To kick off Earth Week 2021, Elizabeth Turnbull Henry, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM), spoke to the Marianapolis community about the perils of the climate crisis -- a threat to “our food systems, water resources, and national security” -- and the opportunities we have to harness clean, sustainable energy sources to power our world and lessen the detrimental impact humans have on this planet we call home.
In speaking to students about the systemic changes required to transition away from our dependence on fossil fuels, Turnbull Henry noted: “By the time your kids are in high school, the world needs to look very different. It needs to largely have eliminated the combustion of fossil fuels. It needs to have largely electrified the transportation and heating sectors globally. In the next 30 years, we will be unlocking a tremendous amount of innovation and investment to get us there.”
Offshore wind presents one exciting area of opportunity -- an area of opportunity that Turnbull Henry shares with audiences regularly in her current capacity. In New England, harnessing offshore wind power has the potential not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. With the power supply shrinking and the power demand growing, wind presents a viable alternative to fossil fuels-- there’s a lot of it, it can be stored, it’s scalable and cost-effective in the long term, and it creates minimal disruption to flyways and aquatic ecosystems.
While Turnbull Henry’s current work focuses on system-level changes, her passion for the planet started small…even tiny. In 2008, she built a 140 square foot tiny house on wheels, where she subsequently lived for three years. Solar-powered, with soy-based insulation and sustainably sourced wood, the house and Turnbull Henry’s experience building and living in it led her to consider society’s bent for consumption and materialism, and the impact that one person’s lifestyle changes can have on the planet.
Before leading ELM’s efforts to “combat climate change and protect our land, water, and public health,” Turnbull Henry headed up Adidas’ climate and energy programs, consulted for the US Department of Energy, and served as a Sustainability Lead in the construction space. She received an MBA and Master of Environmental Management (MEM) from Yale University, and a BA in Environmental Policy and Economics from Colby College.