When we look back on the previous year, one collective remembrance will be about how everything came to a halt. Well… not everything. Some of those dedicated to sustainability have kept moving forward. As dire as the pandemic and related fallout has been, it cannot overshadow the longer-term mission of lightening the load we place on our shared ecosystem. Climate change remains an onerous threat. Fortunately, this past year has seen some positive global trends. Here are three examples.
“Green” Forms of Fuel
Green hydrogen isn’t green in color (it’s colorless); the name comes from its properties as a clean alternative to fossil fuels. While solar and wind renewables are subject to weather conditions, green hydrogen is not. Plus, it results in no greenhouse gas residues. The widespread use of green hydrogen may dramatically reduce global carbon emissions.
Without going into technical details, the process of making green hydrogen is energy-intensive and thus, can get pricey. However, as advances in renewable energy technology emerge, the cost of green hydrogen has been coming down. This brings us to a particular project in Scotland.
Up to 1,000 homes in the town of Fife will be fitted with free hydrogen boilers, heaters, and cooking appliances. It’s part of a government-led, four-year test run for green hydrogen. The world will be watching and, we hope, emulating this transition.
Ecology Meets Solidarity
This has been a year of social awakenings, reckonings, and awareness. One outcome of this new mindset is taking shape in northeast Alberta. It’s the location of the largest, off-grid solar farm (5,760 solar panels) in Canada. That alone sounds like a huge step in a greener direction. But here’s where the solidarity comes into play: the project is owned by Three Nations Energy.
Three Nations is collectively owned by the Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, and the Fort Chipewyan Métis Association. Allan Adam is the Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “We worked together and we made it happen,” he explained. “We work with the sun, we work with the wind, we work with Mother Nature and we work the water for the children of the future — to give them a better life, a cleaner life.”
Following up on this breakthrough, Three Nations Energy has other efforts in the works. “Indigenous people must have an equity stake in resource projects if there’s going to be a healthy future for our vital resources industry,” said Rick Wilson, Alberta’s minister of Indigenous relations. “Projects like this will benefit generations to come.”
Neighbors Helping and Teaching Neighbors
Sure, the first two entries above are inspiring but you may be wondering how to make something happen on a smaller, more local level. For that, we turn to Sijo Zachariah from the southwest India state of Kerala. When the COVID-19 lockdown hit, the 22-year-old teamed with his father to collect and buy seeds to create a backyard garden.
They had a few gardening techniques passed down through the family, but most of the work was done thanks to (wait for it) YouTube “how-to” videos! In no time, the Zachariah family were feeding themselves and about 20 neighboring households. The next step, Sijo explained, was to share the knowledge. “We started teaching others how to grow their own crops so that everyone can have some sort of crop growing in the land.”
The young man’s experience has caused him to rethink his career choices. All this bonding with his family and connecting with neighbors has led Zachariah to switch from engineering to farming. “It’s a big change for me,” he admits, “but this is what makes me happy — helping others and being in nature … and (I’m) getting quality time with my dad as well, so it was like a win-win.”
When we each look back on 2020, we’ll have tales of adversity and sorrow to share. In the midst of that hardship, however, lies opportunities — large and small — to plant seeds. With a collective forward vision, it becomes easier to be more preventative and proactive. This way, when the inevitable future crises emerge, we will all have a softer place to land.