Why We Work

One Experience Can Change Your Perspective in Life

August 7, 2015

by Florencia Bluthgen, Communications and Education Intern, Second Nature
(This post is part of a series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

When I was 19 years old, a friend of mine invited me to an activity of the nonprofit organization where she was volunteering: Un Techo para mi Pais (the Spanish for "A Roof For My Country"). We were going for a weekend to build transitional houses with families from low-income communities in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had seen these types of communities before and had even participated in small volunteering activities in high school, but getting to know them personally and listening to their stories and dreams made something in my head click.

I kept volunteering in that organization and, in 2010, after the earthquake, I was offered the possibility to go help in Haiti. That experience marked a turning point in my life. Haiti was the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean even before the earthquake. One of the characteristics of the country is that, in order to pay its debts to other countries, Haiti deforested all the land, making it very vulnerable to any type of natural disaster. There is no humidity there. Crossing the frontier between Dominican Republic and Haiti is a very moving experience; for such a small island everything changes: the climate, the infrastructure, the people, the language, and the opportunities. When I went there, the poverty striked me. People had lost everything and they were living in tents on the ground. Yet, the highest classes had barely been affected. I knew I would never let myself ignore that reality.

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Energy Systems and Social Justice on the Global Scale

June 11, 2015

by Rachael Moreland

(This post is part of a series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

In 2012, as a part of the Environmental Studies curriculum at Northeastern University, I enrolled in a course called, ‘Environment and Society’ which delved into the environmental injustices experienced by under-resourced and minority populations throughout the world. Prior to taking this class, I was struggling to find a deep connection to my major. I always found Environmental Studies to be an interesting topic, but I never felt passionate about the subject. Little did I know that my entire perspective would change after taking this course. The environmental consequences and health disparities experienced by the effected populations, for reasons that could have been prevented, made me sick to my stomach. Throughout the semester, my desire to help this cause increased enormously. I had developed a purpose and started drawing out my future plans. 

The following semester, I enrolled in the course, ‘Sustainable Development.’ This course led me to discover Dr. Daniel Nocera’s invention, the ‘Artificial Leaf,’ a unique design of the hydrogen fuel cell for cleaner and cheaper energy production, inspired by the naturally occurring process in plants—photosynthesis. Not only was the engineering behind this design intriguing, but I also found Dr. Nocera’s overall goal of mass-producing these devices in order to aid developing countries to be inspiring. However, understanding the exact mechanics behind this device proved to be challenging to a student of soft sciences. At this point of my undergraduate career, I started toying with the idea of going to grad school to study renewable energy systems in order to gain that deeper understanding that I so desired.

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Sustainability, Healthcare, and the Underlying Issue of Equity

May 6, 2015

by Peyton Veytia, Second Nature Intern

(This post is part of a series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

In just two days, I will walk across a stage at TD Garden and be handed a piece of paper that signifies the end of my undergraduate career. One of the many perks associated with this milestone is that over the past several months I have been subjected by family, friends, and complete strangers to every iteration of this terrifying question: “So, what are you doing next?”

Until very recently, I could offer no definitive answer to this common query. I’ve known for practically my entire college life that I want to promote positive change through working in the nonprofit sector. That’s why halfway through my first semester I switched majors from History to International Affairs in order to pursue my vague and totally realistic dream of “saving the world.” But while I knew the nonprofit world was where I belonged, I struggled for a long time to find a cause or social issue that I connected with on a deep level and would want to develop my entire career around. I used this uncertainty as an opportunity to explore roles in many nonprofit organizations, with missions ranging from improving primary education, to accelerating social sector performance, to delivering health services internationally to, now, facilitating sustainability initiatives in higher education.

I’ve always been interested in broad intersecting issues like human rights, social justice, international development, and poverty alleviation. It wasn’t until I recently completed my senior thesis on health sector redevelopment in Rwanda that I realized I could combine all of these elements into one issue that I’m truly passionate about: improving healthcare delivery and overall health for marginalized populations, particularly those in developing countries.

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Meaningful Change: Connecting Youth, Social Justice and Sustainability

April 9, 2015

by Devin Smith

(This post is part of a series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

Prior to joining the team at Second Nature six months ago, I was a youth worker for five years, teaching young people in and around Boston how to challenge issues of racism, sexism, violence, poverty, and the associated problems and lack of access that arise from it, in their homes and communities. I also helped them learn how to practice self-care and heal from previous traumas. Young people have an inherent understanding of fairness and equity, and recognize when they or those around them are being treated unfairly, even when they don’t have the language or tools to explain why it is happening. They are angry about the injustices in their lives, and are eager to find ways to make the world a better place.

