Just the Beginning Of Something Big

“Coffee production is set to decrease by 50% by the year 2050…”

I gripped my pen and looked up at Ryan, the guest speaker from Minneapolis-based coffee company, Peace Coffee, with my eyes wide open. I looked around the room at the other interns and watched the same shock resonate on their faces. Was this a joke…?

Ryan went on to explain that due to climate change and changing temperatures, the coffee bean trees had to be grown higher up the mountains. Thus, less mountain space meant less coffee beans grown and therefore a decrease in future coffee production.

Welcome to the Energy Engagement Student Internship (EESI).

Going into this internship, I knew I would learn about renewable energy and was anticipating a more intense version of my high school environmental science class, with the bonus of field trips, where we would learn how electricity was made.

It was so much more.

One of my favorite aspects of the EESI was the group of student interns. We all came from different backgrounds and majors—from Design to Material Science to Sociology—which allowed us to all listen to the same presentation, but pick up something different. They came up with questions I would have never thought to ask, which allowed me to learn more from the presentations.

When I worked at the State Fair’s Eco Experience, I loved having the opportunity to work with people from multiple organizations like the Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Division, CenterPoint Energy, and Clean Energy Resource Teams. I met new people every shift I worked, and it was fascinating to talk with various individuals and hear their experiences. Additionally, with many different people working in the Eco Experience, everyone had a unique way of engaging the public, and thus, I incorporated various tactics from everybody to be successful on my own. I realized that there’s no one way to do something as long as you get message across. That’s what matters most.

Intern Katey and I working at the Renewables station at the State Fair’s Eco Experience. Here, we showed the public the solar suitability of their home using the MN Solar Suitability Analysis App.

Moreover, the EESI has made me more aware of the different career choices that are available in the field of energy. Business and communications majors are just as important as engineers or people with an energy background. My major is currently environmental studies, however I am strongly thinking about changing it to environmental science, because I am more interested in understanding the science behind energy and how the whole process works. I’m also inspired to add a business major in marketing, because how clean energy is marketed is crucial to the future of renewable energy as well. Finally, I have a newfound respect for communications majors. Last year, I was set on majoring in communications, however I got teased constantly on how it was “the easiest major”, so I thought I should choose a different degree. Well, to everyone who has ever made fun of a communications major, I tell you this:

The ability to communicate effectively is more important than anyone emphasizes at school.

Throughout this internship, we heard presentations from a multitude of energy experts in their fields. These people were all extremely smart, however some lacked the ability to communicate effectively with people who don’t have the same educational background as them. Also, the ability to be a good public speaker is harder than one might think. You need to know your information, be confident, communicate it in a way that your audience will understand, but also keep them engaged—and most importantly, make them remember your message. I applaud anyone who can accomplish all of that.

Because of this internship, I notice and care more about where my energy comes from. The field trip to Midcontinent Independent System Operator made me think about all the things that happen when I switch the light on. When I was riding the State Fair’s ferris wheel, I wondered if it was powered by LEDs.

My cousins, Daniel and Catherine, came to visit me while working at the Eco Experience! They played Climate Change Bingo and learned about how suitable their home was for solar panels using the MN Solar Suitability Analysis App.

While before this internship I wasn’t too optimistic about the future of our planet in regards to its natural resources and energy, I’m now inspired by all the individuals I met who dedicate their lives to making Minnesota and this world a cleaner, energy efficient, and more sustainable place. Moving forward, I’m excited that there are young people like my fellow interns who care about climate change and are motivated to act. Although we might be saying goodbye to coffee sometime soon, this is just the beginning of an energy revolution, and I know the passion behind myself, my fellow interns, and everyone else working for clean energy and sustainability is only getting bigger and brighter.

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