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January 2021 Volume 5 Issue 7

New Year, New Policies:

Rotarians, Share Your Lore!

This month, Rotary's leaders finalized the policy that will make an array of environmental projects eligible for Global Grants for the first time. Public policy is changing too.  

This issue is packed with resources, including the chance to showcase what you're doing:
• Transforming U.S. and Australian policy, 
    and a climate justice lens
• India's Recycle Man
• Rotary Climate Action Teams
• I Fix the Planet contest now open!
• Biodiversity webinars Jan. 27 and Feb. 10

Pictured: one of many terrific social media graphics you can post with your #IFixthePlanet video.


U.S. and Australian Perspectives:

Climate and Peace Forum online

With the incoming Biden Administration signaling that fighting climate change will be a top priority, the February Climate and Peace Forum brings together three renowned speakers to discuss the connections between U.S. and Australian climate policies, and to offer an equity lens. Register for this free webinar here.   

To accommodate both U.S. and Australian audiences, the forum will air on the evening of Feb. 15 for the continental U.S. and the morning of Feb. 16 in Australia.  It will also be recorded and posted online. Here are the speakers:

Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University in the US, will describe the big changes emerging in US climate policies. A climatologist and geophysicist whose research produced the “hockey stick graph” to show global warming, he shared the 2007 Nobel Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In addition to his scientific research, he writes on the huge challenge of climate change denial, in works like The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (2012) and The Madhouse Effect (2016) with Tom Toles.   

Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii, will discuss the need to recognize climate justice and equity in all our decisions for the future. She has catalyzed legal research identifying the especially harsh impact of climate change on vulnerable people worldwide, and legal paths to just solutions to restore trust and prevent conflict.  She has spoken and written extensively in major media.  Here’s a 2020 interview she gave to Doug Parsons in the Climate Change Podcast.  Born in Jamaica, Dr. Burkett served as the inaugural director of the Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy at the University of Oregon (USA).   

Marian Wilkinson, an eminent, award-winning Australian journalist, will talk about America’s influence on Australia’s climate policies and how this might change. Wilkinson is the author of The Carbon Club: How a Network of Influential Climate Sceptics, Politicians, and Business Leaders Fought to Control Australia’s Climate Policy, and the director of the 2008 Documentary “The Tipping Point,” which won her the Walkley Award and the Eureka Prize for Environmental Journalism.  This 2020 interview explores her investigative journalism.    

The Climate and Peace Forum is an initiative of four Australian Rotary Clubs: Sydney Cove, Sydney, Daring Harbour, and Corrimal.  The first two webinars each drew an audience of several hundred people from several continents.  Over half of the people who attended the November 2020 forum were non-Rotarians. Register your Club on the Forum site to reach participants who become intrigued by Rotary after viewing the Forum.

India's Recycle Man: Turning Waste into Economic Empowerment

What do coffee grounds, used face masks, and multi-layer plastics all have in common? In most places they go into the garbage, but in India, Rotarian Dr. Binish Desai (RC Vibrant Valsad) has engineered ways to convert all of them into products such as bricks, jewelry, and home décor, all produced by previously impoverished women.  “A major criterion is lifting up women from rural areas who had no say in their families, by bringing the work to them,” he explains. 

Desai has won multiple awards - including the Rotary Alumni Humanitarian Award for South Asia and Forbes 30 Under 30 South Asia - for his innovations in circular economy, a field of projects now eligible for Rotary Global Grants under the new Environment Area of Focus.

For Desai to launch a product, it has to satisfy a “triple bottom line: social, environmental, and economic,” he says. Desai’s products “are at least 15-20% cheaper than competing products, but not lower in quality,” he explains. For example, “a standing toilet built out of our bricks has reached 10 years in a village where things are not supposed to last.” 

Desai’s Eco-Eclectic Technologies has a growing materials bank of usable wastes and end products that can be made from them. He has developed an integrated system of waste segregation, collection, and production. Reality rules: “If the cost of production is higher than the feasible price, we can’t compete.” 

A key part of his pipeline is collection boxes (see picture) which Rotary Clubs can sponsor and label.  Desai encourages Clubs to raise community awareness by recruiting industries, municipal associations, offices, and housing complexes to use the collection bins.  

Community organizing is as important as the engineering research.  One example  is Desai’s success in building a network of Eco-Salons across India which collect hair to be made into “eco-wood.” Desai's products have a Mark of Trust certifying they are made of 100% zero waste, an increasingly valuable marketing asset as demand grows for corporate social responsibility. 

As Covid-19 swept across India, the mountains of discarded face masks “started giving me eco-anxiety,” Desai told the ESRAG South Asia Chapter in his Zoom talk Nov. 1.  He quickly developed a process to disinfect masks and bind them with paper waste into a brick (see picture) that is cheap, strong, water resistant, and fire retardant. The new brick has been tested and approved by the Indian Government.  

Read more on ESRAG's project page to find out how Rotary Youth Exchange helped launch this award-winning social entrepreneur. To  contact Dr. Binish Desai, visit his website.  


For Your Toolkit: Rotary Climate Action Teams

As Rotary’s leaders labored over how to address the planet’s environmental crises, a new network of Club-based climate action teams sprouted, and started swiftly expanding across the world.  Called RCAT (for Rotary Climate Action Team), the network now has over 60 members representing four continents, and a website packed with resources to help other Clubs educate their members and the wider community about climate change and effective ways to mitigate it.  These tools include articles, videos, climate science graphs, and maps. 

