My name is Kelly de Wildt and I’m one of the Climate Reality Leaders organizing the ‘Climate Change – Whose responsibility is it anyway?’ event at the VU University on 15 February (sign up: here). In this post, I will give you an introduction to the responsibility issue regarding climate change, but let me illustrate it first by telling you a little bit about myself.
Last July I followed the Climate Reality Project training by Al Gore, so that’s why I’m a Climate Reality Leader. But to be honest, I’ve never seen myself as a hardcore environmentalist. To give you an idea: I grew up surrounded by cars and car-fanatics (my dad used to own a car shop) and from early on I adopted that passion for motor vehicles. For the last 12 years or so, I’ve owned a car and since last September, I even own a motorbike. Also, I love a good juicy burger every once in a while. You get the idea.
Like so many of you, during studying for my Bachelor I had no clue of what kind of job I was looking for (I did the Bachelor in Communication Science at the VU). After graduating, I realized I could work for any company with a communication department, but I decided I only wanted to work for companies that made a positive contribution to this world. The one thing that sparked that decision? Don’t laugh: it was the BBC’s Planet Earth TV series and the enthusiasm of Sir David Attenborough. So about two days before the deadline, I applied for the Master in Environment and Resource Management at the VU and got accepted. You can imagine how that changed my whole perspective. While studying there, the contents of the courses really hit me and made me realize the severeness of climate change issues. On top of that,I was also amazed by my classmates – it was the very first time I ever came into contact with actual ‘vegans’ and people who had discussions about which lifestyle choices are the most sustainable and which aren’t. You can imagine, it’s an understatement when I say that I learned a lot about climate change there.
After my studies at the VU, I started to work for Sungevity, a company in solar energy. I advised and sold thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands?) of solar systems to individuals with any kind of background imaginable. And I specialized in persuading specifically those people who didn’t have a sustainable mindset – like I once had. Even more, I didn’t only specialize in it: it became my passion. How to persuade those people who aren’t aware of the challenges that climate change poses on us? How can we make them take responsibility for the consequences of their lifestyle choices? How can we even reach them if they aren’t interested in – or aware of – these issues in the first place? These questions kept me awake at night, they felt like an itch I couldn’t scratch and a puzzle I couldn’t solve. Since September I went back to university and I now study a Research Master in Communication Science at the UvA. Hopefully, I can contribute to solving these questions one day.
So if there’s one person on this planet who understands how hard the balance between a sustainable lifestyle and staying true to your own core values is, it’s safe to say that that’s me. So how do I manage? Where do I place myself on the scale of being an environmentalist? Well, my solution: balance, creativity, and using your common sense. I’m a flexitarian, the last time I travelled by plane was about 2,5 years ago, I only choose green energy companies and I have a bank account at a sustainable bank. I don’t shop at fast fashion stores, I recycle plastic, paper, and glass, plus I try to bring my own tea or water wherever I go so I don’t have to use paper cups of plastic bottles. I try to save water as much as I can, my thermostat is usually set on 18ºC or lower, and I try not to throw away or waste any food. All of these things are also pretty helpful when you’re living on a budget (like most students), so it’s basically a win-win situation!
We as individuals can change our lifestyles, but does that mean that climate change issues will be solved? I think that our environmental problems are a product of our culture and that’s what needs to change. Any government, large corporation, or industry with a lot of influence should take the lead in this. Once important actors like that give off the statement ‘we are aware of, and taking, our responsibility for our contributions to climate change and therefore change our choices of action in the future’, this will have a tremendous impact on individuals. Governments and large corporations are made up of individuals, so it will influence them as well. It’s a vicious circle, and we have to do it together. If we keep on influencing and inspiring each other in a positive and understanding way to take action, we can secure our planet and resources.
So those are my thoughts on climate change responsibility, and just a sneak peak of the topics you can expect during the event. Want to hear more in-depth insights from experts? Come to the ‘Climate Change – Whose responsibility is it anyway?’ event at the VU University on February 15!
I hope to see you there,
Kelly de Wildt