Stay up to date with the latest news and events from ESRAG.
You can also view our archives of newsletters and previous events.
Oct 4, 2020
Be a friend to the environment - it helps make the world a healthier and safer place This is the first in a series of short articles that aims to give some practical advice on how we can all live in an environmentally sustainable way to help protect our environment....
Aug 3, 2020
On June 25, Rotary International President Mark Maloney made this glorious announcement: "The Rotary Foundation Trustees and Rotary International Board of Directors have both unanimously approved adding a new area of focus: supporting the environment."...
Jun 11, 2021
Half a Degree Centigrade: The Challenge for the COP24 Climate talks in Poland. UN Climate Talks in Katowice No. 1Nov. 29, 2018 “I am both deeply honored and a bit nervous to be Rotary's first observer delegate to the UN Climate talks, which are being held during...
Jun 11, 2021
Packing My Bags and Unpacking the Katowice COP: Inspiration from the UN Secretary General. Packing my Bags and Unpacking the Katowice COPJuly 15, 2019 I began writing this blog post December 12, 2018 early in the morning of the last day, thinking of the trek to...
Jun 11, 2021
Greta Thunberg: Speaking Truth to Power at COP24 COP Blog Post 7UN Secretary General António Guterres seated next to 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who explained that while the world consumes an estimated 100 million barrels of oil each...
Jun 11, 2021
Week One of COP 24 Did Not End Well for Science or the Climate: If You Don’t Like the Science, Refuse to “Welcome” It. Week One of COP 24 Did Not End WellBOTTOM LINE: On Saturday night December 8, 2018, at the closing Plenary of the Subsidiary Body of Science...
Jun 11, 2021
Treading Water in a Sea of Acronyms: RINGO BINGO Lingo, Blog 4 Treading Water in a Sea of Acronyms: RINGO BINGO Lingo, Blog 4On Monday December 4, 2018, with first-day-of-school jitters, Larry and I re-crossed streetcar tracks several times before we found the...
Jun 11, 2021
Into the Belly of the Beast: a just transition away from coal. COP24 Blog 2December 4, 2018, update fromthe UNFCCC (The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) climate talks in Poland, COP 24 This map of Europe shows how much carbon is released...
Jennifer Jones Delighted by D 3232 Bee HotelsWednesday, August 10, 2022 By: Meenakshi Venkataraman
ESRAG South Asia has started collaborating with the environmental NGO ATREE on their citizen science program to increase the numbers of urban pollinators by establishing bee hotels. To our delight, this brought our pollinator project face-to-face with Rotary International President Jennifer Jones when she attended a town hall meeting in District 3232 on July 26, 2022. Her enthusiastic response inspired RID A. S. Venkatesh, currently RI Treasurer, to call the District Governor, Rtn. Nandakumar, the next day to suggest that he double the scale of our project.
Pollination – an essential ecosystem service - is imperiled by the loss of insect populations due to the use of pesticides and other anthropogenic activities. Studies in Europe have shown that the decline in pollinator populations is affecting crop yield. We have reached a point where hand pollination, which used to be a pastime for kitchen gardeners, has become a paid job in vegetable farms across India in the quest to increase yield. But bees are doing extremely well in urban areas with multiple garden sources.
The majority of the solitary bees roost in small cavities. ATREE consulted with Rotarians in Rotary District 3291 on how to design bee hotels and get data sent to them. We decided to expand this program to D 3232, and proposed a memorandum of understanding between the Districts and ATREE in which Rotarians would help document the kinds and numbers of pollinators in our city.
Photo: D 3232. In the center, from left: RIP Jennifer Jones, ESRAG Director Dr. Mina Venkatamaran explaining the bee hotels, and ESRAG South Asia Chapter Chair Arun Vaddi
ESRAG’s South Asia Chapter Chair Arun Vaddi and I commissioned five boxes - the “bee hotels” - and got them ready to go. A wildlife filmmaker, Saravanakumar, suggested adding a motion camera so Rotarians who miss the entry of an insect into the hotel could still record the species. Currently we are using an app provided by the motion camera to upload our observations.
We set up this project as part of the Operation Pollination pledge to be undertaken by the clubs. Our plan was for the District Governor to sign the resolution in the presence of RIP Jennifer Jones when she visited Chennai.
By the time Jennifer Jones reached our exhibit at the town hall meeting, she was being mobbed. She got excited seeing our bee hotels and started taking photographs. We barely got to talk to her for 30 seconds, but told her how open pollination in fields now is the need of the hour, and how the silent pollinators in our cities are now the last resort, providing 90% of the pollination in our fields. In the photo I’m explaining the fundamentals of the project to her.
Why a bee hotel? As you can see from the picture, a bee hotel has different-sized bole holes made of bamboo. It helps pollinators like carpenter and mason bees that lay eggs in cavities. There are still other bees that lay eggs in the soil.
Are bee hotels the solution to increase pollinators? It is certainly a way to bring awareness to people about how this essential service to the human food supply is carried out by these unseen insects. We are using this as a conversational tool to discover pollinator corridors. Rotarians with bee hotels get interested by looking for pollinators. They just need to maintain the boxes. The camera helps in keeping them engaged to see the variety of visitors using the structure, and makes them more amenable to creating pollinator-friendly spaces. Bee hotels are a great way to stimulate interest and conversations about how to protect these vital insects.
Is the box going to solve pollination issues? Not particularly, but it is a good way to intrigue the community and engage them in supporting pollinators.
Now Presenting: Habitat Solar!Tuesday, August 9, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
Rotarians have added a powerful tool that makes housing more affordable AND slows climate change: Habitat Solar, a new initiative under Rotary’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity which assists Habitat to add rooftop solar to eligible new homes. Participating families will achieve big savings on monthly electric bills and prevent hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon emissions over the useful life of their panels. By adopting Habitat Solar as a project, your Club will discover a new way to engage young people as passionate volunteers.
ESRAG’s Renewable Energy Task Force has teamed up with Habitat International’s building science specialist Molly Berg on a manual offering field-tested advice, case studies, and links to rebates and tax credits available by state across the US. “This partnership is natural: there’s a Habitat affiliate and a Rotary Club in almost every town,” says Dr. Liz Henke, a member of East Chapel Hill Rotary (North Carolina, US), who played a crucial role in pilot-testing the idea.
“It’s huge for the family and huge for the environment,” she explains. “The typical Habitat family’s monthly electric bill in our part of the US is $100. Our first Habitat solar installation in 2020, a 5.1 kW array, is saving the family $62 a month. Here's a video with the family's testimonial! The more electric costs rise, the greater the savings will be. More recently our local Habitat affiliate has been installing 5.4 kW arrays each preventing over 300,000 lbs. of carbon emissions over 30 years, the equivalent of planting 3,800 trees or 350,000 miles not driven by a gas-powered car.”
“Habitat is a world leader in low and moderate income (LMI) housing development,” Liz Henke points out. “When Habitat shows that adding rooftop solar is feasible, we hope other LMI developers will follow its example.”
Photo courtesy Southern Energy Management: installing solar panels for Orange County Habitat in North Carolina.
Orange County Habitat, the affiliate serving Chapel Hill, already builds energy-efficient homes. Adding solar boosts these houses towards Net Zero Energy operation, as Joey O’Brien explains in his article in this issue.
Monthly energy bills can grab a huge proportion of low-income families’ monthly incomes. Utility shut-offs endanger their health and credit. Reducing monthly electric bills supports Habitat’s core mission: keeping housing affordable for low-income families. Having solar panels increases the house’s resale value and incentivizes the use of electric appliances. But the big up-front capital costs of solar – above $15,000 for a 5.4 kW array in the continental US – make adding solar a formidable challenge for Habitat. That’s where Rotarians’ ingenuity and advocacy come into play.
“Habitat monthly mortgage payments are capped at 30% of the family’s monthly income,” Liz Henke explains. With land and building material costs rising so steeply, everyone is hitting that 30%.” For that reason, increasing the mortgage to cover some of the solar capital costs usually isn’t an option. Most Habitat families don’t owe enough federal income tax to qualify for the current US solar tax credit that refunds 26% of the cost of adding solar.
Liz and fellow Rotarians including Aur Beck of ESRAG’s Renewable Energy Task Force have compiled practical advice in the Manual on a number of ways to finance solar Habitat projects. The East Chapel Hill Rotarians have written successful grant proposals – one county grant, written in conjunction with Habitat of Orange Co. provided $95,000 - and they encouraged Strata Clean Energy to donate panels. Other resources include Rotary District Grants, utility company rebates, selling solar tax credits, crowdsourcing, and power purchase agreements where investors pay for the solar project, take the tax credits, and sell the power to homeowners at lower rates than the local utility.
Another strategy Liz Henke suggests is asking companies who want to achieve net-zero to finance Habitat solar installations to help offset the companies’ carbon emissions. The Inflation Reduction Act passed by the US Congress in August includes $1 billion to make affordable housing more energy efficient, and ESRAG members will be eagerly researching how Habitat can access the new federal grants.
Rotarians and Rotaracters have already helped Habitat affiliates complete successful solar projects in a number of states including North Carolina, Virginia, and Illinois. The Habitat Solar partnership is catalyzing creative ways to promote resilience and energy independence – both increasingly needed as severe storms damage the grid and heat emergencies cause more and more rolling blackouts. The planned mixed-income Weavers Grove development in Chapel Hill is a great example. It will include 100 Habitat homes. Chapel Hill Rotary is working with Habitat to make this a solar community. This development will also have a community center with solar panels and batteries, so residents can have a safe air-conditioned space to go during power outages where they can keep their medication safe in refrigerators and plug in cell phones and laptops.
Photo below by Aur Beck: volunteers installing solar panels on a Habitat house in Illinois
Climate and energy justice projects captivate young leaders by demonstrating Rotary’s relevance. East Chapel Hill Rotary recruited a University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) student, Will Nichols, as an intern. He fell in love with the Habitat Solar idea and was instrumental in winning in-kind donations from Strata Clean Energy. He set up a new UNC-CH club to help Habitat embrace renewable energy. The new student club is planning to join the eRotaract Club for the Environment who are interested in adopting Habitat Solar as a project. Habitat builds and Rotary tree-planting events are excellent opportunities to engage student volunteers and show them Rotary practicality, fellowship, and fun in action.
Read the manual and dive into Solar Habitat, a marvelous way to increase energy justice and implement a powerful climate solution. Email Aur Beck, chair of ESRAG’s Renewable Energy Task Force, or Dr. Liz Henke of the Rotary Club of East Chapel Hill if you have questions. They will be glad to help.
Efficient Building Design for 2030Monday, August 8, 2022 By: Joey O'Brien
Buildings consume about 40% of total domestic energy and have a resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. To affect climate change we need a “whole of society” shift, and decreasing the energy footprint of buildings must be part of it. The IPCC identifies 1.5 C above pre-industrial norms as a tipping point in climate change acceleration. I regret to report that average temperature rise in the Northern Hemisphere is already 1.42 C above 1880 levels (see NASA data, later in the article). Therefore, action is needed now, not some distant time in the future. This article explains the benefits of energy-smart building, and ways Rotarians can promote it.
Building codes (which I call the MINIMUM standard one should consider building towards) are shifting throughout the developed world to near net-zero for 2030-ish. We call this Near Zero Energy (NZE) building. A NZE building is a building that can produce as much clean energy as it consumes.
A NZE ready (NZEr) building is one that is designed, modeled and constructed the same as one that is NZE, but does not yet have on- or off-site renewable energy components in place. A core aspect of net-zero energy “readiness” is the use of improved air sealing, increased insulation levels, and high-performance windows and doors, to reduce thermal demand and facilitate appropriately-sized space and water heating equipment.
The common retort to this is “the client can’t/won’t afford it.” In jurisdictions where the trades are familiar with the steps, the increases in costs are less than 5%. In areas where traditional platform construction is most common, the costs could be 15% more. Often the costs are offset with energy cost reductions in as little as two years. NZE buildings are expected to be 80% more energy efficient than a new building constructed to today’s building code minimum. They use on-site (or near-site) renewable energy systems to produce the remaining energy they need.
Some Canadian provinces are rewarding efforts to reach for these standards now. Natural Resources Canada (a federal government department) is encouraging action with a $5,000 grant and $40,000 interest-free loans for home energy efficiency. This is real leadership on this file.
In Canada, less than 1% of buildings can be considered NZE-r. We need to quickly scale up the number of NZEr buildings constructed each year through the adoption of ambitious NZEr building codes. Not only will this help reach our global climate commitments, it will have the benefit of generating investments in our buildings sector while offering good local jobs in the clean economy.
Canadian Rotarian Joey O'Brien is the founder and CEO of the sustainability consulting firm SustainDriven and a member of ESRAG's Board of Directors. The graphics in this article are adapted from Efficiency Vermont.
Here are the data on North America’s steep temperature rise: why we must act now.
In addition to using less energy and producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions, a NZE or NZEr building also provides the following benefits:
- Greater comfort: strategic placement of the building, windows and overhangs, and increasing the airtightness of the building, makes a NZE/NZEr building less drafty, quieter, and less prone to uncomfortable temperature swings.
- Healthier indoor air quality: Rather than relying on a leaky building envelope that allows contaminants, uncontrolled moisture, and unconditioned air into the living space, airtight NZE/NZEr buildings use Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) or Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV) to provide supply fresh air without wasting energy.
- Resilience: NZE/NZEr buildings are better able to withstand extreme weather disruptions, and provide a refuge during periods of shocks such as a prolonged power outage or other emergency. NZE/NZEr buildings can maintain a livable temperature longer, thereby keeping occupants safe in extreme weather. Balanced ventilation provides a degree of protection in the event of wildfires or other events that introduce outdoor contaminants.
- Energy savings: Smart design with energy as an early consideration means less energy is used to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. This often leads to lower energy bills that help offset any increased costs associated with additional energy efficiency measures.
- Higher resale and rental value: NZE/NZEr buildings command a market premium not only for their increased comfort or lower energy bills, but also because they are more durable.
- Smaller ecological footprint: Fewer greenhouse gas emissions and reduced energy use are a clear benefit. A more thoughtful design can also result in fewer resources used in the construction of your NZE/NZEr building.
- First, become aware. Real changes are charging towards us. Energy costs are extremely variable: in time they will become very expensive. Energy consumed equals GHG’s exhausted, so being energy-frugal means reducing your GHG footprint.
- Clubs and members can seek out experts and have them present to their club. Club newsletters can identify experts in the district for personal consulting (I find everyone wants to discuss solar with me) and ways to cut costs.
- Advocate with politicians and energy company leaders. I know many Rotarians bristle at this thought, as it looks to step into the world of politics, but requesting/ demanding change at a systemic level will create a better world for our grandchildren. You are not preferring one party over another, but demanding action against the greatest threat the world may face.
American Rotarians Aren't Giving Up!Tuesday, July 19, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
Two massive setbacks this summer have crippled the US Government’s ability to implement climate solutions. The first is the Supreme Court’s June 30, 2022 decision in West Virginia v. EPA, requiring the EPA to get explicit Congressional authority before adopting any regulations that speed up system-wide transition away from generating electricity via fossil fuels.
The second blow came in July, when it was finally clear after a year of agonizing negotiations that only 49 US Senators in the 100-member chamber were willing to support any of the climate provisions in President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation. Climate journalist Bill McKibben reported that this was the third failure by the US Congress to pass major climate legislation in the last 25 years, “all the more painful for having been so close to success,” he wrote in The New Yorker on July 16.
By killing this legislation- the most ambitious set of climate policies ever passed by the House of Representatives, and the Biden Administration's best hope for meeting its 2030 emissions targets - these 51 Senators blocked the only path the Supreme Court left open for the US Government to catalyze system-wide transition away from fossil fuels in the power sector. Other cases moving towards the Supreme Court could severely curtail federal regulation of emissions in transportation and other sectors.
American Rotarians Doug White, Co-Chair of ESRAG’s Climate Solutions Task Force, and John Mathers, Chair of Rotary’s Climate Action Team (RCAT) Network, point to actions we can and must take in this time of public sector failure. John Mathers sums it up: "commit to climate action, act through projects and our civic leaders, and share results with other clubs.
The graphic comes from the home page of the climate review platform We Don't Have Time, a tool Rotarians can use to inspire climate action by businesses and governments.
“Rotary is in the perfect position to bring community leaders together to address the crisis and push for change,” says John Mathers. “This is not politics, it is taking action on an existential threat. All our work in every corner of the world will be for nothing if we allow the environment to collapse.” He adds a quote from Pope Francis from November, 2021: “You have been entrusted with an exciting but also challenging task, to stand tall while everything around us appears to be collapsing.”
American Rotarians are catalyzing action in accountability to the Four Way Test. First test: truth. The United States is the largest historic emitter of carbon in the world, and second highest currently in generating emissions which are already driving huge suffering and losses. “Since the ESRAG Annual General Membership meeting, I have been reflecting on one slide in oceanographer Mark Eakins’ presentation that really grabbed me,” says Doug White. "Limiting warming of our planet to around 1.5°C (2.7°F) requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030. At the same time, methane would also need to be reduced by about a third. (IPCC Report) Yet the UN is forecasting global emissions to increase by 16% by 2030, and methane to not be reduced at all.”
Second test: fairness. Dartmouth University released a major research study July 12 quantifying the economic losses to other nations caused by major emitters, finding that emissions by the US and China caused global income losses of over $1.8 trillion each between 1990 and 2015. Here’s a summary.
The impacts include lost agricultural yields, lower labor productivity (imagine trying to work outside in one of this year’s record-breaking heat waves), and decreased industrial output. When researchers added the losses caused by Russia, India, and Brazil, the total damage over those 25 years was $6 trillion from the five nations: about 11% of the world's GDP. The study says that the top 10 global emitters have caused more than two thirds of losses worldwide. These findings can be used as the basis for climate liability claims against the US and other major emitters.
In her article in this issue about the European Community, ESRAG Europe member Ingrid Hesser recommends another powerful accountability tool which Rotarians can use: the website “We Don’t Have Time,” a review platform where you can post solutions or evaluate actions taken by government, business, and other sectors. “Write or agree to climate reviews to make businesses and world leaders act,” they invite. When an action or technology gets 100 “agrees,” We Don’t Have Time staff write the recipient of the review and ask for a response.
