Climate change and work
Updated: Nov 4, 2020
With the effects of climate change worsening each minute, it’s easy to feel helpless, especially if the industry or job you’re in doesn’t directly involve combating climate change. If you’re feeling a sense of pressing urgency to fight climate change, both professionally and personally, you’re not alone! We spoke to three people who have either left their jobs to fight climate change, or worked hard to integrate sustainable initiatives into their professional lives.
Cassandra Xia was a software engineer at Google working on machine learning within the company. Her lightbulb moment for when she realized she had to make a job change for the planet “was realizing that society has 10 years to reach net zero emissions and stay there if we don’t want to exceed 1.5C warming.” Once she had that epiphany, she wrote a goodbye post and explained more of her rationale.
In the three months since she left Google with her friend Eugene, she has created workonclimate.org, an action-oriented Slack community for people serious about working long-term to address the climate crisis. You’ve got a multitude of options; you can chat with climate experts, attend curated events with climate speakers and employers, try part-time climate work, or find your next job at a company for climate. Ultimately, it is an ecosystem of professionals working towards one goal: mitigating climate change.
Cassandra is also investing time in figuring out “how [they] can use philanthropic dollars to help better fund new climate ventures.” The best part is: Cassandra “wakes up everyday with complete freedom to work on what I think is most meaningful.” Like anyone, however, she is careful not to push herself too hard and burn out, as there are specific features in working on fighting climate change that can make people particularly vulnerable to burn out, primarily constantly being aware of a large, complex, global problem.
Cassandra found a quote that really grounded her, “Without joy, there is no service”, so that whenever she feels herself feeling overwhelmed by the work she’s doing, she can “pause and reconnect with [her] reason and why.” Another way she stays focused is to “keep communication positive and action-oriented, [as this] helps people stay motivated to work on the climate problem.” If she had one piece of advice to give to people making the transition to working to fight climate change, she says, “If you're on the fence, reach into your heart and see what you really want to work on. We each only have one life and a few decades to make an impact. The climate space is amazingly welcoming and collaborative. Let's work on this together.”
We also spoke to Valerie Pang, who has worked in three fields of technology: artificial intelligence, blockchain, and alternative proteins. In her time working with technology, she has always been passionate in using it to create a positive impact. After three years in Silicon Valley, she left her job as a Digital Marketing Associate at Wild Earth, where she was in charge of the email marketing and SMS marketing channels to inform, gain, and retain customers.
She organized a climate change hackathon co-hosted with the Buckminster Fuller Institute, which brought together people in tech and environmentalists to collaborate on environmental projects. She didn’t stop there, and also participated in a UN hackathon for climate change in New York City, and her team went on to win first place and send a representative to speak at the UN Youth Climate Summit. Moreover, she speaks about environmental issues and makes sure to donate to charitable initiatives based in climate work.
Everything changed, however, once the COVID-19 outbreak took hold of the world. The time away from home made her realize that as a local Singaporean, she could have a far greater impact in Singapore in mitigating climate change than she could in the US. While leaving her job mid-pandemic is certainly frightening, and being selective about working for companies fighting climate change limits the job opportunities available, she remains resolute in her decision to work to fight climate change, saying “The urgency and severity of the climate crisis and the fact that it would significantly affect the entirety of the world keep me motivated to find opportunities in this field.”
She is very realistic about the downsides of working to fight climate change, especially about her eco-anxiety and being concerned that whatever she, and other people in this field do, may not be able to do enough to rectify the damage that’s already been done. At times, she wonders if “[her] efforts might end up being futile.” For people out there working to fight climate change, this will be extremely relatable!
Having experienced the effects of several heatwaves and forest fire seasons in California, she has already experienced the effects of climate change, and it “really hits home how urgent this problem is.” This has motivated her however, because “[she knows] it is already affecting my life and the lives of many others.”
When asked if she has hope for the future, she said something immensely powerful: “I think hope is ours to create. There is hope for the future if we do something about climate change, and there won’t be hope if we don’t.” Ultimately, she believes that people “need to realize that saving the environment is really about saving ourselves.”
You might be thinking at this point - but what about me? I don’t have a scientific or engineering background, is there anything I can do? Meet Jeremy Casebeer, a professional beach volleyball player with his eyes on sustainability.
5 years ago, he recalls seeing that musical artist Jack Johnson required certain green actions at the venues he played at that were simple, straightforward, and easy to implement. He has always had an interest in sustainability, and wanting to further his education - he got his certificate in Sustainability in 2019 from the University of California in Los Angeles, and has been actively working towards developing a climate action plan for the athletic sporting events he participates in as a professional beach volleyball player sustainable as possible.
One of the partnerships he has established is collaborating with the Surfrider Foundation, a grassroots non-profit environmental organization that works to protect and preserve the world's oceans, waves and beaches and executing beach cleanups at the AVP Pro Beach Tournaments, to ensure that the tours don’t produce an excess of single-use plastic.
Beyond this, he has focused on creating a positive impact with his sponsorships, as well as building his social media presence around sustainable initiatives. He is an ambassador for Parley for the Oceans, a space where artists, musicians, actors, filmmakers, fashion designers, architects, product inventors, and scientists with the tools to develop ecologically sensible products and alternative business models.
In his words, he hopes that by sharing information about climate change and “trying to meet people where they’re at, even if they haven’t taken a step towards mitigating climate change”, one can “shift people’s mindsets and influence their decisions when it comes to the environment.” He believes that one way to effectively raise more awareness about climate change and eco-solutions is to change the messaging and communications around it, and shift the tone to a more positive, engaging one… “[Climate change] can be overwhelming, and none of us are going to save the world or destroy the world on our own...but through collective action, we can create meaningful change.”
If you’re ever feeling alone in your fight against climate change, or that you aren’t doing enough in your professional life to combat it, know that there are countless other people feeling the same way. Look to various communities for support, whether it is in climate change activism, workonclimate.org, or implementing planet-friendly solutions with your colleagues at the office with the help of Capture for Teams.
Any questions or comments, feel free to join the discussions via our Instagram channel @thecaptureapp or say hi to the team via email at firstname.lastname@example.org