The Art of Transitions–Out of Fossil Fuels and In Life

Transitions can be hard. When we are younger, the next steps are obvious. You transition from elementary to middle school, from middle to high school, from high school to college, or life in the working world. At all of these steps, we are celebrated. Graduation ceremonies and parties can sometimes distract you from the bittersweet aspect of moving on from a moment in your life you will never get to live again. 

I remember trying to choose where I wanted to go to college and thinking that it was the most difficult decision I would make in my life. Little did I know that choosing a college when you have all of the acceptances at the same time seems easy compared to a lifetime of choosing where to live and work without knowing all your options. I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions recently as I wrap up my position as an FAO Schwarz Fellow.

We often come to a tough decision, knowing that we need to make a choice, and become paralyzed.

Transitions have been difficult for me, and I feel like I am just now getting a grip on how to handle the bittersweetness with more ease. Reflecting on my own personal transitions brings to mind another transition that has proven to be difficult for the world: the transition away from fossil fuels, although it is one that, in my opinion, should be neither bittersweet nor difficult.

As of 2023, Pew Research Center surveys indicate that two-thirds of Americans say the U.S. should prioritize developing alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar, and hydrogen technology. In this day and age, getting two-thirds of Americans to agree on a topic is a huge accomplishment. Even though the majority of us agree that we should incorporate renewable energy, just under a third think that the United States should completely stop using oil and gas. This tension is more common with decision-making around transitions–we know that we need a change, but we don’t know how to go about it. Along with not agreeing on how to transition away from fossil fuels, the American public is unsure of the extent to which this decision will affect the country as a whole–in terms of energy cost, jobs, and the economy. 

Countries around the world also agree that we need to change our energy production and consumption. At Cop28, an agreement between almost 200 countries supposedly signaled the end of the fossil fuel era. However, the agreement comes with many loopholes, and even when countries sign on (as seen in previous COP agreements), it does not mean that they will be held accountable to their goals.

We often come to a tough decision, knowing that we need to make a choice, and become paralyzed. But scientists agree that we can’t afford to wait for the perfect solution for the climate crisis. We need everything that we can come up with if we want to slow our emissions and minimize the harm that we do to the environment and ourselves. We need to make the transition now, even if it brings us into the unknown.

When I transitioned out of college and accepted my position as the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Audubon Mid-Atlantic, I made a leap of faith. I took a position in a city I had never lived in where I only knew a couple of people, leaving behind my college friends and the city I knew–Washington, D.C.–for a job that I would have for two years and an unknown future beyond that job. Having almost reached the end of this journey, I can confidently say that I made the right choice. We often look back on our decisions and wish that we had chosen a different path, but I don’t for this one. And I don’t think we will once we take the leap and choose to move away from fossil fuels and into a more sustainable future. 

Sources:

COP28 Agreement Signals “Beginning of the End” of the Fossil Fuel Era | UNFCCC. (December 13, 2023) https://unfccc.int/news/cop28-agreement-signals-beginning-of-the-end-of-the-fossil-fuel-era

Kim, S. E. (December 22, 2023). The Six Biggest Takeaways From COP28 | Smithsonian. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-six-biggest-takeaways-from-cop28-180983499/

Nilsen, E., & Paddison, L. (December 13, 2023). COP28 takeaways: What does the climate deal say? | CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2023/12/13/climate/cop28-takeaways-climate-deal/index.html

Tyson, B. K., Cary Funk and Alec. (June 28, 2023). 1. What Americans think about an energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2023/06/28/what-americans-think-about-an-energy-transition-from-fossil-fuels-to-renewables/

 

Picture of Sophie Becker-Klein

Sophie Becker-Klein

Sophie Becker-Klein (she/her) is FAO Schwarz Fellow at Audubon Mid-Atlantic's Discovery Center in Philadelphia.

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