Third test: finding solutions that are beneficial to all concerned. Doug White encourages all Rotarians to learn and apply the strategies of Project Drawdown. See the article in this issue about new and updated Drawdown solutions. The framing is important: “Maybe instead of approaching climate change from an environmental point of view, we should begin to approach it from an economic point of view,” says Doug White. “After all, in the end it all comes down to a question of economics. Not changing our trajectory of increasing emissions is going to cost multi billions in economic losses!” Drawdown’s webinars on Climate and Poverty, cited in the article, talk about the powerful synergy between solutions to climate change and solutions to poverty.
“ESRAG and RI’s The Environment Area of Focus need to get FOCUSED on rapidly ramping up climate change projects, worldwide,"Doug White adds. "What are Rotarians good at doing? Raising money for projects! IMAGINE what a positive IMPACT Rotary could have on the climate crisis if just half of us, 700,000 Rotarians, focused on transitioning to a zero-emission, zero-waste lifestyle and created climate change reduction projects in our local communities and around the world."
Drawdown's New, Updated Solutions, and Climate-Poverty WebinarsMonday, July 18, 2022
Press Release by Project Drawdown
After two years of study, Project Drawdown just released an update of our 82 climate solutions, and added analyses of 11 additional technologies and practices with the proven ability to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
Five of the new solutions (Improved Aquaculture, Improved Fisheries, Macroalgae Protection and Restoration, Seafloor Protection, and Seaweed Farming) quantify ocean-related carbon sinks and ways of avoiding emissions. Three (Improved Cattle Feed, Improved Manure Management, and Methane Leak Management) highlight the potential to reduce methane emissions. And three (Recycled Metals, Recycled Plastics, and Reduced Plastics) explore ways to reduce industrial emissions.
The updated results confirm that existing practices and technologies, if implemented quickly and strategically, can avoid climate catastrophe. Not only that, they can more than pay for themselves in lifetime savings. And many have bonus benefits for reducing poverty, increasing equity, and protecting endangered animals and ecosystems. So solving the climate crisis is both a life-saving and money-saving move for future generations.
Climate–Poverty Connections webinar If you care about climate change and human well-being, watch the just-released recordings of Drawdown Lift’s recent Climate-Poverty Connections webinars. The two hour-long events featured ten experts from around the world discussing how funders, philanthropists, and others can dramatically multiply their impact by supporting activities that alleviate climate risk while also addressing poverty and other dimensions of human well-being. Read the top takeaway messages from the series and view the videos here.
Drawdown Stories finds climate heroes and produces multimedia stories illustrating how people are applying the science of Project Drawdown to climate solutions. Climate Solutions in Color highlights the work of people of color and Indigenous people working to overcome impacts which are particularly severe on their communities.
IMAGINE an ESRAG Climate Summit in Costa Rica!Sunday, July 17, 2022 By: Karen McDaniels
From June 2-4, 2023, ESRAG has the unique opportunity to partner with the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), in Turrialba, Costa Rica on a Climate Summit designed for ESRAG activists who desire to lead others to become solutionists to the world’s bigger environmental challenges.
Rooted in the mission of Inclusive Green Development, CATIE is recognized across Central and South America, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia for their cutting-edge technologies in climate analysis and monitoring of ecosystems facing the effects of climate change. With 75 years of contributions to sustainable development, researchers and thought leaders from CATIE’s global academic community will inspire and challenge participants and generously share and exchange their knowledge with us.
The Summit is designed around five of the ESRAG Themes, with the 6th theme, Circular Economy, woven through all activities and workshops at the Summit. Attendees will choose one of the themes as their Summit Focus. You will work in teams of ten directly with a global expert to take you through a deep dive on that theme. Hands-on workshops will give you the tools to replicate an appropriate technology.
Nestled within the rich tropical rain forest and surrounded by volcanoes, CATIE’s campus is the perfect location to experience and witness ESRAG’s mission of a world where people unite and protect the environment for a sustainable future.
Sign up here for more information and updates. Spaces are filling up now!
ESRAG Annual Meeting Unites and GalvanizesSunday, July 17, 2022 By: Laurie Zuckerman
On Thursday, 23 June, ESRAG’s Annual General Meeting had something for just about everyone.
Are you concerned about what you can do to slow the newest, alarming reports from the IPPC? Please listen to Dr. Mark Eakin, Satellite Oceanography & Climatology Division, Marine Ecosystems & Climate Branch, and Coordinator of NOAA Coral Reef Watch. Here’s a link to the 2022 ESRAG AGM Vimeo Recording and Dr. C. Mark Eakin's presentation on why climate action is crucial and what you can do with your lifestyle, your business, and as a citizen to catalyze solutions.
What does ESRAG mean to you? Read more to find out what 147 people from 32 nations responded to that question at the Annual General Membership meeting!
Photo: partying by avatar in ESRAG's EXPO after the AGM, plus the technical team (from left): webinar master Ridheesh MH, Zoom tech master Gokulashirshnan S. and translators Yashika Majthia (the lady on the right) and Robert Bull (in yellow jersey).
ESRAG members from Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Trinidad, Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, US Virgin Islands, and Zambia - weighed in on that question. Yes, ESRAG represents countries from A to Z. Here is the word cloud they generated.
Maybe you are currently a club, district, zone, or ESRAG leader. You’re interested in ESRAG’s overall health. At this meeting, ESRAG's 2021-22 Directors reported on:
- Highlights of the year and vision for the future
- Information Technology
- Communications, Marketing and Education
- Task Forces and Initiatives
Every good meeting needs to end with a party! Karin Tome, Tina Hall, Judith Freud, Chris Stein, Mark Hoppen, and Jeff Smith hosted guests from countries beginning with A, Australia, to Z, Zambia! Only fun and adventure at this party; it was cost-, carbon-, and Covid-free. Thank you to our AGM Webinar Master Ridheesh MH, our Zoom Tech whiz Gokulakrishnan S, and translators Yashika Majthia and Robert Bull.
Singapore Rotarians Eager to Be the SolutionSunday, July 17, 2022 By: Ambaree Majumder
Rotary’s June 18 Climate Change Conversations (RC3) conference in Singapore proved to be an exceptional event, with several unique aspects which I believe might not have happened before, especially in this part of the world. We organized this event with the purpose of creating a prototype for all Rotary events across the globe where the planet does not take a back seat, but remains the central priority, irrespective of the nature of the event. A plant-based menu, no plastic, eco-friendly giveaways and gifts, a venue with high standards of sustainability were key to this event, and we believe that these factors need to be the deciding factors for every Rotary event.
We recruited Rotary leaders from every level - from RI President Shekhar Mehta to Rotaractors - to affirm the crucial importance of environmental work, and brought in experts to inspire and equip participants by describing projects with high potential to prevent greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience in our region. For RC3’s first edition, the theme has been “Be the Solution” for our island nation of Singapore. Our goal is to build a community of environmentally conscious people here to discuss the undeniable magnitude of climate change and discover that solutions are just a few steps away from us. The event was attended by 116 guests. We had Rotary members from Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei in addition to representatives from the government sector like the NPARKS, private charitable organizations like Kampung Senang and Conscious Planet - Save Soil as well as many other individuals committed to the sustainability movement in Singapore.
The most obvious reason for every Rotary event to be planet-friendly is because of climate change. However, another crucial incentive for us to keep the well-being of the planet on top of every other convenience and custom is that every event can be an opportunity for us to build the image of Rotary as an organization that walks the walk through exemplary actions for the rest of the world. We do not only declare “Protecting the Environment” as a new area of focus, but act it out too. Thirdly, this can potentially have a positive ripple effect on attracting many youngsters to Rotary, who are, in general, very conscious about attaching themselves to climate friendly organizations.
Photo: PP Gladys Pang, DG Dolly Yeap, and Interact Teacher-in-Charge Gabriel Sim
RI President Shekhar Mehta made a virtual appearance at the event, LIVE from Chicago!! It was a moment of joy and pride for all of us because this was a surprise that we had kept under wraps for a very long time. His address about mangrove restoration added so much momentum to our event, especially the speech “Climate Solution Through Wetlands Approach by PDG Datuk Zanie, who challenged and inspired Singaporean participants to emulate work underway across Malaysia.
Photo: Sergeant-at-Arms PP Wai Mun escorts guest of honor PDG Datuk Zanie
PDG Datuk’s talk touched upon the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, and the Ramsar Convention. The Convention, signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, is the only global treaty that focuses specifically on wetlands. Today 170 nations are signatories to the Ramsar Convention. Datuk Zainie mentioned the Ramsar sites in Malaysia and the various objectives of the Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society, and revealed opportunities for clubs in Singapore to develop projects to restore and protect the mangrove stretches along our coastlines.
A Fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants, United Kingdom, PDG Datuk is a Malaysian of Sabah origin from the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu. Since retiring early from his distinguished career in both government and corporate positions to serve as District Governor in 2011-12, he has dedicated his time to voluntary initiatives within and beyond Rotary, especially environmental conservation. He has served for several years as President of the Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society, as a founding trustee of the Sabah Environmental Trust, and the chairman of the Malaysian BIMP-EAGA Business Council Environmental Cluster, a regional collaboration between Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Our keynote speaker, Ms. Radhika Bhargava, shared her scientific expertise to empower us further. She is a National Geographic Explorer and a final year PhD Candidate in Geography at the National University of Singapore, specializing in the management of large-scale coastal threats. For her master’s thesis, she worked in collaboration with NASA, USAID, and Google to develop a geospatial capacity-building platform to support forest conservation in the Mekong countries, for which she received an Academic Excellence and Research Award.
Photo: PDG Dolly Yeap with keynote speaker Rhakika Bhargava
Currently, she is working in collaboration with the National Geographic Society on understanding and modeling the process of erosion in several mangrove forests in the world. She explained that mangroves are a key resource in Singapore and in Sundarbans where almost 14 million people directly depend on them, and shared stories from her fieldwork to highlight how mangroves play a key role in the protection of low-lying islands like Singapore. Finally, she shared some ways in which we all can contribute to mangrove conservation and restoration in Singapore and globally.
Rtn Anil Changaroth, a member of Rotary Club of Pandan Valley, Singapore, then spoke on the deep connection between environmental sustainability and Rotary’s mission of peace-making. Rts Anil illuminated how in an unstable climate, attaining peace on any level is impossible.
The conference also showcased a number of ways Singapore Rotarians are walking the talk of environmental responsibility. We highlighted Club projects, including one by the Rotary Club of Kuching Central which won District 3310’s first prize for environmental protection for 2021-22. We also offered a planet-friendly menu option so participants could explore the idea of lessening their dependence on animal products in their diet. This has been hailed as the “most powerful climate solution” by numerous climate organizations around the world. 106 of the 116 registrants chose the plant-based meal. As Organizing Chairperson of the event as well as the Co-Chair of the Plant-Rich Diet Task force under ESRAG, I explained how those choosing the plant-rich option cut the carbon emissions of our meal by over 60% as compared to other menus.
We also presented a check of SDG 10,100 from conference registrations to the nonprofit Garden City Fund in support of the Singapore Government’s #OneMillionTrees campaign. The Fund’s Honorable Chairman Prof. Leo Tan gave a talk about Garden City Fund projects and how Rotary Clubs can get involved.
District 3310 Governor Dolly Yeap, gracing the event in person, spoke about her personal belief that “Protecting the Environment” should have become an area of focus for Rotary long before it happened in 2020. She also highlighted the different environment and sustainability webinars and activities that happened over the past few months in our district, including the environmental conference held two weeks prior in Kota Kinabalu Wetland RAMSAR site, jointly hosted by the Rotary clubs of Luyang and Kuching. She also thanked the speakers and congratulated the Rotary’s Climate Change Conversations planning committee – 21 Rotaraians and Rotaractors - for all the hard work done well.
Rtn Kelvin Ng and Rotaractor Kaylene Pillai took participants through a quiz on the Kahoot website. It was a fun and interactive session where everyone played but also had the opportunity to face a few harsh realities about climate change. Three winners were rewarded with environmentally sustainable gift items.
Rotaractors Kaylene Pillai and Diva Kalaivanan, two members of the conference planning committee
So we offer you a model: plan events which show how environmental sustainability is embraced by Rotary’s leadership at every level, from Rotary International to local Clubs. Bring in speakers versed in solutions that fit the challenges and opportunities of your region, and model how Rotarians like your audience are using their knowledge and networks to implement high-impact solutions. We think this is a great recipe to strengthen expertise, hope, and fellowship in the quest to meet humankind’s existential threat.
Climate Policy in Europe, and How You Can Weigh InSunday, July 17, 2022 By: Ingrid Hesser
The European Commission has labeled nuclear and natural gas as sustainable. Critics are calling the step "greenwashing" and say it could threaten the bloc's bid to become climate-neutral by 2050. The new rule adds natural gas and nuclear to its taxonomy of sustainable forms of electric generation when used as a transition to replace coal-fired plants. This taxonomy could be described as the EU's green investment rulebook, intended to serve the goal of allowing the continent to become climate neutral by 2050.
Critics say the objective of climate neutrality could be under threat, as the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, decided to give nuclear energy and and natural gas a green label under this taxonomy.The vote means that new gas plants will be able to tap into a fresh pool of money from environmental, social and governance investors, albeit for a limited time and only when those facilities are replacing coal-fired stations. It will also serve as a boost to Europe’s struggling nuclear sector, which countries like France have touted as a low-carbon energy source crucial for the replacement of Russian fossil fuels.
"European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, cannot repeat often enough how close stepping up climate action is to her heart," reports Deutsche Welle. "She described the European Green Deal as 'Europe's man on the moon moment.' She has called climate neutrality 'our European destiny.' And she solemnly proclaimed that no effort will be spared for Europe to become the world's first continent with net-zero emissions. But as often, the devil is in the detail. The big question is how exactly the European Union intends to achieve its goals."
Photo: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and French President Emmanuel Macron (use of this photo permitted by European Commission Audiovisual Division)
“Since the taxonomy eligibility of nuclear energy and natural gas is not only politically, but also scientifically contentious we would have preferred if the Parliament had decided against inclusion of these activities in the taxonomy,” said Thomas Richter, chief executive officer of the German Investment Funds Association.
On the other hand, quoting Frans Timmermans, the second most senior official in the EU, from an interview in The Guardian, "the threat of unrest this winter, a deliberate outcome of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, must take precedence over the climate crisis. If our society descends into very, very strong conflict and strife because there is no energy, we’re certainly not going to make our [climate] goals. We’re certainly not going to get where we need to get if the lack of energy leads to strong disruption in our societies, and we need to make sure people are not in the cold in the coming winter.
“We need to make sure we keep our industry, as much as possible, functioning because the one thing that could help Putin is divisions in our society. People suffering from the cold this winter because they cannot afford heating would also be disastrous for solving the climate crisis," Timmermans argued. “I’ve been in politics long enough, over 30 years, to understand that people worry most about the immediate crisis and not about the long-term crisis. And if we don’t address the immediate crisis, we will certainly be off-track with the long-term crisis.”
Still, Austria and Luxembourg have signaled that they plan to pursue a legal challenge to the inclusion of the two energy sources in the taxonomy, though it’s a process that could take years. “It’s completely clear that both nuclear energy and fossil gas have nothing to do with sustainability,” Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s energy minister, said. “We will naturally challenge. We have already made preparations and Luxembourg has announced it will join us."
If you want to support or oppose actions being taken by governments, organizations, institutions or companies, join the review platform "We Don’t Have Time” which is in partnership with UNDP, Exponential Roadmap and many more. Your review can change the world. When enough people agree with you, businesses, organizations and public figures will listen. When a climate review on We Don't Have Time reaches 100 agrees, the team will reach out to the recipient of the review and ask for a response. And many have responded! Read more on the website, and download the application to start your interaction with the influencers of the world.
EXPO enhances ESRAG's reachFriday, June 17, 2022 By: Laurie Zuckerman
The ESRAG EXPO Ambassadors who welcomed RICON visitors to our virtual exhibits during the Rotary Convention see it as a vital way to advance Rotarians’ environmental work with minimal carbon emissions. “I think virtual sites and meetings are the way to connect the world, says D7170 Environmental Chair and PDG Jeff Smith. “This is important for environmental sustainability where Rotary can serve to collect and disseminate best practices.”
“I LOVE Expo and the huge potential!” says Tina Hall, PDG of D 6220. “How can we get more use of this cool space? I would love to have a club that meets in the space OR have a club meeting where we give tours of the exhibits!"
Photo: Exhibits this year took a quantum leap in creativity. For example, Chris Stein of Operation Pollination transformed last year's conventional exhibit booth into a magical Serenity Garden for people to explore while learning how they can protect pollinators, who are crucial to our food supply.
ESRAG EXPO stage ready for events!
“Frame (EXPO) is a great space to meet fellow ESRAG members and guests to network, have fun (including building my own avatar) and learn,” says Caroline DeWitt, Past President of the Rotary Club of Ottawa. “It was very inspiring learning from visitors who shared information on their projects. I am hoping to leverage some of the experts' knowledge to help improve our projects in the greater Ottawa area. Who did I meet? Rotarians from Germany, Idaho, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.”
“I DID meet some Rotarians I hadn’t met before and we had excellent conversations, said Maryland Rotarian Karen Tome, a leader in ESRAG’s Projects Division. “I was able to better learn how to navigate the VR (virtual reality). It's a great way to meet with people at all times of day and from around the world.”
“I learned that a virtual room is a 100% adequate way to participate in the Rotary International Convention and other events,” says Malcolm Rooney, incoming Chair of ESRAG Regional Chapters. “I recommended EXPO to all our district members and to our environmental sustainability committee which includes non-Rotary organizations," adds Jeff Smith. "Over the next 6 months we will take EXPO to the district. Each week or two we can pick an exhibit from EXPO and post a summary of the information and some actions we can consider. My deepest discussions were with Chris Stein on pollinators. We have many action items from those discussions, so our first post to the District was on pollinators. EXPO can be a site for meetings and presentations. I will make more invitations and schedule meetings next year.”
This year I chose to be involved with RICON through EXPO. I was able to save $600 USD in airfare and invest that into promotional materials for our district conference’s earth stewardship activities. Related outcomes from that promotional work? Clubs and organizations around our district will pilot three to six Lunch out of Landfills programs next year which (1) increases Rotary and youth connections around our state; (2) helps get food to those in need; (3) lowers our carbon footprint.
Dancing in the Virtual VIP Room: ESRAG Europe's Klas Holmlund and Ludwig Kalthoff
Precision-placing trees to cool urban heat islandsFriday, June 17, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
Taking shelter in the House of Friendship from Houston’s staggering heat, Rotary Convention-goers discovered a solution perfectly matched to Rotary capabilities: a tree planting campaign focused on mapping facts, a cost-effective solution, and sharing the story to inspire and galvanize the wider community. The ingredients: science, volunteers, an irresistible 3-D model of the city, and partnerships.
