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There and Back Again – One Student’s Exploration of Community

By Laura Berry

Since I was very young, I have always been an environmentalist. My parents once thought that I would be a scientist – but instead, my studies and passions have led me to seek understandings of the fascinating and complex ways that communities interact with their environments, especially with regards to sustainability. As I complete my last year of undergraduate education, it is this drive that has led me back to Samsø.

 My name is Laura Berry, and I am a fourth year student at College of the Atlantic (COA) in Bar Harbor, Maine – my major is in Human Ecology, but I usually say that I study environmental policy, economics, and community development. Last summer, I visited Samsø for the first time with a group of students from the COA and Trinity Washington University as part of a one-week workshop with the Samsø Energy Academy. After an amazing week, I returned to Maine inspired by the incredible community initiative and spirit that I had experienced on Samsø, and I spent the rest of the summer working as one of the first Summer Energy Fellows at the new COA Community Energy Center – Mount Desert Island’s very own version of the Energy Academy.

 On Monday, March 27th, I will once again return to Samsø to strengthen the ongoing partnership between the Energy Academy and the Community Energy Center, as well as to conduct research for my own undergraduate thesis supported by funding from the Henry David Thoreau Foundation. Throughout my month on the island, I hope to explore how new institutional economics and a polycentric climate governance approach can help explain how and why Samsø’s renewable energy transition was successful – and how other communities can use this framework to undertake their own sustainability transitions.

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