In an age where ideas for social change are a dime a dozen, how do we test our ideas and get feedback from people whose lives we want to improve?
Coming from a site visit at the newest wind farm in Rizal province, Christopher Ng, a Climate Change and Energy Programme Officer at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Philippines, dropped by a neighborhood salon for a much-needed haircut. In an amusing turn of events, he found himself explaining concepts and processes of renewable energy to the hairdressers!
According to WWF-Philippines: “Clean and renewable sources of energy such as geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy are among the Philippines’ few competitive advantages, especially since the country has no significant deposits of fossil-fuels. Its continued reliance on imported fuel has made Philippine electricity rates among the highest in Asia.”
He posted this heartwarming and funny anecdote on Facebook of how he’s able to explain this and more. Read on and be inspired!
15 March 2015
I inspected one of the newest wind farms under construction today, in Rizal, just two hours away from Metro Manila, overlooking Laguna de Bay. After the morning visit, I went back and had a haircut in the afternoon.
While I was having my haircut, my hairdresser was shampooing my hair and commented that it was very dry and had a lot of dust in. I explained to her that I was up in Rizal, in the mountains looking at one of the newest wind farms. She became curious and started to ask me what that was.
“Ay sir, ano yun? Umiikot lang tapos may kuryente ka na? Bongga naman!”
I explained to her how we generate electricity, first from the conventional process of burning oil and coal and spinning turbines with steam, to how wind farms can now do that without having to burn anything. She got really curious after that and started to ask even more questions.
“Eh so sir, ibig sabihin nun hindi ka na kailangan bumili ng gasul kapag yan ang gamit mo pang luto? Meh ganon??? Ay bet ko yan!”
Eventually, the assistant nearby started to chime into the discussion and ask questions about solar panels. And then another hairdresser beside us overheard and also started to ask questions about how long a solar panel could power lights in case there would be a blackout.
“Eh sir, iba pa yan dun sa mga solar panel chenes diba? Aaaah, okay, so yung wind, sa hangin, yung solar, sa araw?
“Malamang! Ang boba ng tanong mo mader! Pero sir, yung mga solar panel, okay ba yun? Hindi ba mabilis masira? Gaano katagal aander ilaw ko dun???”
I was really doing my best to answer all their questions and pretty soon, the WHOLE FRIGGIN HAIR SALON was talking and asking questions about solar and wind energy, and hydro, and oil and lights and blackouts. Hahaha! I think that might have been the most productive haircut I EVER got in my entire life! I spent an extra 20 minutes after I got my hair shampooed, getting a massage from the assistants, recommending how they could lower the cost of their electricity bill, how to prepare for the blackout, etc.
“Mama Cely! Kasi naman sabi na sayo ni sir wag ka na mag plants and zombie diyan sa iPad mo buong araw! Lakas kumain ng batterrrry!”
“Ay nako, tigilan mo ako Jayarr! Kaya nga bibili na ako ng sarili kong solar home turbine, ano ba yun sir? Ah! Solar home system! Dun ko ichaharge iPad ko!”
“Sige sir, pag bumili kami, next time pakita namin sayo, solar na yung ginagamit naming electric razor para bonggels kami! Bet mo sir?? Haha!”
When you can translate your passion for your work, so much so that you can talk to any man on the street and get them excited about what you do, to the point that you can stand inside a hair salon and explain all this to gay hairdressers in their own language, that they can understand, be curious and excited about too, then you know you are communicating, that you can get your message across and be an effective advocate!
No one is ever out of your reach. Everyone can be talked to, you just need to try harder and find a way to talk to them in a language that they understand. In this case, EQ trumps IQ.
So never forget, especially for fellow scientists and technical people out there, we should never just bury our face in books and excel sheets. We need to go out there and actually interact with the people who live in this world that we sometimes forget we also live in. Only then can we truly, fully succeed in our fields!
Christopher Ng started out as a volunteer for Earth Hour before going on to work full time for WWF. Since then, he has been working in the NGO sector for the past four years and is one of the only few youth advocates in Philippine civil society working in the field of energy. He is currently assisting the provinces of Palawan and Mindoro in optimizing the integration of renewable energy into their grids so that it will result in a reduction to the cost of electricity. He is also leading WWF’s Seize the Wind Campaign that calls for an increase in the allocation for wind energy in the country.
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