Moira Hanes co-founded Empowered by Light, which is a non-profit whose mission is to empower vulnerable communities on the frontlines of climate change, loss of wildlife and environmental devastation. They achieve this by donating clean energy technologies and facilitating the recruitment of local people and organizations to install, operate and maintain the systems which make their communities more independent, resilient and sustainable.
Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
Prior to co-founding Empowered by Light I worked over a decade in corporate communications and government affairs roles for a Fortune 500 company based in the Pacific Northwest. I have over 20 years of combined experience serving on non-profit boards and I have always been passionate about wildlife conservation and health and supporting under-resourced communities. I’m a lifelong “environmentalist” who believes accelerating our transition away from fossil fuels to renewables is our best hope at combatting climate change. I currently reside in Marin County, CA with my two teenage children.
What is a fun fact about you?
I dream of one day having a small farm with a menagerie of rescued animals including horses, goats, lamas, ducks, chickens, rabbits, dogs and cats.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
Climate change is a critically important topic because we, as humans, are literally on a path of self-destruction and we’re at risk of taking thousands of incredible species of plants and animals with us. Climate change is being talked about in many places and on many levels, but in the USA in particular, we still lack the political will to enact the real, substantive changes required to reverse the warming trend.
So many people don’t understand that climate change isn’t just about whether they experience longer and hotter summers or whether they can water their lawns as often. Climate change threatens our existence on many other levels including national security, air pollution, food security and the displacement of millions of people.
We have the solutions now; we just need to find the resolve to implement them. Tying it into sustainability, we need to recognize we live in an ecosystem and that if one area fails or gets out of balance, the entire system can implode. Each of us needs to take accountability for our role in the ecosystem–so when we buy something from the store, we shouldn’t just think about whether we took it home in a plastic bag. We should be thinking about whether there were all sorts of harmful byproducts from the production of the item we bought, how we’ll use the item and for how long, and what will happen to it when we’re done with it.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
That depends which industry you’re referring to… If you’re referring to the non-profit sector, I think there’s a very positive recognition of and movement towards understanding the role of climate justice in climate change mitigation. Non-profits aren’t going to provide energy access to the ~800 million people still living with out it or solve climate change, but the work we do can serve as catalysts for commercial expansion of energy access and climate change mitigation efforts and accelerate the adoption of new technologies.
If you’re referring to the solar industry as a whole, which is overwhelmingly commercial, I don’t think we can know how many incredible technological advancements will exist 10 years from now, but it’s exciting to anticipate them. The fossil fuel and big business lobbies are so strong in the USA that it often feels like one step forward, two steps back with regards to the inevitable transition to renewables, but it will happen. The costs of renewables will continue to fall at dramatic rates and new technologies will make all the various components more and more efficient. It’s an incredibly exciting time to live in if one stays focused on the long-term goal.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
REDUCE YOUR FOOTPRINT. Buy less, think about how the item you want to buy was grown or manufactured, how it gets to you and how you can keep it out of a landfill. If you own your home, find out whether you can save money by having solar installed. If you are ready for a new car, buy an EV, and remember that there’s a knockdown effect… The choices you make influence the choices those around you make.
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