Together with his Rotary Club, Houston Skyline, urban planner Ed Pettitt is working to overcome urban heat islands, an environmental injustice which plagues cities across the globe as buildings and pavement displace trees and fields and heat waves shatter records year after year. Climate Central has ranked Houston as the fourth worst heat island among American cities. Pettitt has developed an Urban Heat Island toolkit as part of his doctoral research in urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University.
“Heat is the top weather-related killer in the United States, according to the National Weather Service,” says Pettitt, whose urban heat island initiative was showcased as the Host Organization Committee’s environmental service project for this year’s Rotary Convention.
“We’ve already gone from a few days a year over 95 degrees F to a few weeks a year," he adds, "with a disproportionate impact on elderly and low-income residents,” those least able to afford to keep their homes cool. With only 18% of the city currently under tree cover, Houston as a whole is 13 degrees hotter than surrounding rural areas.
Through a recent grant from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Houston volunteers took thousands of measurements across the city, documenting differences as high as 17 degrees Fahrenheit among neighborhoods on the same day. In a pattern replicated across the U.S., Houston’s hottest blocks are also those with highest poverty rates.
Using funds donated by Convention registrants, Pettitt recruited Rotary volunteers to plant a grove of 18 trees along the hottest part of the Columbia Tap hike bike trail which goes through the city’s Third Ward, an historically under-invested African-American, low-inome neighborhood. They consulted arborists to choose Houston-hardy species for their pocket park, and will transform a vacant lot near that part of the trail into a native prairie and pollinator garden. The park is named Dakota’s Peace Grove in memory of the beloved young Rotary environmentalist Dakota Stormer, developer of the Footprint App, who died of cancer in September, 2021.
“I’m trying to get Rotarians to do data-driven projects,” says Pettitt. “We could have planted trees anywhere, but using this heat island map we planted them where they will have the most impact.” That impact includes educating and inspiring the wider community. Pettitt used funds contributed by the Host Organization Committee to create a large city model with the allure of a model train layout. He also has graphics illustrating the myriad benefits of trees, including sequestering carbon, reducing stormwater runoff, preventing erosion, improving physical and mental health, and raising property values.
The portable city model, produced at Houston’s nonprofit makerspace TR/RX Labs, is “the first of its kind to use 3D printing and heat map projection to educate the public about urban heat island effect and other environment/climate issues,” says Pettitt. It will be displayed at the City of Houston Green Building Council, where it will be used to educate visiting developers, residents, and schoolchildren, and will also travel to area schools, museums, and other sites in the community.
At the House of Friendship booth Pettitt also invited visitors to test-drive the Footprint app which Stormer spearheaded and described to the wider Rotary world as a panelist in ESRAG’s breakout session for the 2020 Virtual Rotary Convention.
Though the heat island effect is dire and the task of providing Houston with sufficient tree cover is huge, it was impossible to spend time in this exhibit without coming away infused with hope and zest. Part of that comes from Pettitt’s expertise, and part of it from his huge love for his community: how much more Rotary could one be? The Rotary Club of Houston Skyline, which he describes as “a drinking club with a service problem,” holds its meetings and socials at a trendy restaurant-bar with a rooftop helipad overlooking the city. Inspired by that panorama of the city they love, these young Rotary professionals are reminding us to seek out the big picture and aim for the bold solutions.
Showcasing Rotary Environmental Projects at Houston ConventionSunday, May 29, 2022
SPECIAL ISSUE: here's your preview of events, exhibits, and breakout sessions which will showcase Rotarians’ environmental projects throughout the Rotary International Convention June 2-8 in Houston. If you have Rotary colleagues who are going, share this newsletter with them.
For your graphic delight, we reveal the projects featured on each of ESRAG’s six theme banners in the House of Friendship. Thank you to everyone who shared your photos with us to inspire fellow Rotarians to protect our beautiful planet! Don’t forget to visit ESRAG’s EXPO virtual exhibits as well as our in-person House of Friendship booths 722 and 720.
Photo: the new urban apiary spearheaded by the Rotary Club di Benevento, Italy
Sign up for RAGTIME June 2Sunday, May 29, 2022
If you’re coming to Houston this week, start your Rotary adventure with RAGTIME, from 6-9 pm on Thursday night at the Houston Downtown Aquarium. All of Rotary’s Action Groups are participating, so this is a wonderful chance to find out about their projects and network about collaborating with ESRAG. Enjoy hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and music while you visit Houston’s aquarium. Guests are welcome. Book your $50 tickets here.
Photo: Justa Stove in Guatemala. ESRAG's Cleaner Cookstoves Task Force helps Rotarians choose stoves that fit the culture and economy of the community.
Vote by June 2 for ESRAG DirectorsSunday, May 29, 2022
Rotarians with an extraordinary array of environmental expertise and leadership experience are candidates for election to ESRAG’s board, with voting open through June 2. If you are an ESRAG member and haven’t voted yet, you can access your ballot in the May 18 email from Patricia Armstrong, Chair ESRAG Nominating Committee, with the subject line “Please vote now for Open ESRAG Board Positions.” The sending email address is mailservice@iMembersDB.com Pat’s email will link you to the candidates’ profiles. Click, read, and enjoy an inspiring glimpse of fellow members’ knowledge and dedication.
Photo: a Green Menstruation project in India and the Donations in Kind network in Australia are outstanding examples of how Rotarians are benefitting communities by promoting circular economy and reducing what goes into dumps, rivers, and landfills. Dr. Mina Venkataraman, wearing the hot pink jacket, is a current member of ESRAG's Board.
Four RI Convention Breakouts Feature Environmental ProjectsSunday, May 29, 2022 By: Patricia Armstrong
ESRAG members are presenting four breakout sessions at RICON 2022. If you're attending the Convention, consider signing up for these breakouts and recommending them to Rotary colleagues who are going to Houston.
Community Assessments for Environmental Grants, June 6, 1:30-2:30 pm: Dr. Christopher Puttock (USA) hosts a panel sharing their experience carrying out community needs assessments for watershed, pollinator, and habitat projects.
Nuestros Rios y el Ambiente/Our Rivers and the Environment, June 6, 4:00-5:00 pm: Salvador Rico (USA) will describe successful, replicable river projects and partnerships from several countries.
Rotaractors and Rotarians Together Make an Impact, June 7, 1-2 pm: Carlos Montoya (Mexico) brings you good news on how Rotarators and Rotarians are bridging the generational divide to develop impactful environmental projects.
Climate Change Adaptation for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), June 8, 9:30-10:30 am: Michael Terrelonge (Jamaica) and an expert panel will share information on the impacts, implications, and responses of SIDS, a group of 85 nations which are disproportionally vulnerable to climate change. The talk will outline actions to mitigate the impacts and build resilience.
Photo: spearheaded by Rotarian Nathan Thomas, DG 2022-23 for D7710, the U.S. nonprofit All We Are has provided solar electricity to over 100,000 people in Uganda and equipped local teams to maintain it.
Annual Meeting June 23, Vote by June 2 for ESRAG DirectorsThursday, May 19, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
Nine remarkable Rotarians have volunteered their expertise and passion for environmental solutions as candidates for ESRAG's board. You can read their profiles in the email sent this week by Dr. Pat Armstrong, ESRAG Chair-Elect. Look for a message from "Patricia Armstrong Chair ESRAG Nominating Committee" and this email address: mailservice@iMembersDB.com to read their profiles. Voting is now underway and will continue through to June 2. Pat also gave notice of the 2022 Annual General Membership Meeting, which will be held June 23 at noon UTC. Watch for her email providing the Zoom link closer to the date.
The candidates come from North America, Australia, Europe, and Africa and bring an incredible breadth of experience in business and non-profit management, Rotary leadership roles, and environmental solutions. They are committed to helping ESRAG reach its potential in engaging and equipping Rotarians to achieve maximum good in catalysing timely and effective action to mitigate climate change and other global crises such as plastic pollution. Please open your email, click on the link, read the profiles, rejoice at the experience and skills they offer, and vote for the seven you think are best qualified for ESRAG's leadership needs at this time.
Maryland students' huge win on food wasteThursday, May 19, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
If food waste were a country, it would be the third worst emitter of greenhouse gas emissions of all the nations in the world. That fact failed to intimidate a team of school children in the US state of Maryland, who’ve proven they can reduce food waste in their schools by 80% or more. Building on their success, they convinced their state government to pass a new law allocating $250,000 to expand Rotary’s Lunch out of Landfills program to schools across the state. Despite the country’s bitter partisan divisions, the students’ proposal passed unanimously in the Maryland State Senate, then by a vote of 127-4 in the House. The legislative support was so powerful that the Governor, Larry Hogan, scheduled a public event to sign it into law April 22, the day before Earth Day.
On left: Maryland Delegate Jared Solomon of Montgomery County talking with student advocates at the state capitol. Rotarian Joe Richardson is on the right, in ball cap. Photo by Erica Weiss.
To advocate for their proposal, students testified before Senate and House committees in late January, 2022 about their success with Lunch out of Landfills, which was spearheaded by Rotarian Joe Richardson. They then went home and got fellow students busy writing about it. Richardson rented a bus and took group of 27 students back to the state capitol to hand-deliver 6,000 post cards to legislators before the draft school composting bills came up for a vote. Shown here: some of the postcards with students' messages, and the front of one of the cards.
Here's how students are achieving such huge reductions in food waste. After eating at school, they sort food waste into liquid, compostable scraps, recyclables, and food that can be safely sent to local hunger programs. In this video, Joe and a team of elementary students show you how they do it. Start-up costs for the program in Maryland average $2,000 per school including equipment and training, but the program more than pays for itself in savings on waste disposal and trash bags.
Most importantly, students from elementary to high school have discovered their power to increase food security and implement climate solutions. “When food is thrown into landfills and incinerators, it creates methane and other greenhouse gasses,” explains Ethan Weiss from Bethesda High School near Washington, DC. “On the other hand, when food waste is composted, it turns into carbon-capturing and nutrient-rich soil that can be used to grow new foods. Unlike anything else, 100% of the foods we throw into trash can be recycled [composted] into soil.” “We see so much food being wasted and thrown away in school,” says Advika Agarwal, freshman from Richard Montgomery High School. “We know how many hungry families live here. Students want to do more to not only reduce greenhouse gasses with compost programs, but also to help feed the hungry in our community.” Two elementary schools in Frederick County sent over 7,600 pieces of fruit to pantries in three months.
The campaign for the school-based composting law exemplifies how Rotarians leverage more good by collaborating with other stakeholders. The students formed a “Coalition to Reimagine School Waste” with help from the nonprofit Youth Creating Change (YCC), which teaches young people to find practical solutions to problems they see in their communities. The student coalition partnered with Joe Richardson’s environmental education program, Mountainside Education and Enrichment, and the Maryland Public Health Association.
The students are continuing their leadership work with local policy makers. “Ethan Weiss and Interact members Advika Agarwal and Angelina Xu presented to the Montgomery County School Board in early April,” Joe Richardson reports. “Two weeks later, on April 13th, 5th grader Quinn Wagner and 10th grader Abby Lapadula, Interact member Paige Smith, and I presented before the Frederick County School Board requesting/demanding expansion of the program. As the programs move forward next year, local Rotary cCubs will be providing mini-refrigerators to schools for share tables and food recovery to local food banks. Students will also be adopting the NexTrex challenge which collects plastic film, plastic bags, sandwich bags, bubble wrap, and unrecyclable plastic packaging, which will reduce landfill-designated waste by over 90%.
Lunch out of Landfills requires diligent planning and diplomatic work to build an effective partnership of the local school district, individual schools (especially custodial staff), and solid waste authorities. The best solutions will vary, depending on local resources and logistics. Joe Richardson has developed a Lunch out of Landfills toolkit and a succinct step-by-step guide.
Rotarians Learning to Live Within Planetary MeansThursday, May 19, 2022This issue highlights how Rotarians are discovering and teaching their communities ways to live within the limits of our planetary means, with several stories fitting the ESRAG theme of Sustainable Living. As the projects described here - from Kenya, the US, and Oceania - show, smart solutions vary according to the local environment, culture, and patterns of consumption. You'll also discover opportunities to learn and network at the upcoming Rotary International Convention in Houston. Here are this month's articles:
- For Safe Water, Just Add Sunshine
- Maryland Students' Huge Win on Food Waste
- Calculate your Club's Carbon Footprint
- Lessons from the IPCC's Report on Climate Change Mitigation
- Four ESRAG Breakouts at the RI Convention!
- RAGTIME June 2
- Annual Meeting June 23; Vote for ESRAG Directors by June 2
Photo from Lunch out of Landfills: Maryland students heading to their state capitol to advocate for a bill funding school-based composting
For Sustainable Safe Water: Just Add SunshineMonday, May 16, 2022 By: Gunilla Ostberg
Everything starts with safe water. Rotary Clubs are using an innovative solar-powered water treatment kit to save lives and improve living conditions for families who desperately need access to safe water in Kenya. The ESRAG Europe initiative "Solar Safe Water" not only provides them with clean water, it also supports all seven of Rotary’s Areas of Focus in one single action. For a donation of $145, you can provide a Kenyan family a Solvatten solar water heater that will provide a family safe water for seven years. “Solvatten is one of the brightest examples of climate solutions that are making a real difference,” said Christiana Figueres, who served as Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC from 2010-16. Using a Solvatten heater to disinfect water promotes sustainable living by reducing families’ dependence on firewood and charcoal they previously needed to boil water. Not only does this technology reduce carbon emissions and disease-causing smoke exposure, it saves families money on fuel.
The Solar Safe Water technology purifies water by using solar energy and a Solvatten heater, a Swedish innovation which has won many awards including the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change Lighthouse Prize in 2015. After a few hours in the sun the water is free from waterborne bacteria that would otherwise cause stomach diseases such as dysentery and cholera. The water purification meets the World Health Organization’s highest-quality specifications for drinking water, and is more efficient than other purification methods, such as chlorine, in eliminating highly-resistant bacteria, viruses and parasites. The secret is the combination of UV (UVA and UVB) radiation and heating - up to 75°C or 167°F - which ensures the high level of disinfection. This makes the water perfect for drinking, cooking and hygiene purposes. It can be used up to four times a day.
How the Solvatten heater supports all of Rotary’s humanitarian goals: With just 2-6 hours in the sun, the heater provides a family with 10 liters of safe and hot water for cooking, washing and drinking. By reducing families’ need for wood or charcoal for fuel, it saves trees and habitats, and reduces CO2 emissions. By preventing waterborne disease, the family saves money on medical care. For mothers with newborns, this can be crucial to survival. In off-grid areas, girls and women don’t have to collect fuel for cooking; instead they can spend more time in school or at paid work. Fewer sick days from waterborne disease also means fewer missed days at school or work. In all these ways the Solvatten strengthens the family’s health, wealth, equity, and local environmental conditions. Access to safe water prevents conflicts over scarce resources and promotes peace. Thus, this device advances all of Rotary’s Areas of Focus.
Solar Safe Water heaters have already benefited more than 450,000 people in 40 countries. Since 2017, Solvatten has been working with International Aid Services in the province of Tharaka-Nithi County. Here, the effects of climate change are already evident, with changing, irregular rain seasons and droughts affecting families' small-scale farming and ability to provide for themselves. Lack of access to safe water and sustainable energy sources results in high cases of water and hygiene-related diseases in the area, especially among children, who are the most vulnerable.
With the Solar Safe Water initiative Rotary clubs and Rotarians can really make a difference. From August, 2021 until March, 2022, Rotary Clubs donated 153 Solvatten heaters to the project in Tharaka, enabling 840 people in need to get access to safe water. The Rotary partnership has already saved 7,630 trees and prevented 1,068 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Help us serve more people!
Your Rotary club can easily support families in the ongoing project in the Tharaka-Nithi area in Kenya. Each water heater provides safe water to a family for seven years. A donation of $145 per heater includes everything; heater, transportation, education, administration, and on-site help in an off-grid area in Africa. ESRAG’s Europe Chapter has set the goal for Rotary clubs and districts to donate 1,000 solar heaters by August of 2022. Almost 200 have recently been donated!
ESRAG collaborates with the Solar Safe Foundation, a non-profit organization under the supervision of the Stockholm County Administrative Board. Solvatten, the company which produces the Solar Safe Water heaters, donates its surplus revenue over production costs to the Solar Safe Foundation. The implementing partner, International Aid Service, is a local non-profit organization working to support human rights.
Visit the homepage for Solar Safe Water and you will find all the information you need.
You can also share three short videos with your club. The first describes the experience of a Kenyan mother, Josephine, before and after she got a Solvatten solar heater. This video shows how the Kenya project prevents deforestation and benefits the climate. And here’s a one-minute video posted by the UN about the project in Kenya.
Calculate your Club's Carbon FootprintSunday, May 15, 2022 By: Garry Fowler
ESRAG Oceania has launched a carbon calculator for Clubs in Australia and New Zealand to use to calculate their carbon emissions from meetings, events and projects. Developed by an ESRAG international team from New Zealand, UK, US, and Australia with an international environmental consultancy, the calculator provides certifiable emission factors which are applied against the actual data submitted by the Club. The online tool includes an input form for Clubs to submit estimated data, typically for a year, on emissions sources including meals, electricity at the venue, waste, local travel to meetings, events, and projects, overnight accommodation, and air travel. The input form includes detailed instructions on how to quantify the data required.
Once the Club’s data are submitted, ESRAG Oceania uses the calculator to apply the appropriate factors for the region. The Club then receives a detailed report which shows the emissions annually and by event, summarised into the various categories. Clubs are then encouraged to develop an emissions reduction plan, and to offset remaining emissions by investing in carbon credits generated by social enterprises that support the environment - typically tree planting or forest regeneration. The carbon calculator toolkit, including an overview, the input documents, and an example which can be downloaded, is on the ESRAG Oceania website.
The Rotary Clubs of Wellington, Melbourne and Doncaster have all completed the process of analysing their emissions for at least one year. Wellington and Melbourne have offset their emissions, and are able to claim carbon neutrality. The Calculator can be modified for use by Clubs in other nations by applying factors applicable to that region. Crucial factors such as diet and mode of transportation vary considerably in different parts of the world.
