As I close out my junior year of college, I have begun to get more and more “what are you doing after college?” questions. And, no, I don’t know yet. But, the question has got me thinking about not only what I am going to be doing after college, but also what many of my peers who have just graduated are going to be doing. I study Environmental Politics at Bates College and when I am not being asked what my plans are after college, I am asked what I think about the current administration’s actions regarding climate change. It isn’t until now that I realize how important these two questions are to my generation. Climate change is often called the biggest problem the millennial generation will have to deal with, and as one of those millennials who has studied how I might begin to tackle this global issue, I have begun to consider just how this is going to be done.
I recently read an article in Forbes magazine titled Future Leaders Gain A Better Understanding of Climate Change. Of course, the title caught my attention. I ventured into the very unfamiliar world of business and economics, and what I found was relieving and inspiring. At my liberal arts school I am often told of the many ways in which the earth and economy are at odds, but this article spelled out the many ways CEMS (The Global Alliance in Management Education) has found a way to tie the importance of both into the education of my generation of learners. CEMS created a mock United Nations Conference on Climate Change and brought together 150 future business leaders to represent 33 different nationalities. The students began carrying out negotiations on behalf of the countries they represented and were exposed to the unique issues countries around the world face as a result of anthropogenic climate change. At the end of the mock conference, one of the students, Emilie Lin from the Stockholm School of Economics, told Forbes, “you need to understand people’s different stances before a decision can be made … For me, the experience taught me not to think of negotiations as a zero-sum game, not to put ultimatums on the table as it severely hurts the dialogue and also how to find out what your counterpart wants, to see if the problem can be solved together and if the goal can be achieved in another way.” Emilie’s takeaway from the mock conference was eye-opening and extends beyond strategies for international cooperation to climate change in general.
I realized how isolated my view had become. I found myself scoffing at the prospect of a businessman or businesswoman seeing equal value in protecting the environment and economic gain. However, Emilie’s takeaway exposed one of the greatest barriers to efforts being made to generate solutions for anthropogenic climate change: collaboration and inclusivity. Not just between countries, but within my generation of business owners, teachers, politicians, scientists, economists, etc. The mood surrounding climate change is often one struck with hopelessness and negativity, but to truly face this global and local issue we need to be fearless. Being fearless requires breaking out of traditional assumptions related to different careers. A businesswoman is just as capable of making strides towards protecting the environment as the most extreme ‘save the whales’ type of environmental activist–in the same way a Republican can generate valuable solutions just as well as a Democrat. So, while I don’t know what I am going to be doing after college yet, I do know it is going to be something that addresses my responsibility to contribute to my generation’s task of protecting our planet, and I will be looking for allies I wouldn’t have considered earlier.
Lauren Rasich is a policy intern with Alliance for a Better Utah.