Over the years my family, my university and its environs, and my various job experiences helped crystallize in my mind my current career direction. I come from a family that has emphasized giving back to society. My grandfather came from humble roots and established himself as a prominent business man in India. He never forgot his origins and launched numerous programs and community centers to support the poor. He also founded the National Society for Clean Cities, India in Mumbai over 40 years ago which was an early example of civic and environmental responsibility. After holding leadership positions at a number of start-up companies, my father decided to use his experience to provide strategic advice to budding social entrepreneurs. He now works for the Deshpande Foundation to help build social entrepreneurship programs at colleges across the US. With these role models, I have always been motivated to look out for others and the environment.
When I arrived at Tulane I had not decided on a major. My orientation to the school and the city of New Orleans was through a program “Down and Dirty” that exposed us to the Louisiana ecology, environmental activists and New Orleans resources. Additionally, freshman year I took an introductory course “Going Green in New Orleans” that highlighted the many environmentally oriented programs in the city. These programs opened my eyes to the environmental challenges that the city faced and the opportunities to do something about it. I was inspired by this and decided to focus on environmental science as a major.
As part of my junior year at school, I participated in American University’s Washington Semester Program for International Environment and Development. The program exposed us to prominent speakers on key issues; included visits to major institutions, like the World Wildlife Fund and the World Bank; and a travel component to study the ecology and institutions in Ecuador and the Galapagos. It also required us to research a topic and author a paper. I produced a sixty page report on solar powered technology innovations in developing countries as part of this work. As part of the program, I also had the opportunity to intern for the Environmental Law Institute performing policy research. Finally the professor teaching the course, Professor Heckel, was a truly dedicated and inspiring teacher who got us all excited about the area through spirited discussion and challenging ideas.
During my past summer, I worked for LifeCity, a startup in New Orleans. LifeCity works to increase sustainable practices in local businesses and encourages citizens to support such businesses by providing incentives through a discount card. Prior to this position I worked with the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a nonprofit that helps increase energy conservation and awareness through various educational programs.
Working at these summer jobs and also from the semester spent in Washington DC, I began to realize the challenges of making a city more environmentally responsible. In addition to proper policies and infrastructural changes, it also requires actions that help modify citizen behavior and lifestyles. In order to move our nation towards environmental sustainability we need a multifaceted approach that combines efforts from businesses, governments, nonprofits, and individuals. Only then can we begin to address daunting issues such as climate change and environmental degradation. I hope to use this blog to write about some of these issues.