My orientation towards youth work has always been firmly rooted in social justice, and a desire to carve out safe spaces for those that are most vulnerable in our society, and empower them to make meaningful changes in their lives. It was difficult, however, within the direct service framework, to explore and create broad societal changes that address the root causes of so many of the injustices young people face. At the time, I could not accept that the work I was doing had a ceiling for the amount of impact myself and other youth workers were able to have, because long-term, individual change and empowerment are only stop-gap measures. If we couldn’t address the institutional and societal problems as a whole, what was the point of doing this work at all?

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Preparing for the Storms to Come

November 21, 2014

by Amanda Carpenter, Program Associate, Second Nature

(This post is part of a series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

My passion for sustainability started, oddly enough, with a fascination with the weather. As a kid, hearing the severe weather warning tone on the television was as close to Christmas as I could get in the late spring. The warning would go off announcing the advent of a severe storm or flash flood warning, and I would be glued to the TV hoping that the announcement would mean that something cool was about to happen.

One such occasion interrupted a family barbecue on the last day of May. The forecast that morning had said that there was a high likelihood that there would be severe thunderstorms in the late afternoon, and you could definitely feel it stepping outside. The air was hot and humid, sitting heavily as the fog rolled in that early evening, and draining the motivation out of everything it touched. Around 4PM the severe weather warning started across the TV screen accompanied by a warning I had never heard before: Tornado Warning for Eastern New York.

The EF-3 tornado that dropped down about 10 miles north of my mom’s house is now known as the Mechanicville-Stillwater Tornado. The half-mile base of the tornado slashed a 30.5-mile gouge down Route 67, and was part of the historic Late-May 1998 Tornado Outbreak and Derecho. The estimated wind speed of 150-200 miles per hour was strong enough to tear the bark off of trees, and lob bricks through the side of tractor-trailers. While thankfully no one died in this tornado, 350 homes and businesses were destroyed, and 68 people were injured. Many of those who were harmed and lost everything were living in trailers and mobile homes and had little capacity to rebuild, let alone rebuild resiliently to withstand future storms.

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Getting on Board with Sustainability

August 21, 2014

by Karolina Kenney, Summer Intern, Second Nature

(This post is part of a series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

When it comes to the environment, my life has been made up of singular moments of clarity where I have realized where I fit in the world of sustainability. Throughout my whole life, I have run into views towards nature that have baffled me, but learning how to battle those who “don’t care” or “don’t have the time” for the environment is what has fueled my fervor for creating a stable future.

When I was little growing up in Boulder, CO I was surrounded by nature and a community that was very environmentally conscious. So much so, that my dream job when I was in elementary school was not to be a princess, but a “Skip” bus driver and the anthem of my childhood was called “When I Grow Up” by Leftover Salmon. Here is a taste of the lyrics:

“When I grow up I want to work at Alfalfa’s. Where the cheese is dairy free. A birkenstocks, spandex, necktie, patchouli grocery store. I’ll have a job, picking through the produce – no pesticides for me! I’ll be a working modern income socially conscience Boulder hippie,” 

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Like Father, Like Son

August 21, 2014

by Peter Janetos, Summer Intern, Second Nature

(This post is part of a series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

Having a father who was knowledgeable about sustainability and global climate change never really mattered to me until later in life. It wasn’t until early high school when global warming and serious environmental impacts really got my attention. I took a class my senior year of high school called Environmental Systems; in retrospect probably the most important class I took in high school, and really opened my eyes to global climate change. After the school day was over my head would be buzzing with questions off of topics we discussed in class, and who better to ask than my own father. My questions would deviate off onto other questions and before I could blink we would be having a full-blown conversation starting with GHG emissions ending with politics and our ailing economy. This continued well into college.

Majoring in “the hard sciences” never appealed to me but nonetheless the issues of global climate catastrophes lingered in the back of my mind. I decided to major in Communication because I thought I’d be good at it, with a minor in Kinesiology because it only made sense to me that I take some type of sports related classes. As I went through the first half of my college career, questions would still keep popping into my head about not only climate change but life choices, patterns I never noticed before, people, jobs, my future, and I knew just who to ask. I’m fortunate to have the smartest man I know be my own father and that is really something I shouldn’t be taking for granted but at the same time I do because I’ve grown such accustomed to his knowledge and help.

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Farewell and Thanks to Sarah and Ashka

January 31, 2014
Last week at Second Nature, it was with mixed emotions that we said goodbye to two of our most valued colleagues. We are sad at their departure and at the same time we are thrilled for them as they move onto exciting new opportunities. We wanted to take a moment to highlight their critical contributions to Second Nature over the years, and publicly wish them well!  

