We believe the universe sometimes has a plan for us, and in this case it was meeting Climate Mama Extraordinaire, Leslie Martel Baer! Through some insightful and thought provoking comments in a Moms Rising Blog on the EPA and power plant emissions, we were first introduced to Leslie Martel Baer’s ideas, and we knew there was an incredible opportunity waiting for us to learn more. We reached out to Leslie and she was incredibly kind, gracious and generous with her time and her knowledge. She helped us see things from a slightly different perspective and enabled us to sharpen and clarify our focus on certain issues.
Leslie is a 5th generation Coloradan, and in a position where she finds herself at the nexus of the energy and climate discussion. Colorado is at the crosshairs of our national debate on energy policy. Leslie has a unique and powerful insight, and is a wise counsel for many in Colorado and around the country on this issue. Leslie speaks from knowledge, experience and from the heart. Leslie is as a Climate Mama, who always has her daughter and her daughter’s future in mind!
We are thrilled to introduce you to Leslie Martel Baer, an amazing and special Climate Mama who shares with us a “thing or two” about what we all NEED to do to make our future more sustainable, stable and secure.
President and Chief Strategist for Energy Intersections, LLC, a strategic energy management firm that helps businesses, schools, government entities and not-for-profit organizations design long-term energy strategies across all energy resources; with the goal of reducing risk and moving the client to reduced fossil fuel emissions.
Parent or Grandparent?
I am the proud mother of a little ballerina.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, the steps you took, life events, decisions you made, that helped you arrive at where you are at today?
At the age of 14, I decided to be a chemical engineer so that I could help people. Yet, as a student of chemical engineering in 1990, I saw that my only real career paths at the time were big pharma and big oil. Neither of these looked holistic to me: they both focused on singular solutions to symptomatic issues, rather than taking an integrative approach to the problems people faced today. So, within one class of the CHEME degree, I made a difficult decision to complete my studies in biochemistry. I then obtained a masters degree in English. All of that time, I was struggling to see how science could take a larger view in its service to humanity. So, I started my own business to help technical companies in sustainability sectors develop more robust business strategies and better programs for communicating the benefits of their work to the public. That was in 1995.
By 2010, I had spent 15 years learning everything I could about sustainability. And, what I saw was that so much of sustainability comes down to how we approach energy–our energy resources, production, consumption–it is all so much about energy. And that is where I wanted to focus MY — energy! Early in 2010, at yet another sustainability event, a complete stranger overheard me talking. She turned to me and said, “You should look into this energy management degree.” I still don’t know who that woman was, but she changed my life. I looked into it and was starting classes by July of that year. I graduated in December 2011 with a technical and business MS in energy management; I was my class valedictorian, with a 4.0. I gained dozens of new friends and colleagues in the energy industries and never had more fun in my life!
Since then I have been working with the Colorado Renewable Energy Society, helping state legislators develop renewable energy policy, and building Energy Intersections to serve clients in their quest for a better, economically viable energy portfolio.
What inspires you to keep going, to keep fighting this challenging battle against climate change?
My daughter. You see, she is a sixth generation Coloradan. But, unlike me and the previous four generations, she may not have an opportunity to teach her kids to cross country ski, because our climate is changing so incredibly fast. She may also not get to take her children to see the log home that her great-great-great-grandfather built and where my grandmother grew up. This log home is surrounded by millions of acres of beetle-kill forest and it is at tremendous threat from forest fires. I look at my daughter and I know that I want to be able to going skiing with her and my grandchildren, to show them that log home, and to say to them, “I DID SOMETHING about climate change.”
What are the three greatest challenges, and or opportunities you feel the world faces from climate change?
• We need to change the conversation about energy. First, we need to understand that carbon is a pollutant and that it is not acceptable to pollute. We have alternatives. That means that we need to stop subsidizing energy resources that pollute, and that we need to transform the markets for energy resources that don’t. We also need to make the conversation about all energy resources and consumption — electricity, heating & cooling, and transportation — not just electricity. Finally, we need to make the conversation about all scales of energy resources and consumption — not just residential or, “What can you do at home?”
• We need to understand that our water, food and energy are inextricably linked to one another. If we don’t address our challenges around these three needs in an integrated fashion, we will fail. And, as these are necessities, failure is not an option!
• We need to change the business model for utilities and all energy providers. We need to make providing the service of turning on a computer, or a thermostat or getting from point A to point B the energy provider’s basis of their profit — rather than the selling of a commodity like kWh or therms, which is the model today.
Scientific studies and real world scenarios seem to be pointing to more frequent extreme weather events, a shorter time frame for a warmer planet and all of the negative ramifications that this will cause. What will it take for us to mitigate these consequences? And/or how do you see us adapting to climate change in our “part of the world.”
We need to change the conversation about climate change. We need to ignore the “debate” and charge ahead with the facts. That means we need to present the public with what climate change will mean for all of us, where we live. Who cares what the climate deniers are saying any more? We need to point to the fact climate change is already here, already impacting us. In Colorado, for example, we need messages like, “Hey Coloradans: this summer we’ll went from not having enough water for your petunias to having dozens of towns flooded out and struggling to get back to normal. We’ll go from no ski season one year to so much snow the next that you can’t get to the slopes. Don’t like it? Then do your part to fix the climate. Here’s what you can do…”
Do you see any hopeful signs that people are waking up to the dangers of climate change?
What advice would you give to other Climate Mama’s and Papa’s, steps they can take both as individuals and collectively to help change the course we currently find ourselves on with climate change?
Of course, practice what you preach. Don’t drive yourself crazy, but do all of the energy & water conservation things you can (there are lots of sites to give you ideas). Then, be ready to speak up. In conversations, don’t let people get away with climate denying. Let other people know how they can change their lifestyles to have a lower impact. If your community or state is looking at policy that would reduce their carbon emissions or protect water or food, you must be a loud, vocal and visible supporter. Tell your friends about such efforts and get them to support these efforts too. Join a group that is championing this type of work, even if it is outside of your area of expertise. There is a role for everyone!
Other thoughts or ideas that you would like to pass on to our community?
This is going to be a tough, slow change. Give yourself and your community a break. Don’t beat yourself or your friends and family up. We can’t yet turn off the coal, the natural gas, the petroleum overnight, because none of us wants to be in the cold and dark. We don’t have to do everything this instant! And, we need to work with people in fossil fuel industries, in government, and in business. These folks are people who want the best for their kids, too. They have worked very hard to contribute to the our country’s prosperous economy. Realistically, we wouldn’t have the lifestyles that we have today without fossil fuels or big business. But, it is time to move to the next phase. Let’s move there together, as a team. Leave the animosity, the us-vs.-them attitude behind. And, occasionally, just take a vacation from the whole thing… we all need to splurge once in a while, whatever that means to each of us!
Contact information, website, or related story you would like us to link to this article?
Leslie Martel Baer
303.377.5006, Ext 1
Look here at Energy Intersections for blogs, announcements about speaking engagements, etc.
Favorite book or movie?
For my Masters degree, I took one course in London. I took the whole family and we went to see “Billy Elliot” on stage. Not only was it a fantastic musical, it was also about the struggles about striking coal miners under the Thatcher administration. Really, everything comes down to energy…
“The Prize” by Daniel Yergin — eye opening
While not necessarily my favorite movies, have you ever noticed how pretty much every Bond flick comes down to control of energy?
Colorado map photo credit: Whirling Phoenix via photopin cc