“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
This quote is the best summary of what I've learned over the last three months. To attempt and summarize my busy, awesome, educational, fun, inspiring, and mostly insane summer in a blog post is impossible. I don't know who is still reading this blog but perhaps many of you know that two of my biggest passions involve preserving this beautiful, unique and perfectly designed world we live in, and seeing the quality of life improve for all of earth's citizens. The intersection of these two passions is the primary reason why I chose to study in Delft rather than going the more usual route and attending one of the world wide ranked American universities (although Delft is also ranked internationally). Although the social and political atmosphere in the Netherlands and Europe in general is also riddled with barriers preventing the widespread movement of mitigating climate change, it is a far more encouraging environment to begin actively seeking solutions to most pressing challenge that perhaps humanity has ever faced.
Besides travels to Norway, hitching hiking to Paris, a conference in the US, a whirl wind visit to friends and family, and attempting to sort through fifteen years of life, I spent five weeks of my summer attending a summer school on climate change and entrepreneurship and upon return to Delft immediately focused my classes around the complex issues surrounding sustainability. The summer school surpassed my expectations, primarily because of the people I met, but most importantly the last three months have forced me to ponder my priorities. I say that I care about the environment, but over the last three years I have made far too many short and long distance flights, an activity that significantly contributes to global CO2 emissions. I desperately want to see the sustainable electrification of the continent of Africa which has led me to my current Cameroon off grid lighting project and the business idea that came out of the summer school. However, I also desperately want to see the political decision making and discourse dramatically change in the US. As I contemplate my plans for next year and strongly consider the possibility of continuing studying (PhD!) and begin the frightening and overwhelming task of writing PhD proposals, I realize I need to give some focus to my life. As much as a love meeting new people, I also need to prioritize the people who really mean something to me. As much as love learning, it is impossible to learn about everything and work in every area. As much as I love traveling, can I really continue flying as much as do and ignore the environmental impact that flying has (side fact: jet fuel is not taxed, which is why it is often significantly cheaper to fly rather than take the train within Europe)?
I am convinced that we are not too small to make a difference. So I am going to start taking small steps to make a difference. Before I go back to attempting to write a detailed PhD research proposal, I leave you with some snapshots of the summer (and a bit before).