N. Diems Haffner-Ratliffe

Solar Activist Helps Organize Climate Change Symposium

Evergreen Staff

“The first memories I have of working with solar is of putting together little model car kits that had solar panels, then going outside and playing with them in the sun,” says Evergreen senior N. Diems Haffner-Ratliffe ’17.

He became more familiar with the technology at age 15, when dad Kirk Haffner ’88 started South Sound Solar out of the family home. As the business grew, Haffner-Ratliffe graduated from “company lawnmower” to solar panel installer.

Haffner-Ratliffe already had several years’ experience with solar by the time he enrolled at Evergreen in 2012. As a sophomore, he applied that knowledge to a solar assessment of Evergreen’s covered recreation pavilion for the program Fire and Water: The Sun, Oceans and Atmosphere in Climate Change. Inspired by Haffner-Ratliffe’s project, faculty E.J. Zita later asked the students of her Energy Systems program to perform an energy assessment of the entire campus.

When Evergreen Director of Sustainability Scott Morgan began planning the January 2016 climate change symposium, It’s Happening. What Now? Climate Change Research and Action in Washington State, Haffner-Ratliffe was one of the first students he invited to collaborate. “I know him well enough to trust and value his input,” Morgan said. Haffner-Ratliffe offered ideas during the planning and contacted legislative offices about the event. He admires the tone set by Morgan, which was to highlight current efforts to reduce the effects of climate change. “Our goal in approaching climate change is to show students that it’s not a losing battle.”

Though Haffner-Ratliffe is eligible to walk this spring, he will stay at Evergreen another year to earn a dual B.A./B.S. degree. He later hopes to study the solar industry in Germany, which he notes is the world’s largest producer of solar energy with fewer sunny days per year than Washington state. Long-term, he envisions a career combining hands-on and policy work. “I want to continue to be involved in alternative energy and climate change mitigation,” he said. “I’m definitely a solar activist."