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June 2020 SPECIAL ISSUE Volume 4 Issue 12b

"SUPPORTING THE ENVIRONMENT" named Rotary's 7th Area of Focus

On June 26, 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."  

RI's full statement is here.  "Thank you, President Mark, and the RI Board and Trustees, for appreciating that healthy humans need a healthy planet, said ESRAG's Chair Christopher F. Puttock on June 27. 

"Rotary’s first project was an environmental one in Chicago. Now, the 7th Area of Focus enables Rotarians to strive to make our world a healthy place for all life to live. Yes, Rotary Connects the World, and now Rotary Opens Opportunities. This is a call to action. We have much work to do in economic, cultural AND environmental sustainability. Go, Rotary!"

Also, hot off the presses, ready to air for your Club, District, or Zone:

• Videos of the four 30 minute talks from ESRAG's World Environment Day conference

• ESRAG's June 22 Greening Your Rotary Event webinar at the RI Virtual Convention

Starting July of '21, RI welcomes environmental global grant applications

Until now, solar panels for schools have been ineligible for Rotary global grants. Will that change? In a video on the bottom of the homepage of All We Are, Ugandan school principals report how reliable electricity has vastly improved student achievement. It's also saving them a lot of money they can now spend on teachers and books. This is a perfect example of the synergy between environmental sustainability and other humanitarian goals. The nonprofit was created by Rotarian and DGE Nathan Thomas of Raleigh, North Carolina (USA), who serves as co-chair of ESRAG's Renewable Energy Task Force.

RI President Mark Maloney announced that the Rotary Foundation will start accepting grant requests under the new Supporting Environment Area of Focus in July, 2021.  How did Rotary come to this decision, and what happens next?  

Rotary's leadership created a task force last year under the leadership of Past President Ian Riseley to decide how to handle environmental projects in Rotary grantmaking.  ESRAG leaders submitted a position paper recommending that environmental sustainability be named a distinct Area of Focus rather than a subset of the original six. Working with RI staff, we also developed a questionnaire which was submitted to Rotarians and youth in Rotary programs around the world at the end of January. Almost 6,000 people responded in just over one week. Over 94% that Rotary can have a significant impact on environmental issues, that it's important for Rotary's reputation to be active on this, and that their friends would be interested in joining Rotary if Rotary got involved. 62% supported the creation of a new environmental Area of Focus. (Read more about the survey in ESRAG's February newsletter.)

ESRAG's Communications Director Karen Kendrick-Hands was invited to speak to the Task Force at the start of its February meeting. Then, we waited: as COVID-19 upended the world, Rotary in-person meetings were cancelled, and the Foundation Trustees and Rotary Board held confidential discussions.  

Finally, on June 26,  the closing day of RI's Virtual Convention, we got the glorious news of Rotary's decision at noon New York Time. Within 8 hours, over 2,000 Rotarians had liked and shared RI's announcement on Facebook.

Two steps are essential before grantmaking can begin under the new Area of Focus in 2021.

1. The Rotary Foundation must develop the criteria for what kinds of environmental projects will be eligible for global grants.

2. Donors are needed to contribute for environmental grants.

As the Rotary Action Group for environmentalists, ESRAG members will do our utmost to assist Rotary to achieve both tasks.  ESRAG's new Carbon Offset Fund is a great first step in raising money to be used for grants reducing or capturing carbon emissions.  If you'd like to donate now, start there!  Pretend you flew to Honolulu and have fun doing the numbers! RGBI Rotarian and ESRAG Board member, Keith Tovey, an expert in calculating carbon footprint, estimates that Rotary avoided over 100,000 tons of carbon emissions, 80% from the air travel,  by holding its 2020 Convention virtually. RICON 2021 planned for Taipei is expected to have a similar emissions impact.