Garry Fowler is Environment and Sustainability Chair of the Rotary Club of Melbourne, and was part of a panel for the 18 May ESRAG Oceania Chapter launch of the calculator with Dr. Roger Blakeley of the Rotary Club of Wellington, NZ, who helped that club become certified as carbon-neutral. The panel also included Dr. Jessie Harman, Rotary International Director 2021- 2023, and Ted Waghorne, ESRAG Oceania Chair and a member of the Rotary Club of Canterbury, Australia.
Turkish Rotarians Catalyze Circular DesignMonday, April 18, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
Rotarians and Rotaractors in Turkey are sponsoring a series of four annual Circular Economy design competitions in partnership with universities, nonprofits, and corporations. The competition emphasizes interdisciplinary work and raising awareness of the importance of transitioning from a linear to circular economy. This contest offers design teams the opportunity to win a significant cash award and recognition. 2022’s theme is “Design for Reuse,” with awards scheduled to be announced in May.
Contest sponsors see innovative design as essential to overcoming “planned obsolescence, black box designs, [and] disposable products… leading to problems such as climate change, environmental pollution, and inequality of opportunity worldwide…. At this point, the importance of alternative design approaches and solutions that help bring products back to the economy has been understood again.”
This year’s contestants must submit designs including at least two of these strategies: reuse for different purposes, second-hand shopping, shared economy or services, shared products and communities, renewal for reuse, and extending product life with community-based maintenance and repair. This strategy of reuse “ensures that the project life is not linear, but in a series of cycles with the participation of different users,” contributing to “maximum value recovery. This requires us to question our sense of ownership, the function of products, our prejudices about ‘old’ and used products.”
Design the Loop is organized by the Rotary District 2420, the Rotary Clubs of Yeniköy and Koç University. Supporters include the Rotaract Clubs of Yeniköy and Istanbul, the Rotary Club of Beyoglu, Middle East Technical University’s Department of Industrial Design, the World Wildlife Fund, the Industrial Designers Society of Turkey, and agricultural and product design firms. You can find out more by visiting the website, or sending an email to the organizers. Design the Circular also offers workshops, which are publicized on Instagram. Circular Economy graphic comes from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
This Earth Day: How Rotarians Embrace Circular EconomyMonday, April 18, 2022
The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on Climate Change Mitigation, released by the UN on April 4, combines hope and urgency. “The decisions we make now can secure a livable future,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming.” “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 C,” added IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea.
Circular economy -- “using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products and minimizing waste” -- is one of the solutions highlighted in the IPCC’s April 4 press release. Rotarians have huge potential to catalyze circular economy by teaching our networks how its strategies save money and reduce emissions. This issue highlights some of the many ways Rotarians are implementing circular economy in Turkey, Australia, the United States, and Canada.
Also in this issue: exciting events at the upcoming Rotary International Convention, the huge success of ESRAG's April World Environment conference organized by the ESRAG chapters for Eastern Europe, Middle East, and South Asia, and other events. May this Earth Day be the start of breakthroughs!
Principles and Promise of Circular EconomyMonday, April 18, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
Watch Dr. Yasar Atacik's March 30th presentation to ESRAG’s Projects Webinar for an empowering introduction to the principles of circular economy. He shares research, solutions, and encouraging news on public policy and industrial trends. He also describes a number of projects Rotary clubs can implement to foster circularity.
Circularity goes far beyond diverting waste: it starts with designing products that are durable, easy to maintain and repair, and produced sustainably. Public policy can do a lot to catalyze changes that will make a major contribution in reducing carbon emissions and other pollution. The European Union’s Circular Economy Action Plan will accelerate the transition to sustainable products and construction in Europe. Another breakthrough is the 2021 launch of the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resources Efficiency (GACERE) by the EU and 15 other countries. In March, 2022, 175 nations at the UN Environment Assembly passed a resolution in to negotiate a legally-binding Global Plastic Treaty to end plastic pollution by the end of 2024. Analogous to the Paris Climate Accord, this agreement is the fruit of years of negotiations by governments, international organizations, and the private sector to address the full lifecycle of plastic.
Rotarians in business can help move products away from single-use and built-in obsolescence. We should foster business models that support the sharing and reuse of products to maximize the useful life of goods and their component materials. Yasar recommended the research of Circularity Gap, a solutions-based initiative like Project Drawdown. Its annual study documents materials waste and greenhouse gas emissions from extraction to end-of-use. The “Circularity Gap” is analogous to Global Overshoot Day, and shows that humans currently waste over 90% of the materials we extract. The report presents 21 solutions and shows relevant ways to use them in three different categories of national economies: “Build” (such as Malawi), “Grow” (such as China or India) and "Shift"(such as Europe or the US).
Yasar cited several promising business trends, including the worldwide growth of materials matchmaking companies; Loop Industries, which makes PET plastic from 100% recycled feedstock; shared services like Uber and laundromats; and unpackaged retail. Another innovation is companies’ owning products and repairing them throughout their lifetime. Projects that Rotary Clubs can easily sponsor include Repair Cafés and organizing a Library of Things.
Yasar Atacik is an ESRAG Director with a PhD in operations research, and years of executive management and board experience. He became passionate about sustainability during his career in industry, and joined Rotary to bring sustainability to the attention of this civic group, which he saw as influential in society. Once in Rotary, Ya?ar founded District 2420’s Environmental Sustainability Committee and the Istanbul Ecology Rotary Club. He is the founder and executive director of the Turkish Carbon Footprint and Sustainability Association, which promotes energy efficiency projects for schools.
As consumers, he urges, we should “buy the sturdiest, most energy-efficient product with the longest warranty. Try not to throw out anything. Minimize single-use products.”
Join PRIP Ian Risley at ESRAG's June 3 Conference!Thursday, April 14, 2022
Invite everyone you know who’s going to Houston to sign up for ESRAG’s “Green Road to RICON” conference. Headlined by Past Rotary President Ian Riseley, this June 3 conference offers an array of inspiring speakers illustrating the many ways Rotarians are working to protect the conditions essential to life on our planet. It’s a perfect introduction to Rotary’s newest Area of Focus, the Environment. Show your friends this delightful video invitation in English or Spanish, by ESRAG’s Communications Chair-Elect Laurie Zuckerman.This June 3 ESRAG conference will be especially valuable for District Governors Elect, District and Club Foundation Chairs, and Rotarians working on international and local environmental projects.
Speakers will showcase projects including ecological restoration, plastic recycling, and affordable solar energy. Keith Madden, the Rotary Foundation’s Environment Area of Focus Manager, will explain how to develop high-impact, sustainable global grant projects. We’ll also introduce the iRo Tree app for project impact reporting.
Many of ESRAG’s task force and team leaders will be on hand to network with participants over breakfast and lunch. The Green Road to RICON will be a hybrid event from 8.45 am to 4 pm US Central Time (UTC – 6), so online participants are welcome and will be able to present questions to the speakers. Simultaneous translation will be offered in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and online attendees will be able to join breakout rooms in any of these languages. Register here.
Photo credit: District 7910, Ian Riseley, Rotary International President 2017-18.
Repair CaféWednesday, April 13, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
How do you keep clothes, coffee makers, and damaged furniture out of landfills? Recruit a few handy friends, and start a local Repair Café! Started in Holland by Martine Postma in 2007, Repair Cafés are now popping up worldwide, with over 2,200 in operation. The website, readable in Dutch, English, French, German, and Spanish, is packed with practical advice and creative solutions. By empowering their communities to fix stuff instead of throwing it away, Rotarians will reduce emissions from mining, manufacturing, and transportation.
“It’s a lot of fun to get together on a Saturday morning,” says John Adams, the environmental chair of the Rotary Club of Wellesley, Massachusetts, which holds Repair Cafés quarterly “Basically you call your friends who know how to fix stuff.” Next: invite the public, borrow a community space, and get ready to tackle anything from gluing the ear back on a beloved toy rabbit to actually fixing a toaster.
“People will bring their kids along, and the thing they want to fix. First we have them Google the problem, then we coach them,” Adams explains. “We help people figure out what is broken, find the part number, and then order the new one. We see more and more people trying to fix stuff.”
Most residents of Wellesley, a wealthy suburb of Boston, can afford to discard used things and buy new, but environmental stewardship is catching on in town. Partnering with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the town’s Sustainable Energy Committee launched WasteWise Wellesley in 2016 to foster sustainable materials management throughout the community. They expanded the range of materials that can be recycled, set up a “give and take” area at the Recycle and Disposal facility, and started a Library of Things where people can borrow anything from a fancy cake pan to an adapter. Ellen Corpi, a civic leader, found out about Repair Cafés and contacted John Adams, suggesting it would be a great project for a Rotary Club.
Adams had started a handyman business after retiring from his career as a software engineer. “It was not as much fun as I thought it would be running it as a business, but it allowed me to buy a whole lot of fun tools,” he confesses. Intrigued by Corpi’s idea, he recruited a team. “I know who’s good at what. I ask, and that hooks them. Once you fix everything in your house, you want to go find more stuff to fix. A guy from Dover is my hero: he knows all about electronics. I get total tool envy watching him bring his stuff in.”
The Repair Café is “cheap to run,” Adams says. “Wellesley’s Recreation Center club lets the Club use a room for free.” 6-7 people with different tools and expertise set up shop at tables around the room: a sewing machine, a furniture repair booth, knife sharpening.
The team promotes the event through Facebook with delightful action shots (including those here). It draws people of every age. “The Club has a mailing list of up to 800 people from previous events,” Adams says. “The last two Repair Cafes, some engineering types in their twenties came in. Our coaches have children and grandchildren and are glad to teach children. We’ve fixed a baby doll bed and a powered skateboard."
As a totally inclusive, hands-on experience of Service Above Self, the Repair Cafe is fabulous publicity for this Rotary Club - “good, wonderful, or excellent ratings,” Adams says – as Wellesley Rotarians teach smart solutions to an environmental crisis more and more people are taking seriously. Photo by John Adams: Charlie Tyler and Jim McLaren doing surgery on a dimmer switch.
Banff Marathon World-Class in SustainabilityWednesday, April 13, 2022
Imagine a giant sports event drawing 10,000 people over three days – and not one piece of trash going into the landfill in its wake. That’s just one of the sustainability achievements of the Banff Marathon, now known as the “World’s Greenest Marathon,” with the honor of becoming Canada’s first member of the UN Sports for Climate Change initiative in 2019. This is thanks to Canadian environmental consulting firm SustainDriven, led by ESRAG Director Joey O’Brien.
As sustainability director for the Marathon, O’Brien applies ten strategies to protect Banff National Park and to prevent global warming. These include carbon offsets to make the event carbon neutral, using certified green energy from renewable sources, and following a sustainability-based purchasing and procurement guide. The event deploys every possible communication mode to inspire participants to value the biodiversity of the park and to make sustainable choices, like hopping on Banff’s electric buses instead of driving their own cars. Participants receive an electronic “virtual” event bag rather than the usual sack filled with paper and stuff in plastic wrappers. The race’s bio-digestible cups are made of corn and compost in a matter of days.
O’Brien, a member of the Rotary Club of Canmore in Alberta, ran alpine resorts for forty years before making climate action his top priority. SustainDriven advises businesses and events on sustainable and cost-effective water, waste, and energy solutions to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. “My company’s vision statement is that we wish to be able to explain to our grandchildren in 20 years how we had a material influence on the climate crisis,” he says.
Filling Wish Lists, Not Landfills: Smart Logistics Leverage Successful Foreign AidWednesday, April 13, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
Too often, quality goods from hospital beds to school desks end up in landfills across Australia when institutions buy new equipment or businesses discard unsold inventory. Rotarians have developed smart logistics to match these goods to the wish-lists from developing countries. Now they’re asking for modest contributions from Clubs to overcome a major barrier: sharply-rising shipping costs. District 9800’s new Multi-Club Container Project offers Clubs an affordable way to share in overseas success and rebuild enthusiasm battered by the pandemic. Even better: by joining forces Rotarians can achieve a bigger and more durable humanitarian impact than Clubs can working alone.
Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) sponsors a nationwide Donations-in-Kind (DIK) Network of recycling/shipping warehouses whose registered charity status provides Australian donors a tax deduction. The DIK network has developed the expertise to ensure overseas shipments comply with the import requirements of recipient countries, and to verify that the donations are not being resold. In addition, they have built the relationships needed to ensure that the technology fits the recipient community, and to work out the logistics to ensure the donation arrives at the intended destination.
“I suspect that Donations in Kind in Australia and New Zealand is Rotary’s largest circular economy, recycle and repurposing project,” says David Dippie, a member of Keilor East Rotary Club, who assists by using his project management expertise at the DIK warehouse in West Footscray (in Victoria, Australia).
“Australia produces vast amounts of surplus reusable goods that are needed in developing countries,” Dippie explains. “Long-term, we want the government to help fund the recycling and shipping costs, giving them a recycling project they could be proud of and a very cost-effective form of overseas aid.”
Launched by a single Rotary club a few years ago in a garage, DIK West Footscray now works with four of five Rotary Districts in Victoria. Since 2000, this DIK store has delivered over AUD $78.3 million in donated goods to 33 other countries. On average, each donated dollar delivers $15 worth of equipment.
The West Footscray DIK operates out of a warehouse near the Port of Melbourne, at an annual operating cost of $160,000, mostly for rent. It is fully funded by Rotary clubs and staffed 100% by volunteers, half of them non-Rotarians. Volunteers can spend a rewarding day sorting and packing donations. “The DIK store is the greatest membership incentive we have,” says Dippie. “Taking a prospect out to dinner may not be that exciting, however visiting or volunteering at DIK shows them what Rotarians can do collectively.” Just one example: a group of people who toured the DIK warehouse in West Footscray were inspired to start a Passport Club with members from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Australia, “people involved on both ends of a project. It’s a great way for Rotary to meet.”
This video tells the inspiring story of how DIK provided $150,000 of medical equipment requested by Moyo Hospital in Uganda, at a shipping cost of $15,000.
The process starts with a wish-list, for example from a rural hospital in Timor Leste, an island nation north of Australia. Then DIK planners get to work on the reality checks, essential in deciding what equipment to send: “Is someone available to run it? To maintain it? Are the consumables available?” Dippie explains. In scheduling shipments, DIK teams also factor in other dynamics like monsoons and national holidays. For example, “Will the roads be passable? If you can’t deliver the container to the destination, you might have to get a team of people to carry the goods up a hill.”
“Experience prevents a lot of heartbreak and frustration,” Dippie adds. “A whole container can get confiscated because of errors in documentation.” Other obstacles include complying with country-specific import regulations, and the planning needed to prevent delays and demurrage charges at the port.
Rotarians are leveraging DIK’s expertise and economies of scale to change the business model of schools, health care providers, and businesses in Australia. “I’m cheeky enough that I talk to an Australian education department: What do you do with your waste? Would you rather pay for landfill, or help fund us? “DIK offers a better alternative to landfill.” DIK also opens minds and hearts in the community: “Kids from donor schools have written messages to recipient kids on the donated desks, and parents have come down to help us pack.”
Dippie also sees DIK as a force multiplier for Rotary. In a strategy being piloted this year by District 9800, Clubs can become Project Partners by a donation of as little as $500 to the RAWCS shipping account. Due to the huge inflation in shipping costs, DIK has had to turn down donations of goods for lack of funds to ship them. The D 9800 pilot gives Rotary Clubs a way to pool small sums to close the gap. If your club would like to be a partner in a great project, donate here.
As an incentive, DIK allows donor Clubs to nominate and vote for recipient projects which become eligible for District and other grants. Even more valuable is DIK’s ability to bring Clubs in one country together to work strategically with another nation on big goals. “We know what they want in Timor Leste, such as 50,000 desks and chairs for schools,” says Dippie. “We can get 500 desks in a container.” In Australia, DIK relationships yield huge donations of goods. “We get donations of 1,000 hospital beds. We can ship 60 repurposed hospital beds for what it would cost to buy one new.”
“We’re developing communication hubs so people who care about a country can talk together,” Dippie explains. Organized in individual clubs and districts, Rotary often lacks the structure to pursue a national strategy, he points out. “We need to develop a national spotlight rather than 1,000 individual candles. Let’s work together on this, as we’re doing with polio.” Citing one project in Timor Leste that involved Clubs from several Districts, he noted this makes international projects something local Clubs can afford and “own,” with a good outcome they can talk about and take pride in.”
DIK’s model is tested and scalable. The team is hoping to host a field trip during the 2023 Rotary International Convention in Melbourne. To find out more about DIK, note your interest in visiting then, or to enroll your Club as a Project Partner, email David Dippie in Melbourne. Photo credits: DIK West Footscray. Packing containers with school furniture and hospital beds for Timor Leste.
Indian Club Launches Rotary E-Rickshaw ProjectThursday, February 10, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
On Jan. 19, Rotarians in Ulwe Node in India’s Maharashtra State handed over the keys of a three-passenger electric rickshaw to a delighted youth, uneducated and previously unemployed. Their donation of this vehicle will be his path out of poverty. The fact that it is electric will slash his operating costs by 60%, compared to a diesel-powered auto-rickshaw. The students he ferries to and from school will pay significantly lower monthly fares. This is the first electric passenger auto-rickshaw to be promoted by any Rotary Club in South Asia.
His rickshaw won’t emit diesel exhaust, a factor in India’s terrible burden of lung and cardiovascular disease. Even if he recharges with coal-generated electricity, the E-auto rickshaw will be responsible for 25 fewer tons of CO2 emissions over its 10-year useful life than a diesel model. As solar-powered electric charging stations come online in India, these electric rickshaws will be even greener.
The potential impact of adopting this innovation is huge. “India has close to 2 million 3-wheeler passenger auto-rickshaws that are approved by Regional Transport Offices (RTOs),” explains solar engineer Jaideep Malaviya, Chairperson in Renewable Energy and Climate Change for D 3131. “It is a common form of urban transport as a vehicle for hire and private transport in many countries around the world. Rotary's 7th Area of Focus 'Protecting the Environment' fascinated the Rotary Club of Ulwe Node and members decided to pool funds to undertake this unique project on a pilot basis with the aim of generating mass awareness amongst auto-rickshaw drivers and also addressing climate change.”
Photo: Beneficiary receiving the keys from D3131 District Governor Pankaj Shah.
The lithium-ion battery can power the rickshaw for up to 100 km per charge at speeds up to 50 km/hour, a significant improvement in range and speed over earlier models. It can be recharged in 4-6 hours. The electric rickshaws cost about the same as diesel-powered – an average of INR 300,000 (approximately USD $4,000). Most drivers take out five-year bank loans to buy one. Obviously, a vehicle with dramatically lower operating costs will make a huge difference in the owner’s net income.
