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September 2021 Volume 6 Issue 3

Plant-Rich Diet: Fast Track to Slashing Methane


This month we feature the vital resources offered by ESRAG's Plant-Rich Diet Task Force.  Right on the heels of the UN's urgent call to action on methane, the Task Force's 15-day Challenge will equip you to lead by example, demonstrating simple life-style changes that will have immediate impact in slowing greenhouse gas emissions in this critical decade.  

Dr. Chris Puttock and Salvador Rico continue their World Rivers seminars on Wednesdays: the schedule and registration link are below. You'll also find an invitation from another ESRAG Task Force and the Rotary Action Group for Reproductive, Maternal, and Child Health (RMCH).

In this issue:

• Plant-Rich Diet Toolkit

• UNEP:  Reduce Methane NOW!

• ESRAG Sustainability Seminars in September

• Plastics Solutions Task Force Seeks Input

• Sept. 20 Rotary Webinar on Maternal and

   Child Health and Family Planning


Plant-Rich Diet Toolkit


Effective actions any Rotarian can take

As catastrophic wildfires and storms hammer communities in many countries across the planet and leaders prepare for tough reckoning at this fall’s UN Climate Conference, an ESRAG Task Force is handing you the tools to lead a movement that will slash methane emissions and protect carbon sinks, without having to wait for public policy to change.  It’s the 15-Day Global Plant-Rich Diet Challenge, which starts Oct. 1. Sign up here


Reducing our consumption of animal protein “is an effective demand-side solution to the climate crisis,” explains Ambaree Majumber, Co-Chair of ESRAG’s Plant-Rich Diet Task Force (PRD) and a member of the Marina City Rotary Club in Singapore.  “We envision a world in which Rotarians are leading a global food system transformation to protect and preserve our planet.” 


Industrialized animal agriculture is the world’s second-leading producer of human-caused methane emissions: 32% of the total, just behind the 35% generated by the fossil fuel industry. The Task Force has compiled short and engaging materials to equip Rotarians to lead by example: encouraging communities that eat a lot of meat to choose more plant-based meals. Advocating for a sustainable and healthy diet is a perfect fit for a worldwide network of clubs whose traditional hallmark is meeting weekly over a meal. 


If you sign up for the Challenge, you’ll receive a daily email with an interesting scientific fact about this issue, a video cooking demonstration for a plant-based recipe, and a schedule of live Zoom presentations by expert speakers who will describe the power of plant-rich diets to improve both planetary and human health, and describe how the world can choose a better path.


Task Force Co-Chairs Ambaree Majumber and Andrea Wotan (Rotary Club of Ann Arbor North, Michigan, USA) are both experts in nutrition and sustainable food.  As an introduction for Clubs, they have recorded 5-minute and 12-minute  overviews of the importance and impact of plant-rich diet as a climate action. They are giving a talk on the topic on Sept. 16 to the Rotary Climate Action Team Network at 4 pm Pacific Time (UTC – 7). Register here.  


The IPCC’s sixth Assessment Report, released this August, highlights the urgency of reducing human-caused methane emissions to buy us time as we rein in CO2 emissions.  Eating less meat and more plant-based foods is one of the fastest and highest-impact steps to slash methane, curtail deforestation, prevent soil degradation, reduce water pollution, and free up increasingly scarce farmland and water to ensure we can raise enough food for our growing human population.


Citing the J. Poore and T. Nemecek study published in the journal Science in 2018, The Guardian article,  “Avoiding meat and dairy is  ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth,” reported that livestock production produces only 18% of humans’ food calories but co-opts 83% of our farmland. “Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% and still feed the world,” the article stated.

Other resources recommended by Ambaree and Andrea include Jack McGovan’s August 2021 article Reducing Meat Consumption Would Free Up More Land for Climate Solutions,  and this powerful 4-minute video by Dr. Saliesh Rao, founder of Climate Healers.  

UNEP: Reduce Methane NOW!


This summer the UN Environment Programme issued a report stating that reducing methane emissions is essential to keeping global warming within survivable limits. Changes in farming practices and human diet can make a huge contribution.  Livestock and rice farming account for 40% of the human-generated methane emissions, compared to 35% for oil, gas, and coal mining. Methane is a greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than CO2, but persists only 10 years in the atmosphere – compared to hundreds of thousands of years for CO2.. Slashing methane emissions now will buy us crucial time to keep temperature rise under 1.5 degrees C while we cut our use of fossil fuels.  Methane also is a primary contributor to ground-level ozone.


