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Knowledge comes from everyone and combining our knowledge makes us strong.

Scientific knowledge comes from scientists, political knowledge comes from politicians, historical knowledge comes from historians and so on. Traditionally, these pockets of knowledge are separate and knowledge is transferred predominantly within the pocket- think of conferences, societies, and even cultures. Each pocket has its own world or infrastructure in which it functions.

This set-up can be very useful as it is effective when everything runs smoothly. Most problems can be solved within the pocket however, when a problem arises that hits several pockets at the same time – such as climate change – the set-up fails. Both my pocket, the scientists, as well as the politicians and historians cannot solve climate change within our own pockets. We are required to connect and to some extend merge – a common challenge.

Connecting to others happens when the communication is effective, building trust. Many books have been written about communication that is effective, connecting and non-aggressive. The reason being that it is not easy and requires practice. Our first test starts at the moment we are born: connecting to our families. From that moment on, each of us builds up our unique perception of the world and we start finding our appropriate pocket .

Climate change challenges the perceptions we already have and requires us to re-evaluate them. Sources of energy we have always been using and thought were great (e.g. coal) may not be great anymore. In the same way sources we may have ruled out previously may be useful to us in the future.

In this context nuclear energy is a source of energy that fits the second category. It is commonly labelled as a “controversial topic” as opinions on nuclear energy range from it being a great technology that offers solutions to it representing the end of the world. In reality, most topics are controversial until people can connect over it; then the topic becomes just a general topic, accepted and usually quite boring.

On March 23rd, I gave a TEDx talk on Nuclear: Facts, Feelings and Fantasy. I explored common perceptions in the industry versus those in the rest of society, in an attempt to take nuclear energy out of the taboo zone and into the talking-circle. The responses I received motivated me to keep bridging the technical world to the rest of society. It represented the start of the Empowered Atom.

Today is the launch of the online knowledge platform “The Empowered Atom”, a space for critical thinking, collaboration and information regarding climate change. My name is Sannah van Balen and I want to bridge the gap between the technical world and the rest of society, with the aim of getting more people to join the conversation on climate change and the energy transition.

Back in March, I gave my first-ever TEDx talk on Nuclear Energy and its role in combatting climate change. The responses I received were incredibly positive and humbling. I started brainstorming and thinking about what I, with my expertise and interests, could do. The idea of a multidisciplinary knowledge platform arose. First in the form of a think-tank and then in the form of an online platform. I knew for certain I wanted to reach as many people as possible from different walks of life – not an easy thing to do.

Traditionally, knowledge is transferred one-directionally (from expert to other) and in a style comfortable to the expert. We know now that knowledge can come from everyone, not just a single expert, and should be transferred in a way stylized to the receiver. My role could therefore not be “the one and only expert” and instead I chose to act as a facilitator.

I put together all my utopian desires for the perfect multidisciplinary online platform- futuristic yet humane- and came up with “The Empowered Atom,” an environment people can join to contribute to a facilitated conversation on climate change . The leading values are: cherishing the feeling of togetherness, embracing change without fear, and trusting the strength of a science and humanity fusion.

Every month we tackle a different topic relevant to climate change and the energy transition. The topics link Science&Technology to Anthropology&Psychology to Arts&Culture. At the start of each month a fact sheet is released on the website to stimulate fact-based conversation. Different people will be invited to share their views and expertise in the form of interviews, opinion pieces, Q&A and other forms of content.

To stay up to date and see what’s coming next follow @theempoweredatom on Instagram and Facebook! I will be posting stories, videos and keep you up to date with the content on the website. If you are interested in collaborating, don’t hesitate to contact me via Instagram or Facebook.

Let’s get talking!


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