The Roots of Love

July 24, 2013

by Gabriela Boscio, Program Associate, Second Nature

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”
― Carl Sagan

(This post is part of a series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

How does love grow? When do you know it has taken root? How can you pinpoint its beginning?

My passion for sustainability is something that’s been growing within me for most of my life, and I am not sure exactly when or why it started. As a child, I loved plants and animals. I loved reading about them and learning about them, and I loved observing nature. I remember thinking in grade school that I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up, because I wanted to keep learning about nature, through exploration and investigation. My family supported and encouraged this love by providing me with copious amounts of nature books, magazines and collectible wildlife fact cards, as well as by spending time with me outdoors, and putting up with my incessant animal-factoid sharing (“Did you know baby cheetahs chirps like birds?”).

Example of a book from my childhood. Joyce Rogers Wolkomir and Richard Wolkomir. 1992.

College Can Make the World Better...

August 5, 2011

by Steve Muzzy, Senior Associate, Second Nature

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

[The following post documents my personal journey with higher education. The experiences and views expressed are solely my own.]

When I graduated from high school my classmates dispersed in one of three directions; entered the work force, joined the military, or enrolled in college. I was indifferent about my future after high school. Most of my decisions at this point were based on what I didn’t want to do, or on what others told me to do.

My thought process went something like this:

Should I enter the work force? I grew up in rural Massachusetts and had been chopping and stacking wood since I was 5 years old. My dad was a self-employed, heavy equipment operator so I was well skilled with a shovel and in jumping in ditches. I’d been washing dishes and doing other odd jobs since I received my drivers license at 16. I knew what the work force looked like for me and it was not what I wanted.

What about the military? I had uncles and neighbors that served or were serving and the prospect of combat did not resonate with me. This option was quickly ruled out.

Enroll in college? The only person in my family to graduate from college was a cousin who I had little contact with. To my knowledge neither my family’s friends, nor neighbors, had any experience with college. My perspective of college was informed by what I heard on the radio, or saw on television – I believed higher education was ‘progressive’ and provided space to explore vast ideas and unlimited experiences. I also believed that college prepared you for ‘professional’ employment.

I Act on Behalf of A Pale Blue Dot

July 29, 2011

by Anne Sjolander, Intern – Advancing Green Building Initiative

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

I act on behalf of A Pale Blue Dot. (Remember this for later)

When I was younger I was always terrible at answering the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The first time I recall responding to that question was in the 4th grade. At age 9 my school thought it a good time to publish all of our prospective career paths in the year book. I wrote runway model and was greeted by the shrill laughter of my supposed friend sitting next to me. So, not wanting to look like a fool, I panicked and changed my reply to Wheeltor. What, you may be wondering, is a Wheeltor? Well it is a profession derived from a sad attempt to spell Realtor. Needless to say, they did not publish my response.

In high school I decided my future career path would be the anti-career path known as being a nomadic free spirit. Not wanting to disappoint my parents, I decided to complete my college degree before growing dreadlocks and wandering off into a field of sunflowers. So I checked off the undecided major and continued on my path to Boston University.

Once there I attended an array of classes such as archaeology, art history, drawing, world music and yoga classes, but nothing struck me as a topic to dedicate my life to. THEN, I took Astronomy. I didn’t fall in love with the subject, but it provided me with a great sense of perspective. The first week of class I was introduced to the words of Carl Sagan…

In 1990 the Voyager 1 reached the outer limits of our solar system, turned around and took a picture of our planet.

Why wouldn't I?

July 15, 2011

by Adrien Tofighi, Second Nature Intern
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

There is no specific reason for me to help you understand why I am part of this kind of work. Although I could single out a few events, I would be discrediting every little experience that I’ve had throughout my life, each of which has indicated to me that this choice of lifestyle is the only logical one for me.

I could mention my love for always being in nature since I was a child as I grew up on an old farm, harvesting honey from our beehives (which are no longer there), in the middle of Southern France far from urban life and television. Or maybe it was a bit of influence from my father who spent his early doctoral years researching solar energy at the world’s largest solar furnace. What about my mother? She has spent her entire lifetime encouraging positive thoughts, positive comments, positive actions, or as my Zoroastrian ancestors would say “good thoughts, good words, good deeds”.