RC Ulwe Node chose this project from a list of several options developed for district Clubs by Rtn. Jaideep, a member of ESRAG’s Renewable Energy Task Force who was recently elected to the Board of the International Solar Energy Society.
“This project will inspire Rotary Clubs in South Asia region to consider activities to address the environment,” he says. The Indian government “has an ambitious target of substituting fuel-based passenger auto-rickshaws with electric auto-rickshaws in order to address climate change and reduce pollution. District 3131 plans to multiply this by involving all the Clubs under it, providing employment opportunities. Plans are afoot to set up solar charging stations by involving commercial entities. Clubs also plan to train women drivers who can provide an additional income source in the family besides the husband.”
To learn more about the specifications of these new e-taxis and how the project was implemented, email Rtn. Jaideep. Photo: Jaideep Malaviya at the RC Ulwe Node celebration of the first Rotary auto-rickshaw project for South Asia. Photo provided by the Club.
Ready to Relish RICON? Represent ESRAG!Wednesday, February 9, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
If you’re eager to connect with worldwide Rotarians – either in-person or virtually – sign up to tell them about ESRAG June 4-8. We’re now recruiting ESRAG volunteer hosts, both for our in-person exhibit at the Rotary International Convention (RICON) in Houston and for our online 3D meeting and resource center. If you’re a topic expert, working on environmental projects with your Club, developing a District Environmental Committee, or fostering an ESRAG Regional Chapter, RICON is a perfect opportunity to share your enthusiasm and expertise. You can inspire other Rotarians by showing them they have the power to help preserve the planetary conditions essential to human life and livelihood.
If you’re going to Houston, let Karen McDaniels know if you can volunteer for a shift in our House of Friendship exhibit: to explain how ESRAG equips Rotarians, and to recruit members. She also needs volunteers to bring their tablets to other places where Rotarians congregate between meetings and show them how to enter and explore our 3D virtual exhibits, which illustrate the fantastic array of knowledge and technical assistance ESRAG’s members, Task Forces, and Regional Chapters provide to Rotarians around the world.
If you are ready to dive into RICON without generating the carbon emissions associated with going to a big convention, join the ESRAG team volunteering in ESRAG’s 3D online meeting and resource center. What we create together will be available to everyone on every continent, free, for 2022 and beyond. Contact Laurie Zuckerman to explore how you can help. The picture above gives you a tantalizing glimpse of ESRAG’s 3D House of Friendship, created last year and now being updated and expanded for the Houston Convention. Klas Holmlund of ESRAG Europe is preparing a witty training video on how to navigate in this 3D world, so you’ll be right at home meeting others there and sharing ideas. Looking forward to seeing you – face-to-face or by avatar – in June!
Roadmap for Launching an Eco ClubWednesday, February 9, 2022
By Joe Hentges, Assistant Rotary Coordinator, Zone 26
Cause-based Rotary Clubs are relatively new. PDG Michael Drake, a longtime Rotarian in Tucson, AZ (D5500), was interested in starting a club focused on environmental service and solutions. The challenge was to bring together interested and committed people to meet the needs of the community in an effective and sustainable way. Wanting to also introduce new members to Rotary, he noted, “People may not know anything about Rotary, but they do know about environmental issues.” The new club - named "Tucson Verde" or "Green Tucson" - would dovetail nicely with Rotary’s growing focus on environmental issues.
Emphasizing fellowship and the sense of belonging, the strategy they used was a huge success. 87% of the charter members were new to Rotary. Almost half attended District Conference just two months later.
Joining Michael as new club champions were PDGs Ellie Patterson and Kirk Reed. Together they planned a recruitment process to assure success and, “share the enjoyment of Rotary with others.” Their process can be a useful guide for those interested in starting a new club.
First, they researched environment-focused organizations, businesses, non-profits, and leaders in the greater Tucson area and developed a database of potential members. They contacted each person personally, explaining the concept of the environmentally-purposed club and what Rotary could offer. The team was amazed with the enthusiasm expressed by their contacts.
To maintain and grow interest in the idea, the provisional Rotary Club of Tucson Verde began meeting periodically at eco-centered locations in Tucson to view environmental solutions and opportunities. Pictured: Joel Johnson, Conservation Gardener at Native Seeds, talking to RC Tucson Verde members before they start working on an on-site service project.
Michael, Ellie and Kirk continued to meet with potential members individually and via Zoom. Michael emphasized the importance of “buttonholing people and using person-to-person contact.” This involved an abundance of time and effort, but the results were fruitful.
Following three exploratory meetings and dozens of personal contacts, the Rotary Club of Tucson Verde chartered in August 2021. Charter membership consisted of 31 members: 27 were new to Rotary, 17 were women, and the ages of members ranged from 26 to 92. Since chartering, seven more members have joined the club, five in response to a news story on Tucson.com.
The best recruitment idea, according to Michael, was researching the base of potential members and talking with them directly and frequently. Michael also noted that, since the chartering of the club, the most important ongoing challenge is getting members engaged and keeping them engaged – giving them a job so they quickly become team members and feel they are making an important contribution to the work of the club. Emphasis is on “acquaintanceship” – the feeling of belonging and fellowship. Photo: club members storing seeds they've hulled at Native Seeds.
How will the new club measure its success when its first anniversary rolls around in August? Interestingly, it will not be the number of members in the club. Four data points were identified by Michael as a measure of success:
- Is the club functioning well? Are members satisfied?
- Are committees active and fully engaged?
- Are individual members engaged with Rotary outside of the meeting room walls? To
what extent are they involved in District 5500 activities? Note: Almost half of the members participated in the district conference last fall – 2 months after chartering.
- Do members participate in a variety of projects? Do they participate willingly?
New Rotary Clubs form for a variety of reasons and purposes. This is the story of one such club that has experienced great success. Their story is illustrative for others who are thinking about forming new clubs.
ESRAG Projects Seminar Feb. 16 - Pumped Hydro Energy StorageWednesday, February 9, 2022 By: Christopher Puttock
In this presentation, Peter Bubik will explain the Pumped Hydro Energy Storage technology, look at existing projects around the world, talk about the opportunities and challenges in Alberta, and look to the future of how this technology will help in the process of decarbonizing Canada's economy. The seminar starts at 2:00 pm UTC, 8:00 am Evanston time. Register here.
Peter’s Bio: Peter Bubik is an engineer focused on the development of renewable energy projects. He has served in many roles ranging from technical support, siting, development to construction supervision, project management and due diligence work. After graduating from engineering at the University of Calgary, Peter commenced his career in renewable energy with Canadian Hydro Developers working on run-of-river hydro power plants and moving on to wind power development. Later with Hatch, Peter led engineering teams supporting wind power developers from early-stage development to construction and commissioning.
In 2012 Peter co-founded Turning Point Generation - a company focused on permitting and developing a Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (PHES) project in Alberta. In summer of 2018, Alberta Utilities Commission approved Alberta's first ever PHES project - TPG's Canyon Creek PHES project and in 2021 TCEnergy purchased all shares in Turning Point Generation. Peter, his wife and their four children live in the beautiful Crowsnest Pass Alberta, but are currently on a multi-year assignment in Peter’s native Czech Republic where he works as Project Manager on Near Zero Energy Buildings, energy storage and renewable projects.
Here are the topics scheduled for ESRAG's upcoming Projects seminars:
- Feb. 23: Club/District Projects: Susquehanna River, Owls, Imperilled Butterflies
- Mar. 2: Planetary Boundaries, Dr Gunilla Östberg, 1:00 pm UTC
- Mar. 9: Russian River and other projects to be announced
- Mar. 16: Forest Restoration in Southwestern Australia, Tristan Campbell
Climate Risks: Making choices. Feb. 15 Climate and Peace ForumTuesday, February 8, 2022 By:
Three experts will illuminate actions we can still take to avert the danger of climate change accelerating to points of no return, in this latest international webinar of the Climate and Peace Forum presented by the Rotary Clubs of Sydney, Australia on 15th February at 6:00 pm, AEDT (UTC + 11).
Admiral (Ret.) Chris Barrie, Adjunct Professor of Strategic and Defense Studies at the Australian National University (ANU), will discuss climate change and sovereign risk and how these will impact Australia and the Pacific, Bangladesh, Europe and the world. International environmental law expert Zara Bending, Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University, and Will Steffen, Emeritus Professor at ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society, will join Admiral Barrie in discussing the dangers of inaction and what we can still do to avert climate change tipping points.
Admiral Barrie is a former RAN naval commander and Chief of the Australian Defense Force. As a professor at ANU he is now tackling climate change through the lens of analyzing the national security risks of inaction. Professor Steffen is a celebrated and widely-published international climate change researcher and co-founder of the Climate Council. Zara Bending is an award-winning lecturer and researcher exploring how environmental law influences business actions, the imperative of maintaining biodiversity and the role of gender bias in climate action.
International Cooperation and Climate Action: RCAT Monthly ForumTuesday, February 8, 2022
Cooperation between countries is essential to addressing the climate crisis. Despite concerns about the results from COP 26 in Glasgow, climate advocates have to understand how global cooperation has arrived at its current state, and how it will influence immediate future climate actions. At this monthly RCAT forum, speaker Nathan Cogswell will give an overview of the international climate collaboration process, starting with where previous international efforts have failed, to explain why the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is organized the way that it is. The UNFCCC - and the role of all countries and subgroups - are key to recognizing the actions Rotarians must take in advocating with their local and national governments to assure we meet the emissions targets for 2030 and beyond.
Nathan Cogswell is a Research Associate with the International Climate Action Initiative and a core member of World Resource Institute’s work on the UNFCCC process. His research and work is focused on supporting the UNFCCC negotiations and implementation of the Paris Agreement’s rule-based regime, focusing on transparency, accountability and capacity-building. He holds a Master of Arts in Environmental Resource Policy from the George Washington University. Reserve your virtual seat here.
Seeing for Themselves: Engaging Communities in Climate Solutions via En-ROADSMonday, February 7, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
“Research shows that showing people research doesn’t work,” said En-ROADS Ambassador Nate Mills at an ESRAG Climate Solutions workshop Jan. 25. Instead, Mills explained, it’s more effective to put them in charge: “Give them a way to see the problem, what they can do, and how to interpret the results.”
Mills then introduced participants to the En-ROADS simulator developed by Climate Interactive, the Sustainability Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Sloan School of Business, and Ventana Systems. This free, online tool provides a graph showing how global temperature will rise if current trends continue. By adjusting sliders, you can see the impact of applying 30 different policies, such as carbon pricing, improving building efficiency, and changing the mix of energy generation. The global temperature graph shows not only how much, but how quickly a given policy would slow global warming between now and 2100. Given the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions before 2030 to avoid a calamitous tipping point, that’s an essential virtue of this simulation.
By clicking the three dots next to a policy option, you can adjust the implementation timeline and other factors such as price, tax and subsidy. The simulator also offers a quick summary of some of the co-benefits of changes, such as preventing disease by reducing air pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels.
This is a great resource to start a constructive discussion of climate solutions by putting participants in the role of policy-makers. It can be used in workshops for Rotary clubs, students, business groups, local government, philanthropic organizations, or a mixed group of stakeholders. ESRAG’s Climate Solutions Task Force invites you to get trained in how to use it. Task Force member Tim Conners is coordinating a team of En-ROADS Ambassadors who can provide a workshop for your group. Contact Tim to schedule an ESRAG-sponsored training, or sign up for one of the upcoming En-ROADS workshops sponsored by MIT alumni.
The model shows that carbon pricing has huge potential for fast action in reducing emissions. If you are an American Rotarian, “Join Citizen’s Climate Lobby (CCL),” recommends ESRAG Board Member Steve Solbrack.”As we learned in the workshop, there is no silver bullet, but this group (started by a Rotarian!), is focused on the biggest piece of silver buckshot. Their monthly calling campaign takes a minute or two to accomplish and sends a message to your representatives in Washington!”
Video Editors Wanted!!Saturday, January 15, 2022 By: Patricia Armstrong
Over the past two years, ESRAG has brought you hundreds of virtual environmental seminars and our hardworking volunteers have spent countless hours editing these seminars.
Many of these seminars are now available on YouTube and the ESRAG and regional chapter websites for you to either watch at your leisure or to show to your club or District. We are planning to curate all these seminars, so that you can easily find them on the ESRAG website.
We now need your help. Do you have recording editing skills and have some time to help us edit the recordings of the 2022 seminars? Perhaps you know someone who does. If so, we would like to hear from you. Please contact Communications Director, Pat Armstrong to explore how your editing skills could help inform and inspire fellow Rotarians for effective environmental action.
Photo: ESRAG's Pat Armstrong, PDG Joe Otin, and Rotary International Projects Officer Lauren Marquez-Viso explaining the process of applying for Rotary Foundation Global Grants during their virtual breakout session for the RI Virtual International Convention in 2021.
Geothermal Energy Jan. 19 and Other Upcoming Biodiversity + SeminarsFriday, January 14, 2022 By: Christopher Puttock
The next Biodiversity + presentation, January 19 at 2 pm UTC (7 am MST) will first focus on climate change, offering several easy-to-understand talking points identifying the science. The next section will describe various types of low-carbon energy sources and their economic modeling. The final section will offer examples of club and district projects that can be replicated. Register here and click "Read More" below to learn more about Joey’s work and upcoming Biodiversity + topics.
Canadian Rotarian Joey O’Brien, a member of ESRAG's Board, is the president of SustainDriven, an innovative provider of environmental consulting and event operations that executes sustainable water, waste, global greenhouse gas and energy solutions – including for huge sporting events like the Alberta Winter Games and the Banff Marathon. In 2018 the carbon-neutral Banff Marathon, with 10,000 participants - set an industry record by diverting 100% of its waste from the landfill.
Joey O’Brien’s professional passion is environmental sustainability, mitigation, and education. After owning or resurrecting four alpine resorts over 40 years he pivoted to climate action. In the last decade he has been focusing on improving the world for his grandchildren.
Joey has lived in the mountains of Alberta for 19 years with his wife, five children, and two grandchildren. He was one of the first in town to install solar panels on his home which is energy positive annually. When not working on climate action, he loves being a hiking guide, a ski instructor, and viewing life through the lens of a first-class power engineer: a technical focus combined with practical applications.
Upcoming Biodiversity + Seminars:
- Jan. 26: Club Projects on Emerald Planet, Drones, iRo Tree
- Feb. 2: Cleaner Cookstoves, a talk by Keith Tovey
- Feb. 9: Club Projects on Design for Reuse, Bats
- Feb. 16: Water Batteries, a talk by Peter Bubik
Click here to register for any talk in the Biodiversity+ series. See the article "Showcase your project in ESRAG's Seminar series," this issue, to propose your project for an upcoming seminar.
Getting to Net Zero: RCAT Webinar Jan. 20, 4 pm Pacific Time (UTC-8)Thursday, January 13, 2022
Leaders all over the world are embracing the goal of “net-zero emissions by 2050. For this Jan. 20 webinar (midnight UTC, 4 pm Pacific Time) Dr. Karl Hauser, Senior Fellow for the World Resources Institute’s Climate Program, will explore questions under vigorous debate:
- Can renewables supply 100% of all energy?
- What role should nuclear plants – existing or new – play in a net-zero economy?
- How about carbon capture and storage: in the power sector? Reducing industrial emissions? In negative emission technologies?
- How fast should the world aim to transition to a net-zero economy, and what are the policy levers?
- What roles should states, cities, and companies play in achieving a net-zero economy?
Sign up for this Rotary Climate Action Team (RCAT) Zoom webinar here.
Analysis and modeling of pathways to net-zero can help answer these questions, but everyone in the climate/energy policy community should understand how assumptions regarding the availability, performance, and integration of various technologies shape the answers and drive policy choices and priorities for research and development.
Karl Hauser, PhD leads WRI’s analysis and modeling of climate mitigation and net-zero pathway, electricity market design, and the social cost of carbon. He led the Risky Business study of clean energy pathways for the U.S. and has worked for more than three decades in the fields climate change, energy, and environment in government, research institutions, and NGOs, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, USAID, and as chief economist for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. He has worked on an array of issues including electricity restructuring, CAFE standards, alternative fuels, water policy, nuclear power, and energy security. He holds a PhD in public policy from the University of California at Berkeley.
ESRAG Environmental Ambassadors Training CourseThursday, January 13, 2022 By: Patricia Armstrong
Early in 2021, a team of educators from Australia came up with the idea of providing a training course for ESRAG members to prepare them to go out into their clubs, districts and communities to promote greater involvement in environmental projects. After consultation with Zone 8 advisors and DGs, followed by a focus group, the team set to work to design, promote and deliver a pilot course to a bunch of passionate Rotarians and Rotaractors across Australia and New Zealand. The course has now been delivered to a class of 29 participants, who, on average, rated the course very highly.
Between workshops, the participants were expected to complete short assessment tasks and to meet in small groups with a trained mentor. In order to be certified as an Ambassador, participants were required to attend all the workshops, complete all assessment tasks and attend an additional three elective courses. The first Ambassadors were certified in December 2021 and the rest will progressively gain certification over the coming months, as they attend the required elective courses.
Evaluation of the training course indicated that the course was highly valued by the participants. In a survey of participants, with 14 respondents, the average ratings were:
- The facilitators were engaging and conveyed concepts well (92.9%)
- The course met my expectations (92.9%)
- The course materials will be useful to me in promoting the Environment in my Club or District (94.3%)
- The mentor sessions were valuable (97.1%)
- Overall the course was of high quality (95.7%)
Dr Pat Armstrong and Dr Thelma Raman were the Co-team Leaders. Having thoroughly reviewed the pilot course, the team will make some changes to the content and structure for future courses. The next step will then be to develop a Train the Trainer course for educators in other regional chapters. For more information go to the ESRAG Oceania website here.
Blue Carbon + Community Development: a Tested Toolkit for RotariansTuesday, January 11, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
Rotarians eager to support “blue carbon” initiatives can study the success of the award-winning Mikoko Pamoja mangrove project in Kenya and consult an excellent free manual provided by the Scottish nonprofit ACES (Association for Coastal Ecosystem Services). We’re sharing this resource thanks to ESRAG’s Great Britain and Ireland (GBI) Chapter and British Rotarian Paul Keeley, one of ESRAG’s leading advocates for African reforestation projects. It’s especially timely because Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta used his roundtable at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow to challenge Rotarians to sponsor mangrove projects across the Commonwealth.
