Next Steps

I yearn to discover other places most when I’m struggling with the US and want to escape it. When I stop being able to logically and calmly respond to fellow Americans, it’s time for me to take a vacation or, when that’s not possible, to hide in my apartment for a few days. I’ve been disgusted by the US for most of my life, but I’m particularly ashamed to tell people I’m an American right now. This trip has allowed me to see other political systems and hear what the rest of the world thinks about America in 2017, which has given me perspective and hope. Running away from the US has allowed me to escape some of the negativity and despair I was feeling, but in other ways it’s deepened it. Most people I meet are resigned to the situation and simply shrug it off. But, that doesn’t work for me. The world is on fire. A racist, sexist, xenophobic man is president of the US and it’s not clear where he is leading us. Politics and economics around the world seem rather unstable and unpredictable. And all of that is compounded by the biggest threat humanity has ever faced: Climate change. Sea levels are rising. Storms are becoming more intense. Temperatures are climbing. I’ve seen the impacts everywhere I’ve traveled: The Great Barrier Reef is bleached. The Daintree Rainforest is drier than it should be. Uluru is unseasonably wet. Cambodia is suffering from one of the worst droughts in their history. The coastline of Vietnam is sinking into the sea. And we’re not doing enough to stop it. Those who have benefited least from the consumption of fossil fuels will suffer first. Those who were lucky enough to be born in the west will weather the coming changes the best. I’ve been pleased to meet a lot of people on this trip who are very aware of the impacts of climate change on their communities and who are willing to talk about it. I was happy to see an extensive solar array at Uluru. Yet, all of this isn’t enough. Australia is embroiled in an absurd debate about fossil fuels, similar to what’s happening in the US. Southeast Asia is heavily reliant on traditional forms of energy, mining and burning high-sulfur content coal, which has severe public health and climate change consequences.

All of which is to say that while I’m sad my summer international adventures are ending, I’m also looking forward to getting back to work. I’ve spent the past eight years working on environmental issues of one kind or another. In a few weeks, I’ll be heading to school to get my masters. I’ll be getting back to my original interest: working at the nexus of social, economic, and environmental problems, specifically through developing community-based renewable energy systems.

I’ll refrain from espousing on my primary academic and professional interests for another two pages, but anyone interested in what I’m doing with my life is welcome to contact me. This will be my last post on Hitting Seven. Thank you to those of you who have shared these moments, either in-person or online.

-SMC, 8/27