It can be discouraging at times to be a young person on a corporate sustainability team.
I am confronted daily not only with the breadth of the climate change problem, but also with the specific environmental issues that my own company faces. To see how much work remains to be done can be quite overwhelming.
Yet, it is precisely because of this occasional feeling of pessimism that I found the Social Good Summit so uplifting. Mashable's three-day conference, held Sept. 22-24 in New York, focused on the intersection of technology and social impact. It featured many speakers who acknowledged that while the climate change challenge can seem daunting, it remains a fight we can win.
The summit's messages of hope and possibility weren't the only takeaways for me. I also learned about the tremendous contributions that young people can make to address climate change. Jessica O. Matthews, for example, was a senior at Harvard University when she came up with the idea for the "SOCCKET," a soccer ball that generates energy as it spins.
She now serves as CEO of Uncharted Play, her for-profit social enterprise. She has taken the SOCCKET all over the developing world to provide clean energy and encourage kids to lead healthier lifestyles through sport.
There are also some noteworthy contributions made by global youth that are related to volunteerism, according to Jason Rzepka, MTV's senior vice president of public affairs.
"Forty percent of the workforce will be comprised of millennials by the decade's end," Rzepka said at the summit, citing a Wall Street Journal report.
There is tremendous potential for young people to use the Internet and social media to volunteer in new ways.
"Volunteerism has been too time- and place-based in the past," Rzepka said. "Skill-based volunteerism allows young people to give more freely of their time … You can volunteer from your desk."
Perhaps one of the most rousing sessions from the summit involved former Vice President Al Gore, who led several fascinating discussions, including a conversation with Parker Liautaud. The 19-year-old made three attempts to reach the North Pole on foot in order to raise awareness of climate issues.
"I thought that it could become a very powerful mechanism to communicate the importance of these changes by actually going there and communicating live from the places that are being hit the hardest," Liautaud said.
In November, Liautaud plans to reach the South Pole and live stream his whole trip. Gore was noticeably impressed.
"I'm inspired by you," Gore told Liautaud. "It helps me personally to hear and feel the determination, courage and passion of young people like you."
Gore's words were, at least to me, incredibly inspiring, as well. They spoke to an attitude that I found prevalent throughout the summit: Young people like me can make astonishing contributions to the fight against climate change.
Thanks to the summit, I felt as though my voice and actions mattered. There are people out there counting on me to step up.
The next time I start to feel discouraged, I'll remember that.
Nervous young people image by baranq via Shutterstock.