Mikoko Pamoja, which means “Mangroves Together” in Kiswahili, is the world’s first mangrove and seagrass conservation project financed by the sale of carbon credits. 30% of the carbon offset revenue goes into projects chosen and managed by the community, who have used the funds to repair and equip schools and health care facilities, and to provide safe water to 4,500 residents across three villages. Thus – deliciously for Rotarians – this strategy combines a powerful climate change solution with economic development for coastal communities.
By adding seagrass to the original mangrove focus, the project has pioneered the strategy of protecting more than one element of coastal ecology under one carbon offset certification. “This may increase the level of time, resources, skills and equipment required for the project,” says the manual. “However, doing so could create a more robust project with greater capacity for income from carbon credits or other sources of funding. Coastal and marine ecosystems are closely linked and a joined-up approach to their conservation will bring more environmental benefits than conserving one alone.”
The ACES manual explains how to develop projects that qualify for carbon offset revenue – also called PES, for Payments for Ecosystem Services. It outlines field-tested strategies for building community buy-in so the environmental protection lasts. This is similar to planning steps now required by Rotary from applicants for Global Grants to help ensure the project’s durability. “Communities are empowered to manage the natural resources upon which they depend for sustenance and income,” the authors write. “Where there are insufficient government resources to enforce and manage conservation, local people can be empowered to act as stewards and managers, sometimes without requiring additional salaries, provided they receive some of the benefits of doing so.”
The manual explains the economic benefits provided to local communities by mangroves and seagrass meadows: as habitats for fisheries and buffers to accelerating marine impacts of climate change. Instead of being perceived as a resource only valuable to faraway investors, these ecological resources are recognized as part of the community’s essential infrastructure.
The manual offers guidelines on:
- choosing the appropriate carbon standard to certify the project
- calculating environmental and social benefits to appropriately price the carbon credits.
- partnering with research institutions for ongoing monitoring whose costs and technical requirements may exceed local resources
It points out the importance of start-up funding, which Rotary Clubs or Districts could provide.
How did this model surface in the Rotary world? In December, ESRAG GBI emailed members a daily “Advent Calendar” newsletter sharing effective actions Rotarians can take on climate change. The Dec. 9 Advent Calendar quoted an article on major decisions taken by the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, then posed the question: “what’s missing?”
“I suggest that COP26 delegates seriously underestimated the capacity of the rural poor in Africa and Monsoon Asia to implement projects which simultaneously benefit both the local community and environment,” Paul Keeley wrote in the Advent Calendar on Dec. 24. “‘Environment’ means both local habitat - where local biodiversity and environmental resources such as water are improved - and the global environment and common good, as climate mitigation is a core part of such projects.”
He then offered an overview of Mikoko Pamoja, to which his NGO Sustainable Global Gardens has pledged £1,000. Locally-led and right-sized for a Rotary Club to work with, this groundbreaking project packs a mighty impact, capturing and storing over 2,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
Launched in 2012 at Gazi Bay on Kenya’s southern coast, Mikoko Pamoja won the UN Development Programme 2017 Equator Initiative Prize as an innovative solution to climate change and poverty. Partnership is key. A community-based organization organized by residents of Gazi Bay co-manages a 117 hectare mangrove forest with the Kenyan government. Other key partners include: ACES, which sells the carbon offset credits; research institutions that monitor the health and extent of the protected ecosystem and document carbon sequestration; and the international carbon credit-certifying Plan Vivo standard. Mikoko Pamoja is used as a training site by the World Wildlife Fund and UN Development Programme.
ACES provides technical support to community-led protection and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems. It is also now supporting a project called Vanga Blue Forest on the Kenyan-Tanzanian border, which builds on the success of the Mikoko Pamoja pilot and protects a mangrove forest four times larger. This has won start-up funding from the Leonardo DiCaprio foundation. Plan Vivo has posted the project design.
Rotarians and Clubs can contact ACES to learn more about buying carbon credits, volunteering, and other ways to support these projects.
For a deeper dive into the biology, you can watch botanist and ESRAG Director Dr. Chris Puttock's talk on mangrove biodiversity and ecological services – and how human activities are destroying these – at the Jan. 5 ESRAG Biodiversity + Seminar.
As Paul Keeley noted in ESRAG GBI's Advent Calendar, “Mikoko Pamoja is an example of environmental ‘win-win’ projects which benefit both the local community and the planet. This type of environmental project can be replicated a hundredfold.”
The first photo shows project scientist Tabitha Muriuki taking tree measurements to record forest recovery. The second is a picture of a fishing boat at the mangrove forest on Gazi Bay. Source: Mikoko Pamoja and ACES.
COP 26 Silver Linings?Tuesday, January 11, 2022 By: Ariel Miller
An ESRAG WhatsApp group has been vigorously discussing the Glasgow Climate Conference, including a link to this Inverse article “COP26: 11 Decisions that Could Actually Reverse the Climate Crisis." The top five, in the Inverse writer’s view, are:
- Fossil fuels are explicitly listed as a cause of climate change for the first time in a final UN climate agreement document.
- 77 nations agreed to phase out coal: wealthier countries by the 2030’s and developing nations by the 2040s. However, the US, China, Australia and India did not sign this agreement.
- China and the US issued a joint “Glasgow Declaration” in which the US promised to end carbon-emitting electricity by 2035 and China committed for the first time to tackle methane emissions and “phase down” coal consumption.
- More than 100 countries – 70% of the global economy - signed the non-binding Global Methane Pledge launched by the US and European Union to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
- The US pledged to quadruple funding by 2024 to help developing nations transition to clean energy and build resilience to climate change. This includes some funding for climate-smart agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and to preserve global forests.
ESRAG’s Great Britain and Ireland chapter posted the Inverse article in its Dec. 9 Advent Calendar post, asking members “How would you rank these gains and what is missing?” British Rotarian Paul Keeley, Managing Director of Sustainable Global Gardens, offered an inspiring AND practical response through the Dec. 24 ESRAG GBI Advent Calendar: invest in blue carbon projects led by and directly benefiting coastal communities by sharing revenue from carbon offset credits. Read about this strategy in our story on the success of the Mikoko Pamoja mangrove project on the coast of Kenya.
Photo: activists at COP 26, photographed by ESRAG Director Larry Hands
Cleaner Cookstoves: Choosing the Right TechnologyThursday, December 9, 2021 By: Maya Smeulders
Some 3 billion people, almost half the world’s population, still rely on open fires and fuels like wood and kerosene to cook their food. The simple act of cooking is responsible for 4 million deaths per year and is a major source of global greenhouse gases. ESRAG’s Cleaner Cooking Taskforce is ready to help you implement projects to reduce smoke exposure and burns, mitigate deforestation, and save families a tremendous amount of time and money that they are currently spending to obtain firewood, as well as providing enormous health benefits.
Solutions include cleaner and more efficient stoves, liquid- and biogas installations, electric-magnetic induction stoves, and solar cookers. The Taskforce can help you find a technology and implementation plan that fits the culture, wealth, climate, and other factors of each community. Click on the “read more” button for vivid examples from Africa and Central America.
Photo courtesy of Maya Smeulders: fitting pots to a new mud stove in Uganda before it dries completely.
The smoke from open cook fires contains carbon monoxide, methane, black carbon, and other carbons that penetrate deeply into the lungs. This exposure harms pregnancies, cognitive development, and eyesight, and elevates the risk of diabetes and cancer. The impacts are most severe on women and children, who spend hours inhaling the toxic smoke. Women also bear the heavy burden of collecting the firewood, often walking great distances. Photo: on the road in Central America, courtesy of Dr. Doug Thompson
It is estimated that open fires produce 2% of global greenhouse gases and more than half of all black carbon emissions: 1,500 times more potent than CO2 in warming the earth’s atmosphere. The demand for charcoal in towns drives deforestation. The process of producing charcoal wastes a lot of energy.
The good news is that progress is under way! Cleaner cookstoves transform lives, improve health, reduce pollution, mitigate climate change, and help women and children reach a better quality of life.
It’s vital to choose the right technology for the community and culture where you are working. Here are some examples.
“It's estimated that 1.6 million cleaner cookstoves are needed in Africa,” writes Taskforce member Maya Smeulders, a solicitor with extensive international experience who leads the Uganda projects of Abington Vesper Rotary Club, UK. “People in rural areas are very poor. They live in villages without electricity, and have no means of transport, having to hike along unpaved roads. Gas is only available in towns and is too expensive, so wood-fuel is their only option.
“The best solution, given the current circumstances, is a stove which people can construct themselves from free local materials, and which does not need spare parts or technicians for repairs. We teach villagers how to build mud-stoves. For schools we use teams of local people, led by a trained Key Farmer Trainer ,to build stoves, paying a fair wage, transport costs, and for chimneys. People trained on these jobs pass this knowledge on to others in their community. When reliable, more carbon-neutral electricity eventually becomes available in the future, a switch to electric cooking should be made.” Abingdon Vesper’s projects include tree-planting to help communities mitigate the terrible deforestation taking place in East Africa.
Cleaner Cookstove Taskforce members Doug Thompson, a physician, and pharmacist David Knoppert, both Canadian Rotarians, are implementing a different technology with their partners in Central America: the insulated brick Justa rocket stove. They came to this solution after a careful study of how families cook and manage the economic and infrastructure limitations they face.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Doug Thompson: a Justa stove in Nicaragua
Liquid gas or electricity are both far too expensive for most households. “Most of the people in the communities we serve cook with firewood,” says Doug, a member of the Stratford Rotary Club in Ontario. For that reason, his club’s projects also include reforestation. The Justa stove uses at least 50% less firewood than open fires, can be constructed locally once people are trained, and has been embraced by the villages the Canadian Rotarians work with.
“Cooking is very much a cultural phenomenon,” Doug adds. “People cook certain foods in a certain way. Even switching from an open fire stove to an enclosed, more efficient stove was a learning experience when families are used to open fires and feeling the heat from that.” The metal griddle on top of the Justa stove works beautifully for cooking more efficiently the foods people prefer: beans and tortillas. The chimney directs almost all of the smoke out of the cooking environment.
“In rural communities in Africa mud-stoves are enthusiastically accepted as a replacement of open cooking fires,” Maya says. “People love them and are proud of them. In Middle America, though, Doug and David tell me that would not be the case.” The mud stove is ideal for Ugandan cuisine, with stew pots fitting into the openings, but wouldn’t work well for cooking tortillas.
“It is important to get input from the area where you are doing the project to understand these cultural preferences, economic considerations, and availability of appropriate materials,” Doug says. “While solar cooking isn’t viable for all cultures or climates, it’s a good option for some," adds David. "The technology has been very much improved and is being used in a number of settings in India and Africa. Cooking with solar power is carbon-neutral, and can be very effective in areas with lots of sun but devoid of other fuel, like deserts. Visit this website for an example of a successful project."
We all agree these are interim solutions, but they significantly reduce environmental damage and promote community health now, while we work towards a more carbon-neutral solution in the future. We can't afford to wait!
Join us in this work! We can help your Rotary District or Rotary Club develop a strategy to initiate or support a Cleaner Cookstove project. In addition to our direct experience in Africa and Latin America, we have contacts with other organizations worldwide. Through the Rotary Family's network of over 48,000 clubs, its fundraising expertise, and the availability of District and Global Grants, we can be the boots on the ground and we can make a difference. Visit the Clean Cooking page on ESRAG’s website for more information and to get inspired, and click on our names to contact us by email.
Maya Smeulders, Abingdon Vesper Rotary Club, UK
David Knoppert, London Hyde Park Rotary Club, London, Ontario, Canada
Doug Thompson, MD, Stratford Rotary Club, Ontario, Canada
Hold a Watch Party Dec. 29 for Earth Emergency PremiereTuesday, December 7, 2021 By: Melanie Wallace
ESRAG invites you to host watch parties for the new documentary Earth Emergency, featuring the Dalai Lama and Greta Thunberg. With captivating illustrations and graphics, stunning footage, and interviews with leading scientists, the film reveals how environmental feedback loops are amplifying global warming, and issues a compelling call to action. Narrated by actor Richard Gere, the film premieres in the US on Wednesday, December 29, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET. Invite your club and community to tune in, and host a discussion! Even astronauts at the International Space Station will be able to watch while gazing down at our planet.
ESRAG's delighted to team up with the film's production team on this environmental awareness initiative. Please check your local listings on PBS.org and the PBS Video app. The film will stream simultaneously with broadcast and be available on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video app, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV and Chromecast.
If you are unable to access the film through the US-based Public Broadcasting System, you can watch the key points online in five 8-15 minute segments. Each segment comes with discussion group guides.
Send an email query for more information about the film and sharing its content.
The first step to tackling a problem is to talk about it. In Earth Emergency, climate scientists from the Woodwell Climate Research Center (formerly known as Woods Hole) explain how warming caused by human activity is triggering Earth’s own natural mechanisms, releasing additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and further heating up the planet. The film conveys the urgency of stopping these cycles, letting natural systems remove carbon to preserve the delicate balance necessary to maintain Earth’s temperature.
“Most people I know or encounter haven’t even heard of feedback loops or tipping points,” says Greta Thunberg. “But they are so crucial to understanding how the world works. We have such lack of respect for nature and for the environment. We just think that things will work out in the end. But we cannot solve the climate emergency without taking these feedback loops into account and without really understanding them. So that is a crucial step.”
Earth Emergency focuses on four of earth’s many environmental feedback loops, explaining how warming in forests, permafrost, the atmosphere, and the poles work together to accelerate dangerous, amplifying cycles.
These feedback loops are pushing the climate to a point of no return, but they are not generally understood by the public or many policymakers. Hosting a watch party fits Rotary International’s call to promote community-based environmental education, awareness, and advocacy, and strategies to facilitate engagement and behavior change to support environmentally sustainable living (RI Environment Area of Focus Policy Statement, goal 6).
Because of its compelling presentation of little-known drivers of climate change, Earth Emergency was presented to the Members of the House of Parliament and by HRH Prince Charles as part of his COP26 participation at the Terra Carta Action Forum at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow on November 4th, 2021. Rotary’s COP26 delegation attended the screening and met co-writer Susan Gray and senior producer/writer Bonnie Waltch.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History held a summer film and discussion series based on the film. The program has begun to be broadcast on television stations around the world.
How to Organize a Story of Plastic Watch PartyMonday, December 6, 2021 By: Lori Cloutier
The problem with plastic waste in our waters and lands is difficult to overstate. The sheer volume overwhelms existing disposal systems, yet the amount of new plastic manufactured per year is expected to double by 2040. Recycling is not economically feasible for 90% of plastics, so what can a regular person do to make any kind of impact on such a huge problem?
You can organize a party.
The ESRAG Plastic Solutions Task Force is challenging members to accept a challenge: To organize a “Story of Plastic” Watch Party for their club, family or community group. The Emmy Award-winning film is available with subtitles in 28 languages. Plastic Solutions has created a “Watch Party Packet” with organizing and promotion tips, graphics and art, discussion group questions, and 2 case studies of Rotary Clubs with plastic reduction projects and policies. To request a packet or talk about the concept of a watch party, email Task Force Chair Lori Cloutier.
“The Story of Plastic” is a full-length documentary film that won an Emmy Award for best documentary film writing in September. It is available to Discovery Channel subscribers, but nonprofit organizations like Rotary Clubs can show it for free by completing a simple application at this link.
The film is serious and important, with eye-opening footage about the international waste trade, global recycling realities, and the toxic effects of plastic production. The backlash against plastic waste is strong and widespread, yet many people are almost overwhelmed in the face of pervasive plastic packaging, synthetic plastic in our clothing and textiles, plastic in tires, and microplastics in our air and waters. “The Story of Plastic” will give Clubs the chance to learn, and launch the discussions needed to create change.
Watch Parties became very popular during COVID, allowing people to use technology to chat and watch movies together virtually. Today, people are conducting in-person watch parties as local health conditions allow.
Please consider being the person to organize a watch party for your Club. It may be the first step in launching your organization into meaningful action to reduce plastic in the world.
Learn more about plastic at ESRAG's Plastics Solutions website, and follow the Task Force on our
Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter.
Speaking at COP 26, RI President Mehta Commits to Mangrove InitiativesSaturday, November 13, 2021 By: Karen D. Kendrick-Hands
In a speech Nov. 10 at the UN Climate Conference, Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta announced that mangrove restoration will be a central focus of Rotary’s environmental work in the year to come. He spoke at the beginning of the ministerial-level roundtable Nov. 10 at the Commonwealth Pavilion, after a warm welcome from Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland, QC, and ministers of the environment or forestry from the commonwealth nations of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Pakistan, Seychelles, Maldives, and Tanzania, as well as the representatives from several global environmental organizations. Rotary of Great Britain and Ireland cited President Shekhar’s roundtable at COP26 as “the biggest showpiece event of his COVID-hit Presidential year so far.”
Now that COP26 has ended, this is the opportunity for Rotarians to assess how we work in our communities and with our governments to enhance ambition, ensure that national plans for NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) are strong and filed timely, to encourage strengthened commitment to mitigate where we can, and to adapt and build resilience where mitigation will not come in time.
In a speech Nov. 10 at the UN Climate Conference, Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta announced that mangrove restoration will be a central focus of Rotary’s environmental work in the year to come. “The impact of climate change is rising sea levels, tornadoes and cyclones, and the best and first defender of these in tropical coastal communities are the mangroves,” he said. He noted seeing first-hand the protection provided by mangroves from storm surges. In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, the areas buffered by mangroves suffered much less damage. He then went on to cite the loss of 30-50% of the world’s mangrove cover over the past 50 years. This Ecological Society of America review article explains the vital role of coastal wetlands - “blue carbon ecosystems” - in long-term carbon sequestration.
President Shekhar spoke at the beginning of the ministerial-level roundtable Nov. 10 at the Commonwealth Pavilion, after a warm welcome from Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland, QC, and ministers of the environment or forestry from the commonwealth nations of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Pakistan, Seychelles, Maldives, and Tanzania as well as the representatives from several global environmental organizations. Rotary of Great Britain and Ireland cited President Shekhar’s roundtable at COP26 as “the biggest showpiece event of his COVID-hit Presidential year so far.”
