Note: Stephen Thomas is a nominee for The Starfish's Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 program. Vote by Mar. 20!
Combining a relentless passion for environmental justice, renewable energy and community engagement, Stephen Thomas has emerged as a driving force in helping to build Halifax’s cleaner energy future.
Currently, Stephen is the Wind Project Coordinator for Scotian WindFields, a community-owned renewable energy developer. As coordinator, he works in a number of ways to develop and commission large scale community owned wind projects. Currently, Stephen helps to manage 50+ megawatts of community owned large scale wind energy projects across the province. Through his work, Stephen is bringing the first wave of community-owned renewable energy projects to Nova Scotia, and making them accessible to all.
In addition, Stephen is co-founder of If You Build It (IYBI), a grassroots collective that mobilizes community volunteers to build renewable energy projects. To say that their first project was ambitious would be an understatement: despite a complete lack of practical experience, volunteers came together over 5 months to build a functional wind turbine. Following construction of the wind turbine, IYBI’s next major project involved solar energy: the group built a Solar-Powered, Bike-Transported Generator.
In addition to building renewable projects, IYBI has a strong educational focus. Today, IYBI actively engages the community through ‘build-days’, workshops where community members can learn practical skills to help them build their own renewable energy projects. These workshops engage young and old, bridging age, gender and other barriers to highlight practical ways to take action.
Stephen’s passion for environmental justice has manifested itself through the Halifax Environmental Justice Collective, a Dalhousie-based group which he co-founded. The group is spearheading the hugely successful ‘Divest Dal’ Campaign, which calls for Dalhousie University to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies and to reinvest in local renewable energy companies and environmental campus initiatives. To date, the campaign has mobilized hundreds of students, faculty and community members. What’s more, it has received endorsements from influential leaders including David Suzuki and Naomi Klein. The group has organized dozens of educational activities on sustainable investments. Currently, they continue to work closely with the university administration, with the ultimate goal of making Dalhousie the first university in Canada to divest from fossil fuels.
Stephen’s vision for the future is simple: he hopes to be living in a world with democratized, fully renewable energy systems and a world with successful fossil fuel divestment campaigns. Stephen couldn’t be more excited to be an active part of building this future.
By Manuel Arias from The Starfish on May 13, 2014.