 On Aug. 20, UNEP published a summary of top findings from the report: 

• Methane emissions account for about 30% of global warming, and is proliferating faster than any other time since record-keeping began in the 1980’s.

• Agriculture is the predominant source of human-caused methane emissions.

• Human-caused methane emissions could be reduced as much as 45% within the decade.

• These reductions would prevent 260,000 premature deaths a year, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labor from extreme heat, and 25 million tonnes of crop losses.


ESRAG’s Plant-Rich Diet Task Force is teaching one of the most effective steps Rotarians can take: modeling and encouraging consumption of plant-based foods rather than animal protein. Other actions to reduce agricultural methane emissions include changing animal feed. Irrigating rather than flooding rice paddies would cut rice farming methane emissions by half and save water.


Here’s a summary of the potential impact we can have, from an Aug. 29 article in Forbes Magazine, ”Influencers called on to Steer Public Discourse on the Climate Impact of Animal Agriculture:”  “Despite the sizable linkages between the meat and dairy industry and global greenhouse gas emissions, public policy interventions have focused more on lower impact policies such as the elimination of single use plastic bags." 

According to a study published in Environmental Research Letters by  S. Wynes and K. Nicholas (2017), "eliminating meat for one year would save 145 times more carbon than eliminating single-use plastic bags for the same period. Going plant based is also four times more effective than comprehensive recycling and eight times more impactful than switching" from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs. A May 6 article in The Conversation explores the business incentives for preventing methane emissions, and adds:  “with the technology already available today, the world could cut methane emissions from fossil fuels, agriculture and rotting waste by 45% within a decade. That would avoid 0.3 degrees Celsius (0.5 F) of warming, … one-fifth of the Paris climate agreement budget of 1.5 C."  The graphs shown here are from the article in The Conversation.


ESRAG Biodiversity Seminars 

in September


This month's Zoom meetings feature river projects around the world, sharing actions that fit three ESRAG foci: biodiversity, pollution, and circular economy.  Here's the schedule:


Sept. 8, Watershed Restoration will explore how we can leverage our daily online presence as influencers to inspire conscious consumerism. The goal: to reduce the use and disposal of plastics overwhelming our watersheds and waterways. Speaker:  Bryan Ingram, Rotary Club of Washington, DC and CEO of Alpha Green. 3 pm UTC, 8 am PDT.


Sept. 15, Adopt-a-River, a Model for Action explores the intersection between human development and environmental conservation, with a focus on communities and community-led initiatives. Speaker: Gavin Reynolds, a manager with the UN Environment Programme's Freshwater Ecosystems Unit. 2 pm UTC,  5 pm EAT.


Sept. 22,  River Pollution Remediation:

will discuss how to inspire people to prevent pollution of their rivers, by creating awareness of the immense benefits that they can derive by doing so. This includes combining sewage treatment that fits the context and circular economy, not only to protect water, but also yield energy, food, and mitigation of climate change. Speaker: Dr. Prakash Tata, Co-Chair, ESRAG Central North America Regional Chapter, 2 pm UTC, 9 am CDT.

Sept. 29, World Vultures in Crisis: Dr. William Bowerman, 12:30 pm UTC, 8:30 am EDT.

These meetings draw Rotarians from all over the world who are working with great dedication and skill on environmental problems. Introductions, questions, and comments in the chat provide wonderful opportunities for networking and mutual encouragement.  Once you register for a talk, you'll receive emails with details about upcoming meetings.   Register here for ESRAG's Biodiversity Seminars.

Plastics Solutions Task Force Seeks Your Input


ESRAG’s Plastic Solutions Task Force is looking for people who want to reduce the amount of plastic that is accumulating in our world.  Its primary goal will be to address the root causes of plastic pollution, with a special focus on microplastics. It is also collecting and sharing Club project ideas, plastic reduction strategies for Club meetings and events, landfill/incinerator diversion projects, and projects that combine plastic waste removal with job creation or humanitarian goals. 


The next meeting of the Task Force is Monday, Sept. 13, 2 pm UTC, 9:00 am CDT.  If your Club has a project idea to share, or if you wish to join the mailing list or receive the meeting link, please contact Task Force Co-Chair Lori Cloutier.

Jennifer Lucas, ESRAG Central North America

Sept. 20 RMCH Webinar: Safe Maternity, Population, and Development


Photo: RMCH

The Rotary Action Group for Reproductive, Maternal, and Child Health (RMCH) is presