A few truths about the big Four-O

7 March 2019

As children, the world is a limitless source of curiosity and wonder. As we reach our teens, we’re figuring out what we could become. By our 30s, we’re finally getting the hang of this adult thing. By the time 40 rolls around we can really get going – in Carl Jung’s words “Life really does begin at 40. Up until then, you’re just doing research”

I joined CSE in 2017 and as we both turn 40 in the same year, it seemed fitting that I help reflect on what this milestone means for us both. Ok, I admit, turning 40 in combination with the fact that I work with young people running CSE’s environmental leadership programme Bright Green Future, does often highlight the fact that I’m way out of touch with any current music trends (apart from Kendrick Lamar – love Kendrick).

Getting to a new decade feels mostly like an opportunity to cast my mind forward and get moving, but that being said it has also given me pause to reflect on the previous 39 years. So here are a few truths I’ve found about turning 40:

  1. Your values become deeply ingrained in who you are

Unlike earlier in life, when you’re still establishing your core values, by the time you’re 40, you know what you believe in, what’s important to you, and you won’t stand for anything less.

At the core of CSE’s values is the understanding that achieving the low-carbon future we are working towards cannot be at the expense of some members of society, the burden of cutting energy use needs to be shared fairly. We believe ‘energy justice’ is one of the keys to unlocking mass public action to tackle climate change.

  1. People start coming to you for advice

40 isn’t old to the people who are in the club, but to younger people and those just starting out, you seem not only older, but wiser. It’s only now I realise that I’ve been working with young people in some form or another for over a decade, and that experience is seriously valuable in everything I do from this point forward.

At CSE we believe that unleashing the capacity of others, rather than trying to ‘do it ourselves’, is the most effective way we can help to achieve the scale and speed of change needed. By also communicating our insights and sharing our experience with policy-makers, we seek to improve the policies and practices which shape the energy choices and opportunities available to all of us working towards a low-carbon future.

  1. You find it easier to focus on the good

Earlier in life, it was easy to see all the things that weren’t going the way you wanted, maybe all the things you thought you’d have achieved by your 29th birthday. But by 40 your perspective is focused more on the things you have than those you’ve missed out on.

We can be hugely proud of what we have accomplished over the last 40 years and happy with what we continue to achieve. We directly assist around 10,000 people a year with advice, benefits take-up support and energy efficiency measures – helping them take control of their energy usage, reduce their risk of fuel poverty, and saving them a combined total of almost £1.5m.

We’ve trained, supported and empowered more than 50,000 young people, professionals, local authorities, councillors and community activists with our high quality education programmes, helping them become influential energy activists in their own communities.

And we’ve stimulated national policy change and development in areas such as community engagement in sustainable energy developments, area-based targeting of fuel poverty programmes, improved consumer feedback of energy suppliers’ so-called ‘social tariffs’, performance targets for local authorities on climate change and fuel poverty.

  1. Friends start talking about retirement

At some point in your 40s your friends will let slip that they’re making retirement plans. But not me, and not CSE; we’re both just hitting our stride.  When you’ve built 40 years of industry experience you get to know what does and doesn’t work and can use this knowledge to inform and improve your own practice and that of others. What we see as even more important is that we can enhance understanding within government and identify policy changes that will accelerate progress.

  1. You probably need glasses, whether you admit it or not.

OK, so not all of the personal ‘turning 40’ experiences have their parallel in an organisation’s life (my vision is still pretty good!). But retaining a clear and sharp view of what is happening and what needs to change to secure a genuinely sustainable energy future is as vital to CSE now as it ever has been.


Bright Green Future is CSE's environmental leadership programme for teenagers aged 14-17 who want to create a more sustainable future for our planet, learn about climate change and environmental protection, gain confidence and meet like-minded people. Applications for Bright Green Future 2019 cohort are now open.

We’ll be marking our 40th anniversary in a variety of ways this year so watch this space or sign up to our e-news to be the first to hear about our plans.

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