PKG Fellowships 2020: Matthew Kearney Part III

Welcome to Part III from Matthew Kearney’s Summer Fellowship! Read Part II of his work here, and check out Part I of his work here!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the research for our project so far has been fairly difficult, meaning we have had to meet with a number of experts on subjects from urban planning to women’s education in developing countries. It can be pretty nerve wracking getting on a call with someone who has spent their entire career researching a specific field and asking them how we, two undergraduates with no background in that field, can try to answer questions that there isn’t a lot of existing research on. It’s like asking a professional basketball player how I could join the NBA in a few weeks even though I’ve scarcely touched a basketball in my life.

But surprisingly, these researchers have had an overwhelming warmth, enthusiasm, and willingness to answer our plethora of questions. They have all been extremely supportive of our research and seem genuinely excited for the prospect of impact that our project could have. It is often this support and positivity that keeps us going when we are frustrated or overwhelmed by the monotonous research. When we start doubting ourselves, it is their belief in the impact we will have that gives us hope.

Earlier this week, we were on a call with someone who asked us what the purpose of our project is. I paused for a moment, confused, as I had just explained what we were building and why we thought it was going to make a difference. He clarified that he was asking whether we were trying to start a start-up, build a large userbase, or have an impact. Einat and I looked at each other and immediately answered that our goal was impact. Throughout the project, we have had many conversations with one another about where we see the future of the project going. Neither of us are doing this to get startup experience or to become well known so that we can have influence in our future endeavors. From day one we have known that there is a time when this project will outgrow us and will need to be carried on by others who are more qualified, have more time to devote, or who are simply larger in number. Our only goal is that this project has an impact, one that is as large as possible. In that way, our project is a manifestation of itself: We tell people how to have the biggest impact on climate change, and by creating this project we are trying to do just that – have the biggest impact on climate change that we can.

There are obvious outcomes that we know will be a result of this project: Increasing climate education, promoting effective action and individual climate agency when it comes to climate change, and ultimately reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But there are also more subtle impacts that we are hoping to have on the people and society as a whole. We are hoping that people turn their gaze inward, not only to their patterns of consumption and lifestyles but also to the ways that the systems around them are built, allowing them to question practices and policies that have long been entrenched in how we live. We hope this promotes creativity in the face of ethical dilemmas, finding ways to recreate systems in a manner more conducive to our beliefs and values. This includes everything from the current movement rethinking our policing and criminal justice systems in the US to questioning why we need to buy things only to throw them away after a single use.

We are also hoping that our project promotes a sense of urgency surrounding many of the ethical issues we face today while giving people a feeling that they, as individuals, really can make a difference. Along these lines, we think we have the potential to focus individuals toward the systemic causes of climate change, addressing many of the root causes of other issues as well. Much of the exploitation that happens to communities or even entire countries relating to climate change is also related to the broader racial, social, and economic inequities that persist in our society today. To be sure, we are not tackling these things head on, nor is that the intention of this project. But we believe that by promoting individual climate action, we will also be promoting a mindset that is conducive to asking these other questions and demanding other changes.

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Tags: Climate Change, Environment, PKG Fellowships, PKG Fellowships Summer 2020

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