How you can help:

Rotary Past President Ian Riseley posted this picture on his Facebook page June 26, writing: "The Trustees and Directors have unanimously accepted our recommendation to create a 7th Area of Focus of our Rotary Foundation, being the Environment.  As Chair of the Task Force that put together and argued for this decision, I’m enormously proud today.  This photo is of the four Trustees, one Director, and one Rotaracter who comprised the Task Force, plus the outstanding and dedicated staff who assisted us in arriving at our recommendation.  We still have lots of work to do, including finalizing the Area of Focus statement and getting the fundraising going to support the grant applications that are sure to come flooding in after 1st July 2021. Congratulations, team, we just made Rotary history!

Because climate change has been a polarizing issue within Rotary for the last few years, ESRAG leaders emailed each  throughout the night after the RI decision, brainstorming how to communicate about the new Area of Focus in a way that brings Rotarians together.  

The key point is that supporting the environment builds on and enhances Rotarians' other work. 

You can help by reaching out to your Club, District, or Zone with stories of how environmental sustainability promotes the other humanitarian goals Rotarians are pursing with such passion and skill. Mexican Rotarian Salvador Rico puts it perfectly:  "The Environment as the 7th Area of Focus!   I am in tears of joy, gratitude, and full of hope! I know that - with Rotary, ESRAG, UNEP and all the strategic partners - we are going to save the planet, all living beings, and all of humanity!"

"Adding this seventh focus strengthens all the others," adds Swedish Rotarian Ingrid Hesser, Co-Chair of ESRAG's Europe Regional Chapter.  "It gives Rotarians across the world tools to mitigate and prevent disasters, and to escalate the impact of work being achieved in peace-building, reducing conflict, preventing and treating disease, providing safe water, improving maternal and child health, enhancing education, and promoting community economic development."  The video referenced above, from the website of All We Are, is a great example: solar power equipping students to succeed.  

The 30-minute talks presented during ESRAG's June 5 World Environment Day webinar are ideal content for Rotary meetings at any level, whether virtual or face-to-face.  We are very hopeful that skeptical Rotarians will be disarmed and inspired by the optimism and pragmatic strategies shared by Daniel Cooney and Lis Mullin Bernhardt of the UN Environment Programme, Rotarian Joe Richardson of Lunch out of Landfills, Dr. Jonathan Foley of Project Drawdown, and Brendan Foran of Greening Australia.  

To learn about ESRAG's groundbreaking collaborations on carbon calculators and ways to build Rotarians' awareness and effective action,  we recommend the  Greening Rotary Events program ESRAG presented June 22 as one of the RI Convention's three featured breakouts that day. 

ESRAG's Booth 722 in RICON's Virtual House of Friendship remains open through the end of July.  Visit us through this link. You may also want to attend RI's Presidential Changeover Ceremony, July 1, 2020 at 11:30 am CDT-US [-5UTC].  View the event live through this Facebook link.

Register for ESRAG's webinar July 20, from 8:45-10:45 am UCT-5. Session 36 - World Environment of Rotary and the United Nations, is one  of RI's Virtual Breakout sessions as the 2020 Virtual RICON continues. Be inspired by projects designed to implement and be fundable under the 7th Area of Focus for the Environment.

More joy: inspiring updates from ESRAG's Annual General Meeting 

From the comfort of your home, with your cat in your lap or your parrot on your shoulder, prepare to be galvanized by the updates shared by ESRAG's directors and project teams at the June 24 Annual General Meeting.  Here's the link to watch the recording.  You'll need to put in this password: 8t.16L87

In the picture: ESRAG Director Pat Armstrong, Chair of the Regional Chapter for Australasia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands,  reporting on awesome projects including Rotarians 4 Bees and ESRAG's progress towards developing carbon footprint calculators for individuals and Rotary events.

Invite all your friends to join ESRAG!

Now that Supporting the Environment is a Rotary priority, ask all your friends to join ESRAG, the absolute best way to network with inspiring, effective people all across the globe who are giving their heart, expertise, and time to collaborative work to understand environmental forces and to preserve and protect life on our planet.  They can sign up here.  Memberships are free to people under 18, $15 for Rotaracters, and $30 for adults.

The Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group operates in accordance with Rotary International policy, 

but is not an agency of, or controlled by, Rotary International.

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