From the speakers we learned about the broad range of Nature-based solutions that mangrove restoration bring to the climate and biodiversity crisis: assisting with mitigation by sequestering up to 10 times more carbon dioxide than land-based trees; adaptation and resilience by stabilizing coast lines and buffering storm surges, managing sediment and reducing salination of farmland; supporting biodiversity by restoring habitat for shrimp, fish, and crabs, thereby also supporting local food systems and livelihoods.
Several spoke of the need to build capacity in local communities by providing alternate employment to replace destructive firewood cutting, shrimp farming and salt making. Examples of new careers are maintenance of the new plantations during the crucial six years as saplings take hold and beekeeping for honey and ecotourism. The Maldives representative reminded us of the need to educate the local communities that the benefits from mangrove preservation, restoration and ecosystem services outweigh the short-term gains from destruction for firewood or alternate land uses. We were cautioned that even the hardy mangrove could itself be put at risk as storms driven by climate change continue to intensify and as oceans became too saline, even for mangroves.
The opening for President Mehta’s roundtable featured ESRAG Director Vic Grosjean’s video on the mangrove restoration project of the Rotaract Club of Malindi, Kenya. Vic spent six months documenting mangrove work by Rotarians and Rotaractors in Australia, Nassau, Kenya, and Mauritius. His films were shown at the Pavilion in collaboration with the Blue Charter initiative through which all 54 Commonwealth nations agree to partner on environmental initiatives. You can see Vic’s Rotary mangrove videos online at Ocean Innovators.
Just transitions for local economies: Though the event could not be live-streamed because it was a high-level ministerial event, President Mehta’s roundtable at COP26 thrilled ESRAG members worldwide as evidence of Rotary’s determination to step into the breaches so painfully evident in major emitting nations’ failure to pay for the climate change damage they are causing.
As Rotary’s observer delegate representing ESRAG at President Mehta’s Roundtable, I suggested that eco-friendly stoves could be a promising strategy by reducing communities’ need to cut mangroves for cooking fuel. Our December newsletter will feature how ESRAG’s Cleaner Cookstoves Task Force can help you advance communities’ adoption of more fuel-efficient, cleaner-burning stoves, which also reduce exposure to smoke and harmful particulates.
Call to action for Rotarians, and how ESRAG equips it: RIP Shekhar closed the meeting with a strong call to action, outlining next steps including a follow-up for Roundtable participants, and a stocktaking of progress in one year. “There is the money and there is the hard work from Rotary to make this happen,” he told the delegates. “I know this is something which Rotarians would want to do. We will be hands-on.”
Thanks to RI President Shekhar Mehta and his commitment to climate solutions, Rotary’s mangrove initiative is well launched. Now we must build on the limited successes of COP 26, recently gaveled closed. Alas, the goal to ‘keep 1.5 alive’ did not advance as far as necessary to protect the most vulnerable and least responsible for the climate crisis.
This letter was left outside the national delegation offices at COP26 in the final hours. We Rotarians are challenged to push for more than the bare minimum. Now is our opportunity to assess how we work in our communities and with our governments to enhance ambition, ensure that national plans for NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) are strong and filed timely, to encourage strengthened commitment to mitigate where we can, and to adapt and build resilience where mitigation will not come in time.
It’s crucial for Rotarians to support the rapid phase-out of coal and elimination of fossil fuel subsidies. We can encourage faster and more robust action than the minimum promises that were able to garner consensus from nearly 200 nations. We must leverage the ethical and moral power of our Four-Way Test to help developed countries to:
- adequately compensate loss and damage
- keep commitments to double their funding for adaptation
- increase their mitigation efforts, and
- support rapid implementation of transparent carbon markets as part of the climate solution.
Kudos to Judith Diment, MBE, Dean of the Rotary Representative Network, and Doug Wills, RI Representative to the Commonwealth, for investing their time, skills, and resources in creating the November 10 Roundtable with RI President Mehta at the Commonwealth Pavilion. It was an extremely well-received and successful event. They have ushered in a new era in Rotary’s engagement to protect the environment and to serve to change lives.
In the lead picture, from left: Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland, Rotary President Shekhar Mehta, and Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake, who serves as chair of the Commonwealth Action Group on Mangroves and Sri Lanka’s Director General of Ocean Affairs, Environment, and Climate Change.
The calamitous impacts of climate change on tropical islands and coastal communities - and its disproportionate burden on women and people of color - make Baroness Patricia Scotland an especially timely leader for the Commonwealth. Born in Dominica in the Caribbean, she was the first black woman to be appointed Queen’s Counsel (QC) and the youngest woman ever to appointed as a QC. Her incredibly distinguished legal career includes being appointed in 2007 as the UK’s first woman Attorney General since the role was created in 1315.
Perspectives on Aquaculture: Nov. 17 Biodiversity SeminarSaturday, November 13, 2021 By: Christopher Puttock
Speaker: Dr Gene W. Kim, Aquatic Ecologist with the USDA
Time: 9:00 am EST, 2:00 pm UTC
Seafood is a primary source of animal protein for billions of people. Whereas global wild fisheries harvest has remained flat since around 1990, aquaculture is the fastest growing form of animal food production worldwide. The application of modern technology to the ancient art of aquaculture can result in a highly efficient production system. As the global population continues to increase, both wild-caught and farmed sources of seafood are needed to meet increased demand for seafood. Currently, aquaculture produces half of all seafood consumed globally. Dr Gene W. Kim is the National Water Quality Specialist/Aquatic Ecologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Science and Technology Deputy Area, Ecological Sciences Division. His presentation will focus primarily on U.S. Aquaculture. Register here for this Zoom seminar, which always includes wonderful opportunities for networking.
Speaker: Dr Gene W. Kim, Aquatic Ecologist with the USDA
Time: 9:00 am EST, 2:00 pm UTC
Seafood is a primary source of animal protein for billions of people. Whereas global wild fisheries harvest has remained flat since around 1990, aquaculture is the fastest growing form of animal food production worldwide. The application of modern technology to the ancient art of aquaculture can result in a highly efficient production system. In addition to food production, aquaculture raises aquatic species to restore habitats, support depleted fish populations, and supply fish for recreational sport or ornamental purposes. As the global population continues to increase, both wild-caught and farmed sources of seafood are needed to meet increased demand for seafood. Currently, aquaculture produces half of all seafood consumed globally.
Dr Gene W. Kim is the National Water Quality Specialist/Aquatic Ecologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Science and Technology Deputy Area, Ecological Sciences Division. He brings almost 30 years’ experience leading federal research and technology programs, providing technical and policy expertise for agriculture, conservation, fisheries, aquaculture, and water quality. His presentation will focus primarily on U.S. Aquaculture.
Register here for this Zoom webinar, which includes a half hour talk, time for discussion, and wonderful opportunities for networking. After registering you'll receve a confirmation email with a link to join the meeting.
Upcoming Biodiversity + Seminars:
Nov. 24: World Rivers Roundup. Speaker: Subijoy Dutta. Time: 9:00 am EST, 2:00 pm UTC
Dec. 1: Solar Cookers. Speaker. Paul Arveson. Time: 9:00 am EST, 2:00 pm UTC
Dec. 15: Industrial Recycling. Speaker: Dr. Binish Desai. Time: 7:30 am EST, 12:30 pm UTC
Dec. 22: Winter Solstice Overview. Time: 10:00 am EST, 3:00 pm UTC
Fair to All: Share the Sun!Wednesday, November 10, 2021 By: Ariel Miller
Battered by increasingly savage hurricanes since Hugo in 1989, communities on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas also endure several blackouts a month at the mercy of a badly-managed grid. Many people here are low- or moderate-income (LMI), but they are forced to pay residential electric rates more than three times the U.S. average. Doug White, Co-Chair of ESRAG’s Climate Solutions Task Force, is mobilizing his knowledge and networks to help relieve the energy burden and increase the resilience of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Working through his Rotary club, the Solarize St. Thomas “Share the Sun” program is making solar power affordable to LMI households including renters. The technical and financial pieces of this campaign can be applied in other tropical regions facing severe storms and unreliable grids.
The Rotary Club of St. Thomas East Eco has coordinated a robust partnership called the Coalition for Solar Affordability to reduce the immense financial hurdles that prevent households and businesses from going solar. Green architect Doug White, “retired” at age 78, is leading this quest, mobilizing business, non-profit, university, and philanthropic resources on and beyond the island.
Shown above: l to r. Kirby Katwah, Leslie White, Doug White, St. Thomas East Eco President Corinne Van Renesselaer, and Ivan David unpacked and assembled the new solar battery/inverter units and solar panels so they could be distributed to community residents.
In September, 2021, the Share the Sun campaign delivered the first 20 portable solar-powered generators to residents of Savan, a historic community where freed slaves built their homes in the mid-19th century, but which is now one of the poorest neighborhoods on the island.
The portable generators include battery storage: without it, they shut down when the grid goes down. They will mitigate multiple hardships faced by low-income families. St. Thomas’ Water and Power Authority (WAPA) has blackouts averaging three days a month, not only depriving families of power but adding the financial loss of spoiled food. Stored electricity in the generators, which have three plugs, will power a few hours of refrigeration as well as running a light, a fan, or recharging a phone. While the grid is down, solar power generated by the PV panel recharges the battery in the units.
“Distributed solar makes the whole grid more stable,” says White. “There’s no reason why we can’t be 100% renewable, but we’re only at 15% now, way behind schedule. The government invested in back-up generators for WAPA that run on propane, and only has a three-day supply of fuel because it doesn’t pay its bills.”
But the capital cost of solar is a huge barrier to private citizens. “85% of the residents of the Virgin Islands are people of color,” White says. “Solar is looked on as a rich person’s privilege.” White wants everyone to have solar power! He teamed up with fellow Rotarians to raise money, knock down costs, and get help directly to financially-strapped households and businesses. Technical assistance is equally important.
Here are the resources St. Thomas East Eco brought together to build the Coalition for Solar Affordability:
- Solar Crowdsource (a U.S. company) for group purchasing discounts
- Grants from the Virgin Island Community Foundation
- Private donations
- 26% solar tax credit from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service
- University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Green Technology Center
- Two Virgin Island environmental nonprofits
- Community Action Now (CAN), a major local social service agency which administers the Share the Sun program.
Three Coalition leaders belong to St. Thomas East Eco Club – some recruited as Rotarians by Doug White. They bring multidisciplinary skills to their passion for increasing their community’s resilience and energy justice.
The Coalition reviewed solar installers and chose a reputable firm. CAN reviews applications from households to determine those income-qualified for the program. LMI households pay 15% and Solarize St. Thomas uses grants and donations to pay 85%. For the portable solar generators, the family share is only $150-$350.
Banks on the island refuse to lend money to low-income homeowners for solar, but the funders allocated $100,000 for rooftop solar for people in this situation, making them eligible for the 26% federal tax credit. Households’ co-payments are coming in, replenishing the fund so it can be used for others. Solar Crowdsource’s group purchasing discounts reduce the capital cost to all partners.
The Coalition is also equipping businesses. “At 45¢ per kWh, electric rates on the Virgin Islands are the highest in the United States,” says White. “I have friends who’ve gone out of business because they can’t pay their utility bills.”
Rotary’s network is another vital resource. To leverage Solarize St. Thomas’s solar equipment bulk purchasing discounts, White has initiated a Rotary environmental Global Grant project for a local non-profit organic farming co-op, We Grow Food Inc. The project is entitled Solar Refrigeration for a Community Farmers Market on St. Thomas, VI. Rotary friends including John Harder (a member of ESRAG’s Food Waste Reduction Task Force and the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay in Kauai, HI) and Manish Mehta (a member of ESRAG’s Plant Rich Diet Task Force and the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor North, MI) are helping White raise the necessary funds.
Doug White and the ESRAG Renewable Energy Task Force Co-Chair Aur Beck are also working with the Caribbean Green Technology Center at the University of the Virgin Islands to create a green jobs program to equip workers to make the transition from repairing diesel and propane generators to careers in renewable energy.
Rotary Clubs can replicate this partnership strategy with island or coastal communities in any region subject to severe tropical storms.
As an environmentally-focused architect, White was seen as eccentric when he put rooftop solar on his home (where he also had his office) in the 1990’s after Hurricane Hugo devastated the island in 1989, the first of several category 4 and 5 storms over the last 30 years. “After Hurricane Hugo, we had no power for six weeks, so I said that is not going to happen to me again! That is when I decided to install solar.” White recalls. “After the last two category 5 storms, Irma and Maria in 2017, we went without power for three and a half months, but our solar power system carried us through. Each one of these storms changes your life.”
Irma had sustained winds of over 200 mph, with gusts over 300. Flying debris is a huge danger. Seeing a lot of unsafe practices as the community rebuilt, White wrote Design Guidelines for Hurricane Resistant Buildings. When people ask if rooftop arrays are vulnerable, this experienced architect explains, “it’s all in the attachment. Since the 1990’s I’ve only lost one solar panel in three category 5 storms. Solar panels actually make the roof stronger if attached right.”
Before the hurricanes,” Doug adds with a laugh, “people used to criticize me for overbuilding. They don’t anymore!”
To find out more about the details of how Solarize St. Thomas’ Share the Sun works, or to participate in the solar Global Grant project, email Doug White.
COP26 First Week: Promises Made in the Blue ZoneWednesday, November 10, 2021 By: Karen D. Kendrick-Hands
This post shares highlights of our first week representing Rotary in sessions in the Blue Zone, where the accredited parties are negotiating in the quest for climate change commitments. Read it for a glimpse of developed countries’ funding promises, the huge value of mangroves as carbon sinks, gaps in methane strategies, deforestation, mobilizing philanthropy and capital, getting money to grassroots solutions, climate-smart agriculture (plus some greenwashing!) and accountability (or lack of it).
Within the Blue Zone of COP26, the first week’s results included commitments on:
- methane reduction
- stopping deforestation
- increasing private philanthropy for green energy projects
- managing the world’s capital with an eye to emphasizing and accelerating investment in climate-smart and decarbonizing projects
- getting money directly to the community for the LDCs (Least Developed Countries), and
- investing in climate-smart agriculture.
- a sense of emergency, and
- climate justice.
The vital role of mangroves as carbon sinks: <Bangladeshi Rotarian Kazi Amdadul Hoque, a founding board member of ESRAG, spoke about his work on a Friendship NGO project in Bangladesh that has planted 100 hectares with 300,000 mangrove seedlings raised in their own nursery. Kazi serves as the D3281 Environmental Chair. Funding came from the Benelux nations (including Belgium).
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is finally receiving well-deserved attention thanks to the Article 6 (AR6) Working Group 1 (WG1) Report. Methane comes from three primary sources:
- oil and gas industry leaks, and intentional releases and flaring;
- animal agriculture from belching, flatulence and manure management, and
- solid waste landfill emissions.
Deforestation, ongoing crisis: COP26 is producing a renewed commitment to ending deforestation - similar to promises made in 2014, but not kept. We hope that follow-through on this year’s commitment includes more monitoring and more financing. The developing countries that host most of the forest reserves are making a more unified, better-articulated call to action: If you value the eco-system services that our forests and green areas provide, you must invest in our economies and pay us to maintain them. Local communities need jobs and income. “Whack ‘em and stack ‘em” is not the preferred income model: it has been a last resort.
Climate-smart agriculture: In the US Pavilion, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a cooperative initiative with the United Arab Emirates and industrial players to harness technology and research to build more resilience through climate-smart agriculture. All agreed that climate change makes production for “food, feed, fiber and fuel,” more challenging. The slick intro film to this session included a shameless infomercial from Ralph Lauren about resolving to make growing cotton “green.” Cotton is a water- and pesticide-intense fiber to grow. Why the world has abandoned the older natural fiber known to humankind: linen? Ralph Lauren should put linen back on the runway - the ultimate in ‘slow fashion.’ I wonder how long it will take the benefits of high-tech investment in satellite mapping and AI to trickle down to the subsistence farmers in LDCs like Malawi.
Capital and philanthropy: The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero [GFANZ] accounts for the management and investment of US$130 trillion in private capital: 40% of the world’s total. GFANZ has promised that its members’ investment decision-making will consider climate, and direct investments into decarbonizing strategies. For fact checking see this article. To be clear - that’s not an investment of $US130 trillion - but a promise to choose the greener path for investing the funds they control. But, after decades of prioritizing quick profit over climate stability, they admit that they lack the data they need for proper vetting through a climate-friendly, decarbonizing lens.
Private philanthropy is taking action with an initial launch commitment of US$10 billion. The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) aims to deliver clean renewable energy to one billion people by 2030, avert 4 billion tons of greenhouse gases and create 150 million green jobs.
I see this commitment as possibly creating an opportunity for Rotary through ESRAG: to assist with the development of a solar energy technician training programs that can be delivered remotely to women and girls so that they will be able to participate in the green jobs economy.
The GEAPP consortium includes several key philanthropic, financial, and public sector stakeholders. Its “anchor” philanthropic organizations are The Rockefeller Foundation, IKEA Foundation, and Bezos Earth Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Its investment partners are the African Development Bank Group, Asian Development Bank, European Investment Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, the UK’s CDC Group, US International Development Finance Corporation, and the World Bank. The GEAPP country partners are Italy and the UK, co-hosts of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), and Denmark.
Business Unusual an opportunity for Rotary impact: Meanwhile, led by Malawi and Uganda, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) seek a model of ‘Business Unusual’ through LIFE-AR (Least Developed Countries Initiative For Effective Adaptation and Resilience). The LDCs, “out of compelling need and desperation”, have worked to create funding that will reach their communities in ways that allow local leaders to set the agenda. They are tired of waiting for a meager trickle down from big banks and consultants - the business-as-usual climate financing model. These countries most impacted by the changing climate are focused on adaptation and resilience; they are done with mitigating a problem they did not cause.
I witnessed John Kerry and a development official from Norway sign on as funding partners to LIFE-AR, originally financed by the UK and Ireland. The commitment of US$10 million is a pittance when considered in the context that the global economy’s total worth. I see an opportunity for Rotary to apply its community-based project model to help fill the local funding gap with LDCs, where a small project investment can make a HUGE difference.
The challenge of limiting and monitoring warming: At the beginning of COP26, we all knew that there were not enough commitments in place to hold warming to 2.0º C warming, which was the rallying cry of the COP21 in Paris. Since 2015, the science has shown that the weather and ecosystems on which life as we know it depends will not tolerate warming past 1.5º C. This was stated in the 1.5º Report from 2018 - and underscored by AR 6: climate change’s temperature rise is unequivocally human-caused, and must be stopped at 1.5ºC.
