If you could sum up the last year with one word, it would be uncertainty. The stresses of the pandemic, ongoing geopolitical madness, and everyday life have made it increasingly easy to feel isolated and disconnected from the world around us. At the same time, I often feel unable to step away from my smartphone or laptop for fear that I’ll miss an important email, news update, or class announcement.

As a graduate student trying to obtain a master’s degree during a pandemic, dealing with stress has become a daily challenge. Between my attempts to focus on school and work, stay connected with family and friends, and keep up with the news, I’ve noticed that I spend way more time staring at screens than I’d care to admit. I know screen time isn’t doing me any favors; according to a 2018 study, increased amounts of time spent staring at screens is associated with decreases in mental health.

One way that I, and many others, have been able to find solace among the madness and the screens is through listening to podcasts. Podcasts allow me to more or less “unplug” from looking at my phone or computer screen while continuing to learn from and connect to people all over the globe.

There’s a new podcast – China Cleantech – I’ve been listening to recently that features the stories of startup entrepreneurs in China who are driving innovation in the cleantech industry. The podcast, hosted by Andrew Chang and Marilyn Waite, highlights not only the cutting-edge
cleantech advancements spearheaded by Chinese entrepreneurs, but also the barriers and challenges these entrepreneurs have overcome along the way.

I have a passion for renewable energy, a topic that has become increasingly relevant even during the pandemic – and not just because of the urgent need for climate action. According to the UN,
there is actually a connection between the environment and your mental health. The healthier the environment is, the better off you, and your mental health, will be.

Listening to the China Cleantech podcast has made me realize three things that have broadened my perspective on living in an uncertain world.

First, there are people on the other side of the planet dealing with the exact same stresses that we are. Young professionals in the clean energy industry are pushing hard to save the planet, and entrepreneurs in China are no stranger to the grind. Many Chinese startup entrepreneurs operate under what is referred to as ‘996 culture’ – working from nine am to nine pm, six days a week. While I don’t see myself reaching that level of intensity any time soon, it’s comforting to know that people thousands of miles away share both my motivation to make a positive impact on the world and the stress that comes with hard work.

Second, despite all of the geopolitical and financial uncertainty, we share values across oceans. It’s easy to let a trade war and four years of rising tensions make it seem as though the differences between China and the U.S. are insurmountable. However, listening to entrepreneurs
tell their stories of rising above challenges and stressors to achieve a common goal of increasing the health of the planet tells me that this just isn’t true.

Third, there’s an amazing amount of energy and creativity that is focused on reducing the uncertainty surrounding our climate and the future of energy across the planet. We’re always going to be living in uncertainty in some form. Sometimes we might feel isolated, but we all live on the same planet, and we’re all trying to find purpose in a crazy world.