Yet, this blog has more to do with climate change, so maybe it was the time that I realized deforestation was real, so real that I couldn’t get to work one morning in Haiti as I woke up to a landslide that had devastated many of my neighbors’ homes after one night of heavy rain, and taken the life of several. A landslide of rocks and mud that was more than three miles long and at least 15 feet high, you could even stand on top of it and follow its path up the mountain to the right where the deforestation was clear, and down the mountain to the left, to realize the insignificance of homes and cars when facing the laws of nature. It was, by the way, the fourth one of the year in that neighborhood.

Cranberry Sauce and Jellyfish

June 27, 2011

by Andrea Putman, Director of Corporate Partnerships

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

In the 4th grade, I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. A garbage woman and an author! Although I lived in a small, pristine town on the north shore of Long Island with very little mess, I abhorred the thought of litter. I envisioned a fruitful and happy vocation writing stories about my adventures while picking up stray cans and pieces of newspaper in the ‘hood.

One Thanksgiving, there was no cranberry sauce. The bogs were polluted in far-away Massachusetts. Although I wasn’t crazy about cranberry sauce, I was deeply bothered. It didn’t seem like how the world should operate and I learned that the distress in other places impacted what was on my plate. As the baby of the family with 3 hungry big brothers, 2 stepbrothers, and a sister, I was definitely concerned with the quantity of food on my plate.

We spent our joyous summers at Lattingtown Beach with our friends and neighbors swimming, laughing, playing backgammon and bocce ball, and throwing jellyfish at eachother. My innocence was shattered when the ominous and destructive red tide* hit the Long Island beaches in the 1970s. Beaches were shut down! No swimming! At this point, I knew in the depths of my soul that pollution was serious and impacted whether I could cool off and splash around or alternatively roast in the sun.

My Educational Journey Towards Sustainability

June 17, 2011

by Van Du, Intern - Advancing Green Building Initiative
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

Three years ago, on the bus ride to Maine, after picking my mother up from Boston Logan Airport as she had come to attend my graduation at Bowdoin College, we started having the usual parent-child conversation of what I was going to do with my life after school. Past conversations about school revolved around what classes I was taking and whether or not I was doing well, but it was never specifically about how my college education would prepare me for my future. During our conversation, I realized I was struggling to explain to her the meaning of the word “sustainability” and how I wanted to have a career in sustainability-related work.

There is no translation for “sustainability” in Vietnamese. But certainly, my mother understands the importance of ideas such as preserving diversity, protecting the environment, being a part of a community, caring and sharing, and of course, world peace. My mother also believes that if one considers herself a member of society, it is her responsibility to ensure that the future generations deserve a piece of all the wonderful things we have enjoyed in the past and present. However, for her, recognizing and carrying out these ideas is simply common sense. And there it was, my first revelation in life: Did I just go to college to learn about what should have been common sense?

So while I tried to explain to my mother about my dream career, she reminded me of the Vietnamese cultural values and traditions I was raised on. It was for me another great lesson of my roots, as well as a reinstatement of my passion to live and work for the concepts of sustainability.

Why I Work – Wind and War

June 17, 2011

by Rima Mulla, Communications Manager, Second Nature

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Early 1991. You could literally taste the petroleum in the air.

Not too far from there—less than 250 miles away—the oil fields of a just-liberated Kuwait were on fire. In a retaliative and vindictive move, Saddam Hussein had ordered his retreating troops to set the country’s biggest export ablaze.

I was 13 at the time and didn’t yet grasp the consequences of this event—on Kuwait’s economy, people’s health in the region, the air, land, and sea around me. All I knew was that when I breathed the air tasted bad, when it rained the rain was dirty, and that couldn’t be good.

Kuwait oil fields, 1991

For the love of Baramaasis…

June 10, 2011

By Ashka Naik, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Second Nature
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

One late evening, around dusk, my mother and I were walking into our house, making a beeline through my grandma’s garden. While we were passing by some neatly laid flowerbeds, I saw a pink Baramaasi (a perennial flower, which literally means “perennial” in Hindi, Bara=twelve and Maasi=months) on the side of the brick path leading to the patio. My mother was holding my hand to balance my little figure as I paused and started to bend my knees to pluck that beauty from its stem. My mother, not a very vociferous person, watching me do what I was about to do, very lovingly said, “Ashkee, do you know her mother puts her to bed every night, just the way your maa does? Imagine how she must feel when she doesn’t find her baby in the bed tomorrow morning.”

I often saw my grandma worship random shrubs in her garden. One specific day of the Hindu calendar she would worship one plant, and on a different day she would worship another. I always wondered why one needed to venerate rather unattractive shrubs to understand the mysteries of the universe or to please the Gods above. However, I did understand why we worshiped Ganesha (the Elephant God) and Naagraaj (the Snake God), as I was informed that these creatures were embellished with bizarre powers to wade off evil forces and misfortune. Looking back at the time when I truly believed that a species other than of Homo sapiens could ever have such power over others, I find myself succumbing to the naïve imagination of a child’s mind.