The optimistic measures discussed above will not be enough, and because data gathering and reporting is so variable and inadequate, we STILL don’t have an accurate read on how close we are to a goal that keeps moving. Many developing countries lack the capacity to monitor and measure their baseline emission inventories and quantify ongoing reductions. Some willfully understate emissions from land use changes and overstate the amounts of CO2 being sequestered by Nature-based solutions.
Alas, I have no updates on the happenings outside the Blue Zone: the Rotary International delegation committed to bypass the demonstrations and focus on building connections within the official COP26 event. The demonstrations have been well covered by other sources, and you should look to them for updates.
In sum: there have not been enough promises to reduce, not enough promises kept, not enough data, inaccurate data, not enough progress in finding climate funding, and the funding committed isn’t getting applied where it’s needed with the speed the crisis demands.
This post reflects the world’s growing impatience with the deliberate, lumbering process inside the COP Blue Zone. In 2018, when I attended COP24 in Katowice, Poland, Greta Thunberg was highly visible everywhere as part of the negotiations. In 2021, she has not been visible in the Blue Zone - she has been rallying tens of thousands in the streets.
Rotary Poster Competition Puts Children's Voices Front and Center at COP26Monday, November 8, 2021By Doug Wills, RI Delegate to COP26
Children’s concerns over the world’s global warming challenge were unveiled to political leaders and climate experts at COP26 on Friday 5 November by the Rotary organisers of a competition open to students aged 10-12. The best of nearly 4,000 hand-drawn posters from primary schools across the UK were shown as part of a Commonwealth Blue Charter focus on how young people view the environmental crisis.
The posters, many of which were exhibited throughout Glasgow, brought an extra dimension to the climate debate, said Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Scotland. She praised the young artists as “the new climate warriors who are so engaged." Judith Diment, MBE, Dean of Rotary Representatives to the UN, announced the winners at the Commonwealth Youth and Public Empowerment Day at the Commonwealth Pavilion. The competition helped raise awareness in schools of the issues of climate change and the discussions taking place at COP26, and enabled primary school children to be part of it. It also gives COP26 delegates an opportunity to see children’s views on climate change. Decisions taken here in Glasgow this week will have a lasting impact in the future for these children. The winners of the three top prizes are all eleven years old.
Children’s concerns over the world’s global warming challenge were unveiled to political leaders and climate experts at COP26 on Friday 5 November by the Rotary organisers of a competition open to students aged 10-12. The best of nearly 4,000 hand-drawn posters from primary schools across the UK were shown as part of a Commonwealth Blue Charter focus on how young people view the environmental crisis.
Children’s creative solutions, exhibited at COP26, as well as at Glasgow Airport and hotels, brought an extra dimension to the climate debate, said Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Scotland. She said that the winning poster depicting a heart showing valves belching out smoke depicted an “absolutely powerful message to keep it beating.” Baroness Scotland commended the competition, run through Rotary clubs, as a superb way to involve young people in tackling the challenge. “It is a critical moment. We are all charged on an indictment.”
The Baroness took part in a live discussion with young children from Ewell Castle School in Surrey, as well as schools from Nigeria and Malta. She praised them as “the new climate warriors who are so engaged”. “None of us can do this on our own,” she told them, “but if we come together and think about positive things we can do, we are on our way.”
Judith Diment, MBE, Dean of Rotary Representatives to the UN, announced the winners at the Commonwealth Youth and Public Empowerment Day at the Commonwealth Pavilion. “Rotary believes in developing the next generation of leaders,” she said. “Our Interact and Rotaract Club programs help younger leaders build leadership skills, expand education and learn about the world through service projects.”
As we are all aware, our actions today will have a lasting legacy on our children and grandchildren. Rotary’s Mitigating Climate Change poster competition offered an unparalleled opportunity for children to engage in an initiative which highlights the key issues of climate change and the action that should be taken to protect their world for future generations. These posters send their messages on what they want the people of the world to do to make it a better and safer place for their generation. The quality of entries was outstanding and the winning entries have received much praise.
The competition helped raise awareness in schools of the issues of climate change and the discussions taking place at COP26, and enabled primary school children to be part of it. It also gives COP26 delegates an opportunity to see children’s views on climate change. Decisions taken here in Glasgow this week will have a lasting impact in the future for these children.
The three winning entries were from pupils all aged 11. They were:
1st : Emma O’Donnell, Kirkburton Middle School West Yorkshire, through Denby Dale Rotary Club
2nd: Austin Harris, Methlick Primary School, Aberdeenshire
3rd : Lucy Santer, Pipers Corners Preparatory School High Wycombe Buckinghamshire, through Amersham Rotary Club
Doug Wills is Rotary International's Representative to the Commonwealth and a member of RI's first official delegation to a UN Climate Conference. He is Editor Emeritus of the Evening Standard and The Independent.
Photo: children's posters displayed at the Commonwealth Pavilion on Nov. 5. From left: Tariq Durrani, Doug Wills, Judith Diment, MBE, Commonwealth Secretary Baronness Scotland, and John Macpherson. Durrani and Macpherson, members of the Rotary Club of Helensburg-Garolochside in Scotland, organised the poster competition. Diment and Wills serve with them and ESRAG Co-Founder Karen Kendrick-Hands as RI's first official delegation to a UN Climate Conference.
Nov. 4, 2021: Wake Up Call: Steps to Stop the Race to Tipping PointsFriday, November 5, 2021 By: Karen D. Kendrick-Hands
Our adventures on Nov. 4 included conversations with the makers of the Earth Emergency documentary, scientists, and a cheerful chat with HRH Prince Charles, in an opulent Victorian mansion financed by industrial Glasgow’s coal wealth. This post shares some of the insights we received, networking we did here and plan after our return, and steps you can take to wake up your circles of influence on why they must act now, and actions we can take to prevent our planet from hitting the tipping points to irremediable disaster.
"Earth Emergency" highlights a little-discussed phenomenon of climate change: as Earth’s systems are disrupted by unprecedented, unequivocally human-caused warming, the changes feed on themselves, accelerating into a tipping point. Once tipped, the systems will have the momentum to accelerate to a collapse beyond the capacity of human intervention to stop.
At coal-financed Victorian mansion, wealthy nations hear why we must repair the damage: We viewed Earth Emergency at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the staggeringly ornate Victorian monument to the coal-fueled wealth of industrial Glasgow. Developed countries must decarbonize now, and they must share the wealth they have amassed from burning fossil fuels, to help finance the decarbonzation of the developing nations whose people and places are most vulnerable. Scientific data presented by the UN’s Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) demonstrate that every community on the planet is now experiencing impacts from climate change, and every human life is affected.
Dr. Natali, the Arctic Program Director at Woodwell Climate Research Center (originally known as Woods Hole Research Center), is a specialist in permafrost and the methane release that accompanies its thawing. She explained that the thawing also exposes carcasses of animals that died from or with infectious diesases which can infect modern humans and animals before they can develop defenses. The Earth Information Day events at COP26 called on participants to make transdisciplinary connections. We will be connecting Dr. Natali to the One Health initiative of the Global Health institute at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
In the chaos that typifies this COP, the Friday evening reception was rescheduled because of security concerns over large public demonstrations planned for that time. Sadly, the time change led to a smaller audience and much more limited opportunity with HRH Prince Charles. Karen Kendrick-Hands shared a fleeting moment with him, just long enough to hand him ESRAG’s card at the Zero Hour event he hosted after the film on Nov. 4.
Ways Rotarians can contribute, globally and at home: As Rotary enters the world stage of climate action, our message is that we intend to leverage what we learned in our End Polio Now campaign to catalyze climate solutions.
Nov. 4 was packed with powerful wake-up calls for COP26 participants on the crisis and what we need to do to mitigate and adapt as humanity runs out of time. As trusted messengers in our communities, regions, and nations, there’s plenty Rotarians can do to catalyze solutions. Here are steps you can take:
- Plan a family-and-friends watch party on Dec. 29, 2021 when "Earth Emergency" airs on PBS stations across the US. Watch for details and additional viewing opportunities. You can view the five segments now at the Feedback Loops website.
- Consider the framing in this article as you prepare to talk to decision-makers who think acting on the climate crisis is “noble (but too expensive)” rather than “necessary (because I have skin in the game).”
- Learn and teach stakeholders in your community how to use Climate Interactive to understand how our mix of energy and consumption choices determine whether we will reduce emissions by 50% by 2030.
- introduce your friends, club, and colleagues to the tools of Global Footprint. This includes National Footprint and Biocapacity accounts which nations can use to choose high-impact strategies.
Nov. 1: Vital Contacts from the Start of COP 26, Why Rotary is Here, and a Link to Daily NewsMonday, November 1, 2021 By: Karen D. Kendrick-Hands
Karen Kendrick-Hands is ESRAG’s representative on Rotary’s first-ever official delegation to the UN Climate Conference and will be posting on this blog during the conference. She suggests you subscribe to the UK’s daily COP26 newsletter for a good overview of each day’s agenda and actions.
The 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) is the first since Rotary International added Protecting the Environment to its causes. Seeing the Rotary delegation at COP 26 is many participants' first notice that Rotarians are now working on the environment and climate change. As a worldwide network, Rotary has huge potential to contribute to solutions. Our delegation is getting an enthusiastic welcome. On Oct. 31, we were able to meet with three key contacts: the Director of the Climate Programme of the World Meteorological Organization, a leader of the Women and Gender Constituency, and people from Mediators Beyond Borders International. It was a fruitful first day! Read more in the full blog.
Photo: Maxx Dilley, Director of the World Meterological Organization's Climate Programme, discussing the potential for collaboration with ESRAG's Karen Kendrick-Hands. Rotarians' global network of local volunteers could help fill serious gaps in weather data needed for the UN's climate modeling.
What is COP 26 and why is it crucial? Running from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland, the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) is the first since Rotary International added Protecting the Environment to its causes. Keeping global warming below 1.5°C requires the international cooperation of every nation, all businesses, and civil society. COP 26 is the arena in which those relationships are forged that will help us build solutions. As ESRAG’s Director of Partnerships, I came with a goal to connect with the World Meteorological Organization and representatives from the Women and Gender Constituency. I succeeded on the first day.
Here's the context in which Rotary’s participating. In addition to “party delegates” of the 197 nation parties to the UN’s 1992 climate treaty, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) accredited with the UN - like Rotary International (RI) -- send “observer delegates.” At this first COP since RI added the Environment to its causes, RI has a five-person delegation of observers in support of its commitment to:
•Address the cause of climate change by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases,
•Strengthen ecosystems and communities affected by climate change,
•Address environmental justice issues and public health concerns.
Networking off to a great start! Because of COVID 19, observer delegates have very limited access to official meetings, but we are already making real progress in building connections in public spaces at COP:
• On Oct. 31, I met with Maxx Dilley of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) right after he reported at the SBSTA plenary session. Dilley is the Director of the WMO’s Climate Programme. WMO is the UN agency responsible for gathering weather which drive the UN climate models, and has a volunteer observation system to help fill the data gaps that reduce the accuracy of their models. We are at the earliest stages of exploring how Rotary clubs and districts can support additional meteorological data stations -- especially in Africa -- to help fill those critical weather data gaps. IF you are a weather or tech geek – contact me!
• I also had a productive chat with a leader of the Women and Gender Constituency for COP. WGC is looking for project partners to focus on gender-just initiatives that will benefit women and girls, even as the devastations of climate change disproportionately impact them. For past projects check here. The budgets are comparable to Rotary District and Global Grant projects, and I am hoping that ESRAG can help them find funding, especially this year, given RI President Shekhar Mehta’s focus on empowering women and girls. Too often, national projects involve millions and billions, and women’s specific needs are sidelined. I laid the groundwork to bring key players together later in the COP.
• Larry Hands met over coffee with folks from Mediators Beyond Borders International, who already have a partnership with the Rotary Action Group for Peace. Because peace and climate are so intertwined, MBBI has a climate conference team. The RI delegation will be meeting folks from university climate programs from around the world throughout the two weeks of COP, because Rotary International has aligned with the Research and Independent NGO constituency (RINGOs).
Greg Walker, who works with MBBI, is also a professor from Oregon State University, and a leader of our RINGO constituency. Greg sees Rotary as a terrific partner, fondly remembering PRI President Riseley’s Peace and Environmental Sustainability Conference in Vancouver, 2018. Greg also works with the Climate Education Communications & Outreach Stakeholder Community. This group are logical partners if Rotary and ESRAG decide to use the 6 avenues of Action for Climate for Empowerment (ACE) discussed below. I’ll gather info at COP26 – but fleshing out this opportunity will be an ongoing post- COP commitment.
Rotary warmly welcomed: In our first 24 hours at the conference, we've seen an enthusiastic response from many participants who know about Rotary because of clubs in their community. Meeting our delegation is the first notice for many of them that Rotarians are now working on the environment and climate change. Larry Hands met US Climate Envoy John Kerry, handed him his Rotary card, and said, ‘Rotary is here!” Kerry’s response: “Cool!”
In 2018, I attended COP24 in Katowice, Poland as Rotary’s first observer delegate to a UN climate conference. (Read about my experience in eight blog posts). The last day of COP 24, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on civil society to engage, noting that the science is moving faster than world leaders. I believe he was speaking to Rotary, as a premier example of civil society. One delegate noted that the UN process needs a ‘distributed network of community leaders’ to make the promised national pledges to reduce emissions and increase adaptation a reality.
One way to engage is for Rotary to work within the UN-provided framework, Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), six areas in which Rotarians excel:
- Public Awareness,
- Public Participation
- Public access to information (transparency)
- International Cooperation
Photo: Photo: Maxx Dilley, Director of the World Meterological Organization's Climate Programme, discussing the potential for collaboration with ESRAG's Karen Kendrick-Hands. Rotarians' global network of local volunteers could help fill serious gaps in weather data needed for the UN's climate modeling.
Racing to Restore Indian ForestsThursday, October 14, 2021 By: Ariel Miller
Rotarian CR Hanumanth has done a lot to restore habitat in 1,500 hectares of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve
Hanumanth, a member of the Rotary Club of Mysore West, is Restoration Chair for ESRAG’s South Asia Chapter. His non-profit, Junglescapes, has built vital partnerships with tribal communities, working together to restore habitat in 1,500 hectares of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. He reached out to the tribal network and the Karnataka Forest Department, and they went to work, harvesting around three tons of seeds to sell, bringing in much-needed income for their families in the midst of the economic disaster of the pandemic. Each kilo contains about 80,000 seeds. If even 10% of these germinate and survive, that’s almost ten million saplings.
Hanumanth was able to buy a third of the seeds for Rotary clubs. Through the good offices of the South Asia Chair of ESRAG, Rtn Meenakshi Venkatraman, a national workshop was arranged. Hanumanth posted a short, captivating video on how to plant the bamboo seeds. The webinar drew 450 people, and he was able to send seeds to Rotary Clubs across India. It’s a beautiful example of the capacity of Rotary networks to implement effective wide-scale solutions. He owes the success of the bamboo campaign to the Chair, PDG Rtn Ajay Gupta and members of India’s National Environment Committee.
By noticing the flowering and organizing the harvest and distribution of seed, Hanumanth seized a generational opportunity to reverse environmental disaster. Two invasive species have spread to dominate more and more of the region’s forests, disrupting the normal ecology of soil microbes and leaf litter, and leading to a severe compaction of the soil so that it can’t absorb and retain water as it should. In addition to biodiversity loss, this has caused a terrible cycle of flood and drought, endangering watersheds.
All you need to plant Bambusa bambos is a stick to poke a hole and your fingers to drop in a pinch of seed and close the hole. The seed germinates within a few days during the monsoon. Unlike trees, these saplings don’t require any further attention – a great relief, when you’re dealing with millions of them. After 3-4 years one can start cutting the culms, for use in furniture, handicrafts, and even in industry; and the plant will keep regenerating over its 40-year life cycle. It has a tremendous capacity to store carbon, retain water in the soil, and prevent erosion.
Equally important, Hanumanth is helping local people to notice and reverse what had been an invisible disaster. The invasive plants are lush and colorful, and people didn’t understand their connection with floods or landslides. Hanumanth is an engineer. I asked him how he noticed what was happening to the forest ecology.
“Since I was a child, I have always loved being out in nature,” he replied. “As we walked in the forests, my family and I began to notice that the sounds of birdsong had diminished, and more and more of the flowers were the same color. We wanted to find out why, and that’s when we discovered the problem of invasive species and habitat loss.” Thank goodness that Hanumanth kept his eyes open, and is so successful in opening other people’s so they can act before it’s too late!
Hopeful Little Akaki River clean upWednesday, August 25, 2021 By:
We are implementing a community mobilization program to clean the Little Akaki River that runs 11 km through the center of Addis Ababa as well as plant 1,000 indigenous seedlings.
Date and Time: on Saturday August 28, 2021
UTC 5:00pm* (8:00pm EAT Addis Ababa; 12:00pm-noon CDT Evanston)
Our environmental program mirrors that of the nation’s Green Legacy Program, a national go green campaign, endeavoring to raise the public’s awareness about Ethiopia’s frightening environmental degradation and to educate society on the importance of adapting green behavior. This initiative includes many Rotary Clubs in Addis Ababa and is being led with conviction by our Green Rotaract Concept – a group of Rotaracts from all Rotaract Clubs in Ethiopia engaged in projects to turn Ethiopia green. The local riverine communities will be the focus of educational awareness campaigns launched by the project. This project also integrates with our coalition of Rotary Clubs in Addis Ababa implementing the D9212/UNEP Adopt a River Program
Milha Desta Mohammed was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She has worked in the development policy field for over eight years, particularly in the climate change, water security, and agriculture sectors. She has worked at local level with nonprofit organizations and at regional level in intergovernmental organizations, namely the African Union Commission and the United Nations. Milha graduated from Addis Ababa University with a bachelor’s degree in Earth Sciences, and from the University of East Anglia, UK, with a master’s degree in Climate Change and International Development, focusing on water security. She currently serves as chair of the board for a youth environmental rehabilitation organization, where she promotes sustainable transportation and river rehabilitation. Upon her return from the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she has continued to advocate for a greener urban environment by promoting cycling in the city and river rehabilitation through sustainable waste management. She is an Environment and Social Specialist at Roha Medical Campus and is co-founder and Director of UDET
UDET is a non-profit organisation in Addis Ababa. UDET referring to the water cycle in Amharic focuses on a holistic perspective of water security and focuses on River rehabilitation in cities. Its approach for river rehabilitation and city development is participatory, knowledge based, and through natural infrastructure.