February is Black History Month, and to celebrate, Greenovate is featuring perspectives from black leaders around Boston who share our commitment to climate action, and to making Boston a thriving, healthy, and innovative city. Check back each week this month for our latest Black History Month blog!
Our first profile features James Cater, a resident of Hyde Park and Eversource’s Energy Efficiency Consultant and liaison to the City of Boston. Learn more about James and how he found himself working in sustainable energy!
What organization do you currently work for?
I work for Eversource Energy, the largest energy delivery company in New England. I act as the Liaison to the City of Boston for our robust energy efficiency programming, and connect our resources and expertise in energy efficiency with potential energy efficiency projects and efforts that are going on in the City.
What is your background, and how did you come to work in the field?
I like to think of this as my first shot at a second career. I was previously in financial services, and if you asked me years ago, I would say I aspired to be some sort of buy-side Portfolio Manager. But I was always fascinated by energy, and how people interacted with it, used and sought out new ways in which they could do so efficiently and more cleanly. So a couple of economic downturns later, I found a passion in wanting to do my small part of advancing our energy future in a cleaner, more resilient and efficient way.
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
I would say many things, but two stand out.
1) I think a career should have aspects of it that improve the human condition. I am inspired to help those that want to live in healthier environments and pay a reasonable cost for a basic need in a civilized society, that of electricity and heat. At the end of the day, I work for a company that every day seeks to fulfill those basic needs to all of the citizens in its service territory.
2) Climate change is a big big issue. If it is not already it will be one of the greatest challenges of our time, and how we respond as a human race to it will very much mark how much success we have in meeting that challenge. I'm inspired by being a very small part of the solution set to this problem.
What do you believe is the most pressing environmental or climate issue of our time?
Understanding the full cost of inaction. When people understand that, everything else becomes much less of an issue.
Can you tell me about a specific time your identity as a black person provided unique insight to your work in the field that wasn’t as obvious to people who didn’t identify as black?
I think one of the things that has grounded my thinking around these issues is always recognizing the need to effectively communicate issues around energy access and climate change to regular people. We in this industry speak the language everyday. Making that information accessible and easy to understand by the community is the trick! You have to meet folks where they are, and empower them with the ability to make decisions that affect themselves and their community in a positive way. I think my connection and commitment to organizations and institutions that are founded in the black community allow me to understand these important pieces of communication.
What advice would you give young people, especially those who identify as black, starting out in this field?
1) Don't go light on the math and science, both in school and outside of it. Picking up a copy Popular Science or a trade magazine in energy is equal to learning as in the classroom. Understanding the supporting mathematic and scientific theories and applications are super important in trying to solve the challenges of energy, climate change and the environment.
2) Try to understand the current rules that govern our local and federal energy, climate and environmental policies. For better or for worse, policy drives a lot of what is possible, and build your understanding of stakeholders.
3) Start small to see if you like being in the field. See what you can do in your own community for its energy or environmental betterment. Small changes can make a big impact to 1 block of a city.
4) Be Curious!! This is a fascinating time to be in the field of energy. There are lots of things to learn and an increasing number of ways in which you can make a career in this space!
What actions do you suggest people take today to get involved and make impact to act on climate and/or protect the environment?
Take action locally. Walk your neighborhood to see where there might be issues that impact your health, well-being or access to resources. Greenovate Boston is a great place to find resources to empower you and your community to take action to affect change around climate, environmental and energy issues!