world are coming together to discuss the future of Vietnam’s energy usage and how it can be done in the best way possible. Sitting in the room as the notetaker, all I can feel is an overwhelming sense of inspiration and thankfulness for being a part of this incredible conversation.

The President of the Sierra Club’s Labor and Economic Justice Program, Dean Hubbard, gave a presentation about what the United States is currently doing to work toward Just Transition. With case studies from California and Appalachia, Dr. Hubbard explained the current situation in the U.S., and how some of this might be able to be applied to Vietnam.

The ideas brought to the table, presentations given, and conversations had at these workshops are what are going to impact what happens in the future of Vietnam. I am so happy to be a part of all of it and to be able to bare witness to communities coming together from all over the world. Environmentalism inspires passion in individuals across borders.

I have worked for many non-profit organizations in the United States, but never for one abroad. Working for Green ID is giving me a chance to see what this kind of work might look like in other parts of the world. It is also helping me develop in a professional manor in ways that working in a familiar environment like the ones I am accustomed to in the U.S. could not.

I am so looking forward to my next two months with Green ID. After being so inspired after only one week of being a part of this organization, I can’t imagine how I’ll feel in December!