Falling into environmental advocacy

How catching a glimpse of an offshore wind project in Scandinavia put things into perspective.

Arielle Ostry

When it comes to environmental advocacy, I consider myself a bit late to the party. Throughout my childhood, environmental causes were practically the furthest thing from my mind. I spent the majority of my time in a dance studio. My life revolved around rehearsals, master classes and competitions. All of these activities were predominantly indoors, so finding time outside became my escape from the norm. Some people were made for advocacy; others simply fall into it. I’d consider myself one of the latter. 

I always enjoyed the outdoors, from getting into mud fights at my family friend’s house in “middle-of-nowhere” Connecticut to bike rides with my dad along canal paths in New Jersey. There is something simple and restorative about the taste of fresh air and the beginnings of a mild sunburn that I have always loved. 

I’m pictured on the far left posing with my father and younger sister at the summit of a hike during our family vacation exploring coastal Maine in 2018.

But then, I left for college in an urban part of Washington, D.C., and fresh air became a lot less accessible. I never realized how much I enjoyed those outdoor moments to recharge until they were gone. While I still found time here and there to get out and explore—kayaking with my family on the Potomac or a day trip to Shenandoah National Park with my best friend—these events were few and far between. Switching from the Jersey suburbs, where the mountains are only a short drive away, to the concrete maze that is our nation’s capital was a bit of a shock, but I did my best to adapt. 

I focused on my double major in dance and journalism and writing local arts and culture stories. During my freshman and sophomore years, I developed skills in digital and written communication that would provide a foundation for my current advocacy work. I loved tapping into my creative side and experimenting. By the time 2020 rolled around, I had accumulated a range of communications experience, but felt I was missing a clear purpose to which I could apply it. 

I ended up finding this purpose during the spring of my junior year, when I studied abroad in Denmark for two months. It was supposed to be four, but COVID-19 cut my trip short. Although I was disappointed to have my experience abroad end so soon, looking back, I have plenty of amazing memories, especially one moment in particular that led me to where I am now. During a long weekend, I took a train to Sweden. The trip was only half an hour long, but the majority of it took place crossing the Øresund Strait on the longest road and rail bridge in Europe. 

The views were breathtaking—moody skies paired with the expansive, harsh water lying hundreds of feet below. The environment felt so empty, cast in a classic Scandinavian grey haze. As I got closer to the Swedish side of the bridge, dozens of offshore wind turbines seemed to magically appear from the fog, floating just on the edge of the horizon. It was a curious experience for me, as I had never seen a turbine in real life. But I also thought it was one of the coolest things I’d ever laid my eyes on.

I know that probably sounds a bit hyperbolic. What girl in her right mind gets that excited about seeing a wind turbine on the water? You may find it hard to believe, but my awe was and still very much is to this day genuine. To me, a wind turbine isn’t just a wind turbine. It’s a symbol representing all the advocates, engineers and big thinkers who pushed to make the project happen. This offshore wind farm got there only after environmentally conscious people stood up and proclaimed that they saw a future powered by renewable energy, and they wanted their country to be a part of it. Their initiative eventually led to this wind farm boasting a capacity of 110 megawatts, enough electricity to power 60,000 Swedish homes. I’ve since learned through Environment America’s Go Big On Offshore Wind campaign only two offshore wind projects are currently operating here in the United States, a country where 29 states possess offshore wind potential.    

Spotting the offshore wind turbines on my train ride to Sweden was the highlight of my weekend trip, but glimpsing this historic windmill in Malmö was a close second!

Throughout the remainder of my trip, I continued to learn about Scandinavian culture and how highly Denmark prioritized its sustainability goals. I took this perspective back with me to the States weeks later, along with a single goal in mind: using my voice and knowledge as a communicator to advocate for our environment. I’m so thrilled to be working as a digital associate supporting Environment America’s clean energy campaigns. It’s the type of work that I’ve imagined doing since I first spotted that distant wind turbine. 

I think that young girl in pigtails with mud coating her brow would be proud of where I’ve ended up. This work in advancing clean energy, at its core, is about promoting solutions that can save the planet we all call home. While I may be working on campaigns championing the importance of solar panels or the potential of offshore wind, my advocacy in a broader sense is about preserving some of the happiest and fullest moments of my childhood—feeling a warm, sun-kissed breeze while pedaling my bike or basking in the euphoric achievement of a long, arduous hike. I want to continue to experience outdoor moments like these for the rest of my life, and perhaps even more importantly, I want plenty of people after me to have the chance to connect with our natural world in the exact same way.


Arielle Ostry

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