Pastrami on Rye and the Oklahoma City Thunder

As an editor, I have the privilege of traveling all over North America attending tradeshows, conferences, symposiums and summits, meeting many of you in the process. We talk hydropower, HydroVision, industry news, and if it’s raining, how good of a day it is for the industry.

As a small town girl from Oklahoma however, it’s like taking a mini-vacation once a month. I try to take advantage of my business travel and take in the sights, sounds, tastes, and culture of the places I visit.

Something special happens when you ask a native dweller of a city or state what they are most proud of or what I should be sure to experience while I’m there. They come alive! I love seeing the pride blossom on their face. From food recommendations to tourist attractions to hole-in-the-wall gems that make their city unique, I’ve heard it all.

This native Okie enjoys every minute of it.

And I can relate to the sense of pride whenever that same person asks about my home state, my beloved Oklahoma. Of course, they first ask about tornadoes, Indians (“No, we don’t live in teepees anymore”), country music, and if I’ve met Garth Brooks (I’ve actually sang next to him at church). But then I get to talk about our rich Native American history, fantastic farm-raised meat and produce, Kevin Durant and the OKC Thunder, and most of all, our compassionate, resilient, and friendly people.

One topic I always enjoy discussing when I travel is, of course, hydropower. The question of what I do that allows me to travel usually comes up, and when I mention hydropower, the reaction is quite diverse.

In Ottawa or Niagara Falls, people nod and smile. Hydropower is a common term and an industry that is supported. One lady in an Ottawa boutique responded with, “And we definitely love hydropower here.”

When in Phoenix, the word “hydropower” connected immediately to “Hoover Dam,” due to the regional proximity of the well known dam and hydropower plant.

The question came up last week while I was in New York City attending the National Hydropower Association’s Hydropower Finance Summit. I ventured out to the World Trade Center Memorial and engaged in a conversation with two of the security guards as I was leaving. In between their recommendations on dinner locations and the best pizza in all the burroughs, they asked what brought me to New York. When I responded, I received a reaction that both excited me and saddened me.

“What’s hydropower?”

As an editor of two hydropower-focused publications, I’m used to speaking about hydropower with others who understand it even better than I do. But what I’ve come to realize through my travels is that the response I received in New York is not at all uncommon. Growing up in oil and natural gas-rich Oklahoma, I myself did not have an understanding of hydropower until I joined the industry as an adult.

So the question I pose is this: what are we doing as an industry to show our pride in hydropower?

In the same way that those New Yorkers were quick to tell me the best spot for pastrami on rye and the most scenic places to stop and take pictures, how quick are we as an industry to share about hydropower, this energy source that we are so passionate about, to those outside the industry?

In the business-to-business media industry, we focus on just that, communicating to those already in the industry. So targeting anyone outside of that realm is just not within the scope of my work.

However, when I told these two security guards from Brooklyn and Queens about the benefits of hydropower, they were beyond curious, they were engaged. Those men had a say in which senators voted on the hydropower bills that are on their way to the President’s desk. Those men have a say on the state and local energy matters that come up on ballots occasionally. However indirectly, those men have a say in hydropower.

This and other instances like it lead me to think that we as an industry need to be talking about hydropower the same way New Yorkers do about the Yankees and pastrami on rye and the way Oklahomans do about our rich Native American culture, chicken fried steak and the Oklahoma City Thunder — as a point of pride in our industry and in our renewable energy future.

This is quite a task, but I would love to hear what you all are thinking about it. Is it time to stretch out a bit and widen our message?

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Bethany Duarte formerly was associate editor of Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide magazines.

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