Give ’em something to talk about

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[mk_dropcaps style=”simple-style”]F[/mk_dropcaps]OR THE PAST 20 YEARS, we have witnessed the rise of policies and initiatives worldwide focused on our energy future. They include policies to promote energy efficiency, increase the use of renewables and decrease the levels of greenhouse gases we emit as societies.

The hoped-for results of these efforts — an energy transition — have been slow to emerge, however. In fact, the world is using more energy than ever before. But energy transitions are complex. When we talk about them, we are talking about long-term processes that involve changes to how we use technology, how we develop policy, how our markets function, what we do as consumers, how we think about energy in our cultures and how we focus scientific research. This does not occur over a few years. It takes decades.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”” image_width=”800″ image_height=”350″ crop=”false” lightbox=”false” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” caption_location=”outside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″ title=”Participants at a 2015 Gener8 event, a youth education summit dedicated to energy literacy.” desc=”KRISTIAN JONES / KJPHOTOGRAPHY.CA”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]Since the oil crisis of the 1970s, there have been various efforts around the globe to increase energy security, develop domestic energy sources and create renewable technologies. Yet despite diverse research, development and political efforts, we have yet to spark an energy transition. But opportunities persist, and among the most significant lie with today’s youth. They are the ones who will be steering our global society toward its energy future.

The behavior of young people plays an important role in our energy future. This is in part about their own attitudes, perceptions and values. But it is also about how our cultures, normative environments and motivations influence their energy-related choices. Thus, developing an increased understanding of energy related issues among youth will affect how they make energy decisions in the future.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_blockquote style=”line-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”22″ align=”left”]

The behaviour of young people plays an important role in our energy future.

[/mk_blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]Formal teaching at schools is important in informing young people about various energy issues in a non-biased way. But it is not the only source for information. Voluntary efforts are also taking place on an international scale. Calgary-based Student Energy ( is a prime example. It began with a group of University of Calgary students with the vision of launching a conference “for students, by students.” Its inaugural International Student Energy Summit took place in Calgary in 2009, attracting student delegates from 30 countries and energy experts from diverse disciplines. Today, Student Energy is a full-fledged non-profit organization that hosts international summits on a biannual basis, regional summits and is a force for promoting energy literacy among young people.

Likewise, there is Environment Online — ENO (, a virtual school and network based in Joensuu, Finland, which supports education on sustainability themes and has worked with schools in more than150 countries since its founding in 2000. Back in Alberta, programs such as Inside Education’s Gener8 ( conferences are pursuing related goals.

One of the key features of these programs is the emphasis they place on learning through doing. Student Energy provides uniqueopportunities to participate in key debates. ENO runs various campaigns to engage students in activities such as tree-planting, which gives them the opportunity to experience important ideas hands-on and make actual contributions to sustainability. Gener8’s conferences bring students and teachers together for collaborative learning about energy.

All of these kinds of actions help equip young people with information and evidence that they can use for making energy related choices in the future. Such efforts play an important role in establishing the foundations of a meaningful energy transformation. This is crucial work, as it will be the current generation — and the generations to come — that will face the full spectrum of societal, economic and environmental consequences of the choices we have made.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]By Tanja Kähkönen, an early-stage researcher in energy literacy at the University of Eastern Finland[/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider size=”40″][mk_button dimension=”three” size=”large” outline_skin=”dark” outline_active_color=”#fff” outline_hover_color=”#333333″ bg_color=”#13bdd2″ text_color=”light” url=”/resources/energy-exchange-magazine/issue-4/” target=”_self” align=”left” fullwidth=”true” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”15″]Read more stories from the Summer 2015 issue of Energy Exchange magazine[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]