Climate change and mass extinctions are happening, so in my private life, I try to be as sustainable as possible, e.g. I eat almost exclusively organic vegetarian food, I have no car, buy most stuff used, have a renewable energy contract and avoid flying (especially intercontinentally).
But when I look at my professional life, it is a differnt story: I am doing my PhD at an Institute, working on a side branch of microelectronics. Our institute reportedly uses the amount of electricity in a year that is comparable to a city of 25.000 people. While certainly a lot of what we are developping might end up being usefull, other developments aren’t leaving the prototype stage once a project is finished. We produce a huge amount of electronic waste on the way to success and other not very sustainable stuff is happening along the way, too.
My dilemma is, that I really enjoy working there, I love my colleagues, my supervisor is great, the work is challenging but extremly interesting, I have a lot of freedom and support, and a good carreer outlook. And: I am really good at what I do, I published papers, I built a great network. But on the other hand I really question the need to integrate electronics everywhere, I cannot really stand behind a lot of what I/we do and the unsustainable practices in our industry. To make matters worse, we even sometimes work on projects for the military – which goes totally against my political believes – but the projects themselves are interesting and fun to research.
I am really torn between what my personal believes are and what I do at my work / during my research. I try to convince myself that what I do is ok because it is better to have critical people working on a topic, that aren’t afraid to question the necessity of new developpments, than just the ones who blindly think everything is great. But this sometimes feels like I am gaslighting myself into thinking that what I do is great, even though I know in my heart that is is (kind of) wrong.
Have you ever been in the same situation, that your research and your personal word view collided? What are strategies to deal with this, apart from changing careers (because that train has kind of left the station)?