You can request a personalized presentation for your club on a topic of your choice by email.  The RCAT network holds a Third Thursday speaker series with talks posted on YouTube. To sign up for notices of upcoming meetings, write to info@rcatnow.comThe RCAT network helps local Rotarians find climate action projects that match their talents to local needs and opportunities. The website also provides a useful template for organizing a Climate Action Team.  

The concept of Climate Action Teams was born out of the 2017 strategic planning of a single Club, in Northfield, a college town in Minnesota, USA. “We chose climate issues as a focus and immediately 20 people joined the team,” explains Northfield Rotarian Rick Estenson. Part of the goal was to address the community void in understanding of the crisis, and part was “to get things done,” he says. “This problem is urgent, and Rotary seemed poised to tackle it heart and soul.”   

The Northfield Climate Action Team’s first project was to start installing electric vehicle charging stations in town, but they also wrote to the 25 largest Rotary clubs in the U.S. to invite them to start their own Action Teams.  The Rotary Club of San Francisco responded swiftly. San Francisco Rotarian John Mathers built the RCAT website to support the rapidly growing Rotary network community. 

“Rotary’s involvement in End Polio Now began with a single club,” Estenson says.  “I saw how this could snowball,” by giving Clubs a way to share projects that are local but can be replicated.  The Network’s goal is to see 800 Action Teams established around the world by a year from now. 

As the Rotary Foundation finishes the planning necessary to begin accepting environmental global grant proposals in July, Climate Action Teams have prepared a fertile field by building climate science knowledge and project experience at the grassroots level. Allied with ESRAG, this growing network provides support in creating Action Teams as well as direct peer-to-peer project assistance to Clubs eager to make a difference as we face an existential challenge.

Go Viral to Save the Planet!

By Ingrid Hesser, Co-Chair

ESRAG Europe Chapter 

If you know people who are frightened by the planet’s environmental crises, here’s your chance to give them courage, hope, and an exciting glimpse of Rotarians in action.  The  I Fix The Planet video contest, sponsored by the RI President Holger Knaack, has begun!

Here’s all you have to do:

    1.  Record a short, sweet video describing how YOU are fixing the planet (70-100 seconds). 

    2.  Post it on your social media and challenge three influential people in your network to do the same.    

Now to the beautiful part: collecting all the ideas and projects captured in the videos to create inspiration across the globe!  A great example is Lucien's contest entry (pictured here). After eloquently explaining why he's taking action, he pulls fresh-baked cookies out of his solar oven and gets a thumbs-up from two other little boys.

Upload the link from your social media to the contest site by clicking on the blue link “submit entry” here.   This page includes a link on how to transfer a video from your phone to Facebook, YouTube, or Vimeo.  You can also register on that page to vote for your favorite video, and get your network to do the same.      

Be sure to promote the I Fix the Planet challenge as broadly as possible on your social media channels, club newsletters, and web pages.  It is easy to do, using one of the social media images with your post, together with the hashtag #IFixthePlanet and the contest link.   

 “The more votes we get, the more people see and get inspired from our films, the more we will all help fix the planet with this competition,” write the contest organizers from ESRAG’s Europe Chapter.  March 31 is the deadline for submitting your video, but the sooner you do it, the more viral it will be!     

A jury representing the Rotary family will choose seven winners to participate in a Zoom conference with RI President Holger. The top three will receive a social good prize of cash to be awarded to a Rotary/Rotaract/Interact project of your choice addressing climate, biodiversity, or food. 

ESRAG also loves to share your discoveries in project write-ups that other members of the Rotary Family can adapt to their context.  Tell us what you're doing!


Upcoming Biodiversity Webinars

Nitrogen and Phosphorus Pollution: Jan. 27, 1 pm UTC

ESRAG hosts webinars on an array of biodiversity topics on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month.  Each one has a half-hour talk and time for discussion. The meetings are recorded and get posted in due time to the ESRAG Biodiversity page. To sign up, email Dr. Christopher Puttock.

Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential elements, but when they are found in excessive amounts they can be environmental pollutants. The presentation will overview nitrogen and phosphorus as potential pollutants to air, water, and soil, as well as discuss some of the options and sensible approaches in reducing their negative impacts. In terms of planetary boundaries, nitrogen and phosphorus are beyond their acceptable limits for environmental health. 

Dana Ashford-Kornburger is an innovative leader with expertise in soil and water conservation implementation and over twenty years of public service with the United States Department of Agriculture. She is a Certified Crop Advisor and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis and a Master of Science degree in Agronomy and Soils from Auburn University. Dana is currently the Director of the Conservation Division and Deputy Administrator of Farm Programs at the US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.

Rotarians: Help Bring Back Birds!

Feb. 10, 2021 3 pm UTC

“Like Rotarians, birds connect our world.” International Fellowship of Bird-watching Rotarians President Julie West  

Since 1970, the North American continent has experienced a staggering loss of bird populations.  Similar reports from other continents signal a broader crisis in the natural world, echoed by losses in insect, amphibian, and other wildlife populations.  We know that conservation actions work, and there is no time to lose.  Tune in to learn about everyday actions that Rotarians can enact to help restore a bird-friendly planet, as well as community-based initiatives that are primed for Rotary club involvement. 

Katie O’Brien has spent the past 15 years as a federal public servant dedicated to the conservation of our natural world.  She currently serves the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Program, coordinating the conservation of birds across northern forests and urban landscapes, and connecting people - especially youth - with bird conservation. She also designs multi-national networks to sustain long-distance migratory bird species. 

Katie became a Rotarian in 2014. She has served her club through several roles, including Past President(2017-2018), and is passionate about her District’s RYLA and Environmental Sustainability activities.  

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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