Here’s to you, ESD Class of 2016!
In a few days I will hand in my dissertation, marking the official end to my MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development program. It’s crazy hard to believe that an entire degree was squeezed into 11 months and, even crazier, how much I learned in that time. I picked up new skills like systems dynamics, multi-criteria decision analysis, writing policy briefs, environmental economics (such as the Pareto criterion), how to present evidence in a public hearing, HomerPRO, scenario planning, dissertation research and writing, and more. I gained experience consulting for a real-world start-up. I learned about many wicked problems in the field of sustainability and that even at one of the best universities in the world there are fundamental disagreements about proposed solutions (ie, renewable energy vs. nuclear). I visited the Center for Alternative Technologies in Wales on a class field trip where I fell in love with rammed earth as a building material, from both an aesthetic and sustainability perspective. In addition to what I learned from formal coursework, I also gained much from my cohort.
There are 44 of us in the ESD class of 2016; we represent over 20 countries. We range in age from early 20s to 40s and in background from consultancy to government to economics to engineering. I am inspired by my cohort for their dedication to changing our world for good and for their determination to giving their lives to that cause. Our ideas on how best to change the world vary but the commitment to do so remains constant.
So here’s to you, class of 2016. And here’s to what we will go on to accomplish over the coming years. Not that you are in need of much encouragement given all of your achievements this past year (and prior), but here’s an attempt at some anyway — We know that our world is facing many urgent issues. We knew this before we arrived in Cambridge 11 months ago; we know it more fully now. To name a few, we face threats from climate change, global resource consumption rates, water scarcity (current or impending), and wealth inequality.
And yet, remember what Richard quoted in our first few weeks of class, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (original quote by Margaret Mead). Now, as we collectively leave the Cambridge bubble to reenter the ‘real world’, we are each capable of contributing so much to efforts to solve one or more of these, and other, problems. We’ve all learned a lot during our time at Cambridge, we all entered Cambridge with skills and experiences, and we are all poised to leave an indelible mark on this world. I know many (all?) of us barely know what we want to do next, let alone over the course of the rest of our careers (myself included) but I am sure we will figure it out, in time. Although my studies at Cambridge have increased my knowledge of all that is wrong in the world, and could possibly go wrong soon, I believe that our knowledge will contribute to creating solutions, bit by bit. Cambridge alumnus Sir Francis Bacon says it best, “They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.” So may we not lose heart in the ‘sea of world problems’ but keep trusting we’ll find land.
With that, if any of you ever find yourself in Omaha, holla at your girl. I’ll take you to the world’s best zoo and a hip hop show.
Here’s a brief look at the last year (from my point of view):