Friday, June 24, 2016

How to make the impossible possible

Post by: Margherita Tommasini
A 2nd year student at College of the Atlantic

I really feel uncomfortable speaking in public, I feel that no matter as much as I prepare in my head, I am not going to able to express myself, and that whatever I am going to say, it will not be good enough.
For our first interaction with the Energy Academy, during our first full day here in Samsø, we were asked to introduce ourselves and talk about our expectations for this trip. For the very first time, I did not feel that way. As Malene asked us, whenever we felt ready, to pick the “speaking stick”, I reflected for a few minutes, and then I felt ready to share.
It might have been Malene’s encouraging tone, or the positive energy irradiated by the beautiful nature that characterizes this island, or the respect and support that I could feel from my fellow students and the professors, but I felt something new, a reassuring feeling of acceptance and interest for me and what I had to say.
One of the most amazing things about the Academy, on top of the solar rooftop, the ridiculously low energy consumption, the low impact architecture, is the fact that it is an open space. It is a house, as Søren and Malene call it, that welcomes any guest that knocks at its door: be it a group of Danish CEOs, a Swedish middle-school class that won a prestigious contest, the Israeli ambassador, or a group of wild and loud college students from America…
It is hard to talk about what I have learnt over this past week, because there have been so many “revealing” moments, so much inspiration, many sparking conversation, and a lot of self-discovery and individual growth.
My expectation for this week, the one I intrepidly shared on that first morning, was to learn how to make the impossible possible. I have lived in Italy, Bosnia Herzegovina and now the United States, and from all these places, the transition achieved by Samsø seem a far utopia. Bad institutions, a post-conflict society, and the empire of capitalism seem incapable of letting down the corporate system of unsustainability. I was expecting to get off the ferry from Kalundborg and step into a magic land of semi-gods, heroes that found the proper way to live in harmony with nature.
I was kind of wrong. Yes, people from Samsø are different in a way, but they are just like anybody. They work, own a house, drive their cars (and they even use gas), some have solar panels on their roofs or a wind turbine in their backyard, but some do not. What I was even more wrong about is the fact that what has happened in Samsø is something that I had labelled “impossible”: It was not an easy process, it was one that took more than ten years, a committed core group—and then the energy academy—and the involvement and participation of the community, but it was within reach. What it is special about it, is that it allowed people to take action on things they cared about, to translate their hobbies into practices of sustainability.
And that is what I am taking with me, as cliché as it sounds: this idea that if people have the space and infrastructure to do the things they like, they will do them well and it will be easier to care for each other and for what we share in common.

This week was definitely an experience that will be very dear to me. Looking to the hills of Samsø and the sea that surrounds the island from the top of the wind turbine, cycling during the late sunset (almost at 11 PM) with the wind in favour, swooshing my hair all over my face, talking to the people of Samsø, getting to know my fellow-students—my friends—, I got to learn about community engagement and  I got to know myself better. I understood that nothing is impossible, and I have learnt that when people come together, they are capable of transforming magical things into reality.