By Bethany Duarte
I have the privilege of traveling all over North America attending trade shows, conferences, symposiums and summits — meeting many of you in the process. We talk hydropower, industry news, and, if it’s raining, how good of a day it is for the industry.
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! From food recommendations to tourist attractions to hole-in-the-wall gems that make their city unique, I’ve heard it all.
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 Oklahoma City 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, Canada, or Niagara Falls, people nod and smile. Hydropower is a common term and an industry that is supported. 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 earlier this year 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 security guards as I was leaving. They asked what brought me to New York. When I responded, I received a reaction that both excited and saddened me. “What’s hydropower?”
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 did not have an understanding of hydropower until I joined the industry.
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 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?
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 OKC Thunder. Isn’t it time to stretch out a bit and widen our message?
Guest Editorial –
by Bethany Duarte
Bethany Duarte is associate editor of Hydro Review.