Alumna Maddie Lee ’15 Completes Fulbright Research Grant on Renewable Energy Policy
Have you ever driven by a wind farm, or seen a rooftop solar panel, and wondered how it got there? Not just who constructed it, or transported the material, but the underlying mechanisms in society that allow renewable energy to be created and valued in the global energy sector? These systemic, theoretical questions are a large component of public policy work, regardless of the sector — whether it be energy, healthcare, manufacturing, or another industry.
While the term “policy” encompasses many different jobs and skillsets, policy typically describes laws and regulations that both already exist and that haven’t yet been enacted. Depending on the day and season, policy work can mean a number of things. It can mean writing the physical text of a proposed law or policy and proactively advocating for lawmakers to pass that policy, or it can mean working with stakeholders on implementation, the step after a policy is passed, where legal jargon is translated from mere words on a page into programs and projects.
We are all affected by policies, both effective and ineffective, on a daily basis. These policies help shape how we all interact with the natural world. Regarding climate change in particular, the effects are disproportionately felt by low income and communities of color. As society collectively forms and passes policies to address climate change, it is imperative that these laws both address and actively counter existing inequities and unjust historical circumstances.
On Earth Day and every day, there are many steps we all can take to show up in the world in ways that limit our carbon footprint, whether directly or indirectly. No matter your age, job, or interests, you can play an active part in shaping policies that help combat climate change.
Be curious. Question where your energy comes from, what powers your home, workplace, grocery store, and cafe. Energy is increasingly coming from renewable sources, but in many places, it still is generated by fossil sources.
Be an advocate for policies that help address climate change at the local, state, and federal levels. Find out who your policymakers are at each level and ask them how they are helping support climate action. If they are not active on climate, provide information on policies you would like to see enacted.
Do take the little steps but recognize there will always be caveats. The important thing is to be intentional about how you show up in the world, especially as it relates to climate. Know how you are affecting the planet, whether through your work, travel, or personal choices.
Avoid doom-centric attitudes about climate change. It can be easy to find yourself in a rabbit hole of negativity and pessimism on climate. Even though we are indeed facing a monumental challenge, don’t let the scale of the challenge petrify you into inaction.
About Maddie Lee ’15:
Maddie Lee is a graduate of the class of 2015. Since graduating from Seattle Academy, she has worked all over the world to advance the equitable and just deployment of renewable energy. Since completing a Fulbright research grant in Mongolia where she studied the country’s renewable energy transition, Maddie has worked on renewable energy policy in the nonprofit and corporate sectors. She currently works in Washington D.C. as a policy analyst at Enel North America.