How Students Can Change the Future of Renewable Energy

As a seventeen year old student living in the midst of North Dakota, I’m often told that I don’t have power. I don’t have the power to vote-and even if I did, North Dakota is one of those default states that will never be able to sway the election, so there’s no point. It’s impossibly easy to feel like I don’t have control over my future how can I push for a better future when I can’t even get a car? The movement towards a better future seems so much more difficult than I can handle. However, students such as myself have a lot more power than we give ourselves credit for, and that power comes from simply standing up and doing what we can with the resources we have available. We might not have the position and experience that government officials, administration, and lawmakers have on their side, but we don’t need that position and experience. We don’t need vast resources and immeasurable amounts of money. We have the power of influence and advocacy, which is all we need to influence the renewable energy scene. Students today can influence the future of renewable and sustainable energy by taking the responsibility to educate others, stand up, and remain diligent in the face of uncertainty.

Students can create change by always educating others and focusing on positive contributions to their communities rather than outright protest. A promising example of this is the Corvallis High School in Oregon, which was nominated for the America’s Most Eco-Friendly School in 2020 (Kovacs). Through the combination of a teacher, their school green club and classes taught through the school, CHS was able to educate their students (and each other) on sustainability. This led to their recent grant as well as the twenty thousand dollar solar project they plan on doing with it. The classes they taught political action workshops and economics of classic consumption--are what encouraged the student population to become more proactive in their push for renewable energy. Their education and their knowledge of sustainability issues led to their developing renewable energy program, making this a prime example of how education can lead to massive change in the field. Additionally, Jay McGee campaigned the University of West Florida to convert their campus to entirely renewable energy sources by first starting with his surveys of the students and the faculty (Robinson). By educating his peers, he gained the support of his fellow students and the staff, which pushed him to further pursue a renewable energy system at his school. Vying for any sort of renewable energy system requires multiple people consistently helping each other, and in order to reach that level of teamwork requires everyone to believe in their own ability to spread their message to those who need to hear it. However, the movement to completely renewable energy is an intense and controversial one, lending to constant debate. Staoli on Forbes states that, without an entire rehaul of the US power grid, it would never be possible to convert to renewable energy. However, change often starts with little steps rather than a large and sudden change. We don’t need to rehaul the power grid in order to start the journey towards completely renewable sources. Through student and community involvement, we can educate our peers, bring awareness to these types of energy sources, and create a lasting impact on our communities. We as students have the power of our own education and experience to help each other and educate each other further, and by pushing each other to make a meaningful impact, we can do the next big thing we have the responsibility for standing up.

Students can start in their mission of demanding change in the future of renewable energy by standing up, and doing what they can with their resources to impact the renewable energy scene. For example, students at Oregon State University passed a self-imposed green tax, or an additional five dollars to student activity fees, to fund renewable energy for their campus (Kovacs). These students stood up to their administration and demanded change, and through their ambition and determination, they secured a better future for their campus. Another substantial example of standing up for the betterment of a community as well as its power on the future is the Umea Alidhem project in Sweden. This neighborhood started off as a small housing neighborhood, but after a drastic fire in 2008, the residents of Umea took charge and prioritized sustainability. As the European Green Capital Network stated in their guide Toolkit: How Can Your City Become… 100% Sustainable?, “A central element of the project was the participation of residents, many of whom came from groups usually underrepresented in public participation processes”. The participation of those same residents led to the project taking off in Umea, and even though they were typically underrepresented, it was their involvement that secured their better future. By those people standing up, they pushed for a more sustainable community. We as students can do the same thing. Just because we don’t have equal weight to the politicians and lawmakers of the government, we can push with equal force. Even though it seems that a bunch of kids and young adults shouldn’t be taken seriously in this world, we have the power to enact change--and even though it sometimes feels like our opinion isn’t worth much, it’s often worth the most. Starting a mission towards renewable energy seems like this long, drawn out process that seems scary to tackle. But through education and standing up for themselves and their community, they can push for a better future only as long as they remain diligent.

Although it may seem difficult, a key part of student-ran rebellion for the environment and renewable energy always comes back to remaining diligent, even when it doesn’t seem worth it. The students of CHS also embody this message with their entire body, as they’re high school students who can’t vote or participate in government that secured a twenty thousand dollar grant through their diligence. Even though the students in these classes couldn’t necessarily vote for environmentally friendly laws and policies, they still did what they could to succeed. They still put in the time and effort, and won America’s Most Eco-Friendly School while securing the opportunity to keep improving their school’s energy scene. It’s truly remarkable what even a group of highschoolers can do for enacting change in their community. Jay McGee of the University of West Florida also wonderfully embodies this message--he is a single student against a whole administration, a match that seems awfully one-sided. But through his determination, he is pushing this entire school to move towards clean energy (Robinson). It seems like an impossible feat, but this student still took it on and created a remarkable impact on his school. However, sometimes in response to students educating others comes… well, absolutely nothing. In response to the OSU green tax, the campus administration never responded or approved the tax. According to Kovacs, this seems common across multiple campuses for often political reasons, such as anti-tax views and capitalistic ideas surrounding college campus tuition. This is often a key fact discouraging students from becoming activists for change sometimes it feels like it’s not worth the work when we’ll simply be put down. But even with the difficulty in handling the administration or legislatures, the diligence students have will keep the battle of securing renewable energy going. By focusing on the ever-looming threat of a climate crisis and the fear of the administration that seems impossible to tackle, we’re distancing ourselves from the tiniest things we can do now and together. By participating in grassroots organizations or environmental clubs, we can do the tiny things together and create more change in the energy industry. After all, the tiniest things often lead to the largest of impacts.

By educating their peers, standing up in the face of uncertainty, and remaining diligent despite the challenges that arise, students of all types can push for a better and more sustainable future. Even when it seems that students don’t have the experience necessary to make such drastic education, they have the education and the power they need to change their future for the better. Education and activism make a positive feedback loop: the more people that are educated, the more people that stand up, and the more people that stand up, the more people desire to learn more. This is why student involvement in the renewable energy scene is key: we have the power to stand up and do even little things, and by getting more people involved, we can push the sustainability movement powerfully and consistently. We might not be adults, and we might not have respect by most of the population for our youth and our alignment with the modern world’s changing ideals but we have the power of influence and advocacy. And by standing up now, either in daily green-friendly routines or full on protest, we can push for a better future no matter who we are or where we come from.