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By: Philip Le Grand , C.E.M., B.E.P., C.E.P., C.D.S.M., C.S.D.P., 2010 President
As I ponder what it is that we as energy engineers have accomplished and should push for in the future, I go back to my predecessor Rusty Hodapp. In the last Insight of his Presidency, he commented that we need to grow the next generation of leaders for the future of the energy economy.
I would like to elaborate further on the idea of growing the next generation of leaders, those who will be responsible for the future energy economy. All of the members of AEE, I believe, are dedicated to paving the way for those that will replace us. I truly feel that AEE is a fraternal organization that is dedicated to the proposition that the world expects it’s finest to step forward in times of need. We are in a unique position of not only being leaders in energy, but of having the requisite knowledge that is needed to continue to make advances in energy efficiency, demand management, and reducing carbon emissions. It is important that we all do our best to ensure the future of all countries. It is time for us as a world to embrace what is necessary to continue the society we live in and use our natural resources more wisely. The idea of “using resources wisely” has become a political football that is continually being tossed around between opposing parties. But the bottom line is how we accomplish this use. We need to ensure that the important and critical energy infrastructure that exists is not only maintained but improved upon. To do this, we need qualified individuals who understand energy and how it fits into our very complex society. Without these future energy leaders, there is a real possibility that the quality of life on the entire planet will suffer.
In the United States, during the late 70’s and early 80’s, there were protests about more nuclear power plants being constructed. One afternoon, I sat down to watch the news. The reporter was interviewing several protesters about their stand against a particular Nuclear power plant. As they were being interviewed, I couldn’t help but notice they happened to be sitting in their Jacuzzi, drinking their chilled wine, relaxing from their long road trip from the site of the proposed plants. I didn’t think then nor do I now that they were being hypocritical. I do believe, however, that they really didn’t understand that the energy that they were consuming with their Jacuzzi and chilled wine was part of the reason we needed more power plants. Future generations cannot afford the luxury of being ignorant about where anything comes from. They must be made aware of all costs associated with every action that is undertaken.
The main thought I want to present is: “the youth - all the world’s youth”, must be prepared to understand and address the energy needs of the present and future. Without a complete understanding of what is required in the arena of energy, they will be hard pressed to not repeat past mistakes or create new ones. College age students, for the most part, have already started their paths to careers and life; hopefully we encouraged many of them to take the road to becoming energy engineers. I strongly feel that we must now take this further, grade school children in most nations today don’t understand that their lives have been improved due to better energy production, distribution, and technology. We need to do more to help educate and lead the youth everywhere to understand the importance of energy, using it wisely, and why the world is currently struggling with capacity issues regarding energy consumption.
I know that some AEE chapters have been involved with children in their communities doing science fairs and other community involvement. I would like to ask all the other AEE chapters, old and new, to join in the effort to pass on their knowledge base to the younger generation who truly need to understand and grasp how the world produces, uses, and distributes energy. How best to do this? Well, at the next Chapter Leadership Meeting, at the World Energy Engineering Congress, I propose we have a discussion and brainstorming session on other ways we might get the chapters involved in their communities and with the children in those communities. I think that then we can develop a plan on how this massive education effort can be achieved.
In addition, to leveraging a lot of the great work underway across the county, I have several other ideas that might be considered or developed. Where communities participate in Earth Day, we might get the chapters more actively involved, if they aren’t already. Chapters could add to their websites links to educational sites that discuss how energy is used and distributed. But whatever we come up with, there should be a concerted effort to engage our children in what is arguably an important part of their future.
These are just a few of the ideas that I was tossing around, and I sincerely welcome your ideas, as well. What we can’t do is say that this idea is not a good one or that idea won’t work. Let’s really make an effort to start the process of pushing down the education about energy into the grade schools.
Without some sort of plan, idea, movement in the direction of educating the general population about the issues surrounding energy and how it affects us all, we will be hard pressed to successfully implement all that will be needed in the future. The future is with the younger generations. They need to be the movement, and they will influence the general population in a positive way if they have the right information. We don’t need “snake oil” salesmen, nor do we need people who say that technology will always get us out of trouble. We need to be creative, and it needs to be done sooner rather than later. I know that we have the talent and the drive to accomplish this as an organization, and wouldn’t it be wonderful to leave a legacy to our children and their children that AEE was the driver behind a new energy vision for the world.
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