I spent a long time thinking about my career and what I want to do, and my current conclusion is that I should blog to save the planet.
How it all began
When I was very young, I watched many documentaries on nature - I would recognise David Attenborough's voice anywhere. And I found the world really fascinating; there was so much life out there. And I thought it'd be great to help preserve that.
And then I found 80,000 Hours, which was a site that talked about using your career to maximise your good in the world. I thought that was right up my alley, and I used its framework to go through my options.
During my undergraduate years, I thought that technological advancement might be one of the key issues that was hindering progress. And since it was easier to switch out of STEM rather than switching back in, I took an Engineering degree.
I explored the research path during my studies. I researched to improve battery technology so that renewables can proliferate. But for it to actually work, people must be willing to use the technology, and willing to take a gamble on new things.
I explored policy change. I did a brief stint at government agencies to try this out. But, your impact is ultimately only confined to your home country. It also takes very long - 10 years or more - to get to a position high enough to implement changes in policy. I also tried talking to my political representatives and emailing them. Sometimes they will say things like "the people are not ready", and push the problem to someone else. Other times, they'll give a good reply, and that's the extent of the impact I've made. And, sometimes people don't follow policy - see the recent covid saga for example. Policies only work if people follow them.
I explored advocacy through my extracurriculars and experimenting with my own charities. We end up motivating people with external rewards, or motivating people with money. And, the people we reached out to cite cost reasons as one factor why they aren't more sustainable. When they make decisions, it's usually not with sustainability in mind. So these can't really be fixed with advocacy; we need to get people to care more about sustainability intrinsically. If they value money above all else, then of course they won't change, no matter how much we advocate for it to be so. (In some way, this blog will be advocacy too, but not in the usual "use less disposables" way.)
I explored direct work with volunteering, too. Beach cleanups, replanting trees, running crafts workshops for children. And also more meta stuff: researching charities to give grants to to make sure that you get the most out of your donations. This was fun, but again - I think the real issue is what people value. We need more people to change how they live.
Earning to give - becoming so rich that I could donate a lot of money to climate charities - was also something I considered but very briefly. If I end up doing a job that's neutral or harmful in terms of impact, then the money I donate will in part go towards undoing the damage I've done. Plus, who says you can't earn a lot and also do something good? It might not be optimised for maximum money, but I'm sure it doesn't have to be just one or the other. And if that option doesn't exist yet, I'll build it myself.
Then towards graduation, I had a thought that won't go away. The cause of climate change - and many other issues - still exist is because we haven't developed enough as people yet. That's the roadblock I've been running into, no matter which path I was looking at. Our technology is outpacing our ability to apply it well. Simply put, we've put too much emphasis in growing our tools, but not how we use them for a better world. At the same time, not enough people care enough for that better world in the first place. So how do we overcome that? My answer - time and time again - is through sharing ideas and creating a better culture. Individual make up society make up the world. It's a slow process, but I think it's the only one that will work long-term. The world is too big to beat into submission with policies, so we need people to take charge.
And that was how I myself became more committed to building a better world, too - I started to care more about things beyond me. I fell in love with the world out there and with life itself. I grew as a person to prioritise these things. And I recognised that to make the most impact I can, I need to grow my skills - both soft and hard skills, and also grow as a person. And that drove me to develop myself (it helps that I enjoy learning new things and expanding my comfort zone too). Having a bigger purpose has made me a better person and made my life better. So there was synergy I could explore and share with other people.
Sometimes I saw caring about the climate as a part of my personal growth. If I was only interested in developing myself, then I believe I would eventually have come to care about issues in the world, too - we don't grow in isolation, and what we do affects other people too. And other people challenge me and help me grow. So why not combine personal growth and climate change?
I thought about my legacy at the end of my life, and my answer is that I want to leave a body of work. My words and products will outlive me and can be a representation of my time here.
Also, a post is something I just need to create once, but it will help me deliver value over and over again to many people years past the fact.
Beyond that, blogging is also the format that I'm the most comfortable creating in. And, of all the formats of media that I consume, words and books have changed my life the most. So I thought this could be a good way to create the change I want to see. And, I'm not really a fan of social media - the only accounts I have are Facebook and LinkedIn. So those should wait. Maybe one day I'd branch out to other forms of media - I'd be interested in creating a comic or working on any of the ideas in the idea board.
Of course, just to be very sure, I made a spreadsheet ranking my career considerations across multiple factors, such as impact, skills learned, potential earnings and job hygiene factors (hours, working conditions etc). The options included the ones I've explored before as well. But blogging still came out tops, so it made sense for me personally as well.
Things may change
Maybe the blog won't work, or I find something better that's more impactful. But for now, this is the path I've chosen to explore. I'm also still working in a traditional job to build up savings and also the skills to manage the technology side of this blog, so I'm hedging my bets.
Am I scared? Absolutely. Some days this idea sounds ridiculous even to myself, but as this space builds up, there is more and more proof of what I've done, and the value I'm delivering to people. And I've thought this through as much as I can; the only thing I can do now is act.
I know there is a chance that things may not work out. But I still have to try.
2023 update: and besides, if AI takes over, they'd at least be trained a little bit on things that matter to me.