How does the Covid-19 pandemic influence the way a PhD student implements an outreach activity? How can one interact with people to talk about the research objectives of his project, when everyone is reluctant to be close to strangers out of the fear of infection?
Matteo Calabresi (ESR 8/ AVL) decided to approach people by the sea!
It was his love for sailing that inspired him. And the thought that an in-person interaction among people with similar interests would have a stronger impact. He wanted to let people know why the EDEM research is needed, what are the benefits for the public and to make the EU funding visible.
As an EDEM ESR, Matteo is highly interested in technological innovation that solves environmental challenges. But he is also interested in his own environmental impact, an interest that is common for the audience he chose to address: sailors who use the wind as a source of energy or eco-friendly solutions, like photovoltaic systems and wind turbines.
As Matteo states, “I think that to question our lifestyle and try to reduce our individual energy consumption, could lead to a global change of behaviour. In the case of a cruise on a sailboat, even primary needs sources are limited and must be carefully monitored. This forces the sailors to be more self-aware and to give up some comforts, outweighed by a closer connection with nature and its gifts.
In this regard, I decided to take the opportunity of a cruise organized by my parents in our sailboat “Pura Vida” across the Mediterranean Sea trying to find several different ways to raise this awareness. Additionally, I thought that this audience will be more open to understand the impact of the EDEM research on the environment. Armed with a flag, t-shirts and some stickers, I sailed from Sicily to Naples, witnessing and reporting the benefits of such a lifestyle, collecting other sailors’ experiences, and promoting the EDEM project.”
So, Matteo chose an EU EDEM flag as his courtesy flag. The crew of Pura Vida wore EDEM T-Shirts. That triggered the curiosity of other sailors or of the people that worked in the marinas and gave Matteo the opportunity to talk with them. He was even invited for coffee to explain the story behind the EDEM flag!
But overall, he had to be patient, because the pandemic of Covid-19 was still a big concern in the region. Still, he did not give up. In some cases, he approached the crew of a boat by swimming… and then he started a conversation!
“85% of the people I talked to, did not know anything about duel – fuel engines and none of them had heard anything about our project. But they felt somehow reassured by the effort given towards such direction. And this reaction was precious to me.
I also had the opportunity to underline my habits that are energy-wasting and hurtful for the planet; I had the lucky chance to remind me what we are risking to lose if we do not change our lifestyles, I could estimate and finally have an idea on how polluting are some behaviors that I took for granted, I could discuss with several people and sailors, all having unique experiences and sensitivities, but all feeling in various ways their connection to the sea and to the nature itself and being willing to give up diverse things so that our planet has a future. A better future.”
What places did Matteo visit? What were the Pura Vida performances? How satisfied was the young researcher with the ecological footprint of his boat?