What do Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker have to do with Sustainability?

Written by:

Rhoda Shapiro

It’s not often that you hear Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker brought into a conversation about building toward a future based in sustainability. 

With the U.S. re-entering the Paris Agreement, we decided it would be a great idea to bring some amazing people together to talk about sustainability, climate change, and how to move forward from where we are now -- not only as individuals, but as organizations, academic institutions, and government entities. 

Here are some great takeaways.

The Vader Vs. Skywalker Approach Doesn’t Work 

One of our panelists, Vincent Saubestre, CEO and President for Total EP Research & Technology USA at Total, expressed something very important when it comes to transitioning toward a more sustainable future: 

"We need to move away from the Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker approach,” said Vincent. “...there’s the dark side, there’s The Force. [However] it’s somewhere in between. We welcome critical allies that will challenge us to go further."

Vincent Saubestre, CEO and President for Total EP Research & Technology USA at Total

With a track record based in leadership and innovation, Saubestre is well aware of the power of people coming together and dedicating their efforts to collaboration. 

“We all have the same goal,” said Saubestre, speaking of the road ahead. “We can all pitch in, and we can all grow from it.” 

Vincent Saubestre, CEO and President for Total EP Research & Technology USA at Total

Vincent further believes that carbon neutrality is important to building a culture of sustainability. What comes along with that is having an influence on the products consumers use, unwavering commitment from top-tier leadership, and the support of the people.   

Educating Children Will Build a Better Future 

One of our other panelists, Raghava Rao Kommalapati, is the Director for the Center for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (CEES) and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU). He spoke of the need for citizenries to be aware of the issues that we, as a world, are currently tackling. And he feels strongly that this education needs to start when children are in elementary school and continue as they get older. 

"We have to educate the public, educate students from an early age on the importance of sustainability,” said Raghava. “Not just with energy, but everything that we do.”  

Raghava Rao Kommalapati, is the Director for the Center for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (CEES)

Raghava spoke of how an educated global citizenry, along with policymakers, must confront this issue minus the lens of politics. 

“Environmental issues were never political issues until the last 20, 30 years,” said Raghava. He spoke of how in the past, the EPA was bi-partisan, and Democrats and Republicans worked together on major policies. 

Raghava also brought up the importance of looking at the whole lifecycle of certain kinds of technology, before trying to determine which ones work best. Environmental costs, emissions, how much energy is needed — a variety of factors must be evaluated before decisions are made. 

“The problem with any technology...we are not ready to meet the current challenges and demands,” said Raghava. "It has to be a transition.”  

Everyone Can Do Something 

Karra Marino from Terrapass was another one of our panelists. Terrapass is a Founding Member of ALLY’s new ESG Council, launching on February 26. 

Terrapass’ mission is to fight climate change while providing resources to help companies and individuals take responsibility for their impact on the climate. They've got some great calculators on their website for calculating your carbon footprint.

Karra spoke about how individuals can take responsibility by doing small things each day. People shouldn’t have to feel like they have to make major changes like investing in solar panels or buying an electric car, although Karra believes those are helpful steps to take. They’re just not reasonable for many people. 

"Small steps multiplied by millions can definitely make an impact,” said Karra. 

Karra Marino, Vice President and General Manager Terrapass

She suggested things like purchasing carbon offsets, composting, eating less meat, biking more, unplugging devices that aren’t in use, and reducing the amount of bottled water you drink. 

Karra feels that the key is to educate ourselves on things like climate change, and to stay engaged and motivated to take those smaller actions. 

Let’s Keep the Conversation Going 

"We all work for the same employer. Our kids do, too,” said Vincent at the end of our event. "Our employer is the planet. And the one thing we don’t want to be is fired for poor performance.” 

Vincent Saubestre

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