By Sarah Smith
Environmental action can seem complex, difficult, and overwhelming when first determining what path to take. For some people, a step such as changing out halogen light bulbs for LED bulbs can seem insignificant in comparison to the large emissions created by coal mines. The discussion surrounding these issues is often obscured by partisan political debate, clashing world views, and complex jargon; in the face of such confusion on environmental issues, it is easy to feel apathetic. These diTerent aspects of implementing clean energy were the topic of conversation when my co-worker Ben and I sat down with two of Newo’s first customers: Jan and David Edwards.
“If a lot of people can do a little bit each, it starts to make a big difference. This was something we could do. It’s put us a little behind in our finances for a while, but, we managed it anyway.”
The Edwards moved to Camrose in 2001 after David retired from his job as a United Church minister. When searching for a place to retire, they came upon Camrose and quickly decided this community was a good fit for their needs. Now in their early 80s, Jan and David attended a presentation given by Newo on the possibility of acquiring solar at the United Church in Camrose.
This presentation sparked Jan and David’s interest in the potential for installing a solar system on their own home. They were able to have solar placed on their garage and, in April of this year, shortly after the grand opening of Newo itself, their solar system was o;cially turned on. Curious about the Edwards’ motivation for pursuing solar, we spoke with them. Our conversation quickly showed them to be an example for us on how to remain hopeful in the face of environmental crisis.
As they welcomed us into their home, I was reminded of my own grandparents’ home: full of warmth while also representing another time and style. Our conversation flowed easily as we discussed what brought them to Camrose, their previous careers in both ministry and health care, and, finally, their 4kW solar installation. Throughout the conversation, I was continually reminded of the value of hope in creating purposeful action.
For Jan and David, installing solar was not about the payback, or about how they would financially bene>t from the installation. In fact, it is very unlikely that they will see the financial returns of their solar system; by the time it has paid for itself, they will, more likely than not, be living elsewhere. This, however, did not stop them. “It’s not a payback thing,” says David. For the Edwards, every action adds up, and while an individual decision may not change the world, a small gesture can inspire others to be more conscious of their own impacts. In doing so, the Edwards’ own impact can be magnified.
For the Edwards, the action of doing something positive is their payback. The financial benefits are secondary aspects that just happen to be occurring as well. Focusing on the action and environmental impacts of solar rather than the financial benefits is not, admittedly, possible for everyone. Not everyone is >nancially stable enough to make this change, nor is everyone as motivated by the urges of environmental scientists to care about this issue. Jan and David recognized these differences, but instead of expressing frustration, they have accepted the transition to clean energy for what it is: complex and slow moving.
When discussing with us the challenges associated with clean energy, such as an economy that is tied to oil and the resistance people have to change, Jan and David responded with understanding and acknowledgement of the experiences of other people.
For them, the transition from an carbon-based economy to a clean-energy one will be difficult. People still need to have work, to make money that can pay for their family’s well-being, and to feel secure in their everyday interactions. However, for the Edwards, this does not mean that the answer is doing nothing.
“You know, it’s kind of easy to despair over the climate change and wonder whether it’s irreversible or not at this point, [but] you have to do something.”
The Edwards with Newo after their solar system was turned on.
Jan and David feel that the need to do something positive, whether that be installing solar modules or doing something smaller, is important. The Edwards’ action towards climate change and their attitude towards the environment not only has provided hope to others but has inspired all of us here at Newo. It has given us encouragement to continue taking steps forward, to pay close attention to our environment in everything we do, and learn from the community around us. We hope to use the energy that David and Jan have given us, and pay it forward by shifting our focus from “what we can get” from clean energy, to “what we can give” to the world around us. While this attitude may not inspire everyone, it can help to motivate a few, and from there, inspire and educate others.