Why I Work

May 31, 2011

by Judy Groleau, Vice President of Development, Second Nature
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

In retrospect, very early on in my life, I can recall two constant themes that arose in almost of all the communication in my home as a child. It did not matter what the topic of discussion was, delivered in a soft spoken manner or as loud as shattering glass, somehow it always centered around money or more succinctly put, not enough money to make ends meet.  I believe that this is why I ended with a career in Development.

I am the youngest of five children and we were always encouraged to share as kids.  For me, it was always important to have things to call my own.  I would never share things unless my father or mother forced me to.  I remember always being eager to make a trade in lieu of sharing and was usually pretty successful at swaying one from “sharing something” to having one commit to “trading” instead.  No matter how many times I got the lecture from my dad, “You know they name streets after you, one way” it never dawned on me that there was any other way but to trade.  I always felt like a success when I was able to clench that “deal.”

The toy I dreamed most of having as a child was a cash register.  I spotted it in the annual edition of the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Wish catalog.  It was an especially good Christmas that year as Santa left me that very toy under the Christmas tree.  It was a hot pink, Tom Thumb, metal cash register with black buttons.    I ran about the house making and placing price tags on everything.  I made my own currency.  I sold siblings objects that belonged to them, back to them all for the love of the “transaction.”

Creating New Spaces for Connecting in New Ways

May 23, 2011

By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

“The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas,” John Maynard Keynes has observed, “but in escaping from the old ones.”  Nowhere is the truth of this observation clearer than in our continued adherence to an economy based on fossil fuels.  As more than one study has determined, we have the means at our disposal to move into a clean energy world in which the power of the wind, sun, water, tides, and other renewable sources is tapped and runaway climate change is averted.  The latest of these studies comes from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which earlier this month released a report surveying the already existing technologies that, in combination, could make this happen.  The critical missing components are the necessary policies that would drive change in this direction and the political will to implement them.

I get up every day and do the work that I do because I want to help create the public pressure and culture of collaboration that will make these changes occur.  I get up every day and do the work that I do because I believe each one of us has the responsibility to be a subject in history and not just an object of history.  I get up every day and do the work that I do because there is no silver bullet, no magic wand, that can make the immense problems confronting us go away.  The only thing that will work is to escape from the old myths of independence and self-reliance and embrace the truths of interdependence and mutuality.

Finding Why We Need to Ask Why

May 13, 2011

By Vanessa Santos, Intern – Advancing Green Building Initiative, Second Nature

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

As a recent college graduate with just one year of experience in the “real world,” I have a lot of questions I tend to ask myself on a daily basis.

Amid that unknown abyss that faces most fresh college graduates, I find most of my questions start with the word “what:” What can I do with my college degree? What can I afford to buy and eat for dinner tonight? And most importantly for me, what can I do that will make a positive and lasting impact on our society and the world?

The 2010 Advancing Green Building Team in San Antonio, TX

The 2010 Advancing Green Building Team in San Antonio, TX

Admittedly, these aren’t easy questions for anyone to answer. A few months before graduating Boston University in 2010, I made a one-year commitment to an internship at Second Nature, deciding that this would be the first small professional step I would take to being able to answer all these questions.

What makes go-karts go round

May 10, 2011

by Al DeLuca, Web Applications Developer, Second Nature
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

Growing up there were two things that influenced why I work: books and go-karts. This might seem an odd mix, but it’s how things were for me. Go-karts were part of my nurturing, while books spoke to an innate nature in me, expressed as a predisposition towards language. Nature and nurture working in tandem, not as binary opposites, has been my life’s ambition and of late, if not my life’s work, at the very least the work I get paid for. Coming to Second Nature, thus far, has been an opportunity to find synthesis of thought and action and embodiment of ideas shared amongst like-minded individuals.

My family owned an amusement park on Cape Cod, Massachusetts which included as its prime draw the longest go-kart track in the commonwealth -- and the second longest in the country – at just over a third of a mile. While some might think this is every kid’s dream come true, it was considerably less fun than one might imagine. The smells of exhaust fumes and axle grease permeate my earliest memories, and work, at least during the busy summer season, went on late into the night. There were dangers as might be expected where horsepower meets adrenaline. There were aspects to it not fit for print. It was fun, but as it commuting to my brother and I, it slowly sunk in that “this much fun isn’t normal.” But I digress.


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