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As an aspiring conservationist, working in energy sustainability has offered many unexpected surprises. For the last four years, I’ve spent a lot of time planting trees for rainforest restoration programs and talking to the public about habitat loss and endangered species and the impact of rising carbon levels on climate change. A lot of this has focused on creating and protecting spaces where people cannot come and development is limited.

Interning at Yoma Micro Power, an organization facilitating development in Myanmar’s most isolated areas, I’ve realized, first, how fundamental a right electrification is today and how easily I take for granted a light bulb to read at night. I’ve had to evaluate my binary, activist view of development: as Myanmar grows, why should the harsh realities of rural impoverishment continue to preserve some fantasy of an untouched countryside idyll?

Development does not necessarily mean degradation of environment or increased environmental pressure. As I’ve learned about Yoma Micro Power’s model, I’ve seen how effectively decentralized renewable energy can be deployed in order to bring rural communities into the modern world with minimal emissions.

Most surprising, though, has been the optimism of it all. Coming to Yoma Micro Power, the pragmatic can-do spirit as well as the strong belief in the model, its viability both financially and environmentally, and its potential for Myanmar’s villages, has been exhilarating to join in my first few days. Energy sustainability is not an activist, sideline idea: it is an economic, practical, mainstream, and effective one. The possibilities of what the company is doing hit home on my first field visit. As evening fell, seeing the streetlights turn on was a powerful feeling. It used to be dark even here—one of the most accessible of Yoma Micro Power’s sites—and the only recourse would have been smaller solar home systems or candles. Now, there was light, and walking down the road, I realized what a sustainable, empowering difference that made.

-Tanvi Dutta Gupta, Communications Intern

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