While he was doing a story about a net-zero home builder in Calgary, environmental journalist David Dodge learned it was one of his videos that inspired the company's environmentally conscious approach.
"I had a tiny small part in inspiring him, so I take a lot of solace in that … that's the kind of thing that gets me jazzed," Dodge said as he reflected on the past 10 years of Green Energy Futures, a video, radio, and blog series about businesses that focus on clean energy and sustainability.
After 310 episodes, Dodge is still optimistic about society's ability to address climate change, especially as low-carbon power becomes more affordable.
"When I started Green Energy Futures, solar didn't even exist in Alberta. Now we're dealing with the fact that solar and wind power are the cheapest sources of energy that money can buy," he said.
"I think I've built a compelling case in more than 300 episodes that there's a lot of potential … In fact, I would argue our future economy and the success of places like Alberta and Edmonton depend on (clean technology) now."
A recent post on the Sundance Housing Cooperative in Edmonton's Riverdale neighbourhood is an example of the kind of story that keeps Dodge hopeful. There, 59 townhouse units are being retrofitted by Butterwick Projects Ltd. with new insulation to meet net-zero standards. These homes will require 70% less energy to heat, enabling them to replace their gas furnaces with air-source heat pumps that run on electricity.
Dodge launched Green Energy Futures in 2012 because he was "absolutely appalled" at the quality of media coverage around renewable energy. He wanted to find inspiring people in the clean technology area that were doing things that could be replicated. After pitching his idea to several corporate sponsors, he was able to get three years' worth of funding, which also allowed him to travel across Canada for some of his stories.
Since then, some funding for his work comes from the businesses he covers, but Dodge maintains editorial control of his content. He also accepts donations from readers or viewers.
Dodge said his work has brought him into contact with others with a "glass-half-full attitude," which fuels his optimism. He also found encouragement when Edmonton hosted the Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in 2018, despite Alberta's reputation as a producer of fossil fuels. The event brought mayors from around the world together to discuss the role of cities in tackling the issue.
While "it's probably harder to sell optimism and good news than it is to sell bad news," Dodge said he doesn't see the use in being overwhelmed by pessimism.
"If you want to get depressed about the world and environmental issues and other issues, there's absolutely no future in that," he said. "And I saw other people who internalized the threats of things like climate change, and it just wrecked them. So for me, it's taking baby steps every day."
As Green Energy Futures passes its 10th year, Dodge said he's not sure how his series will evolve. But he's committed to filling what he sees as a "desperately needed niche."
"I love what I do, and I still look forward to every interview and finding new stories," he said. "And the stories now are more inspiring than they ever used to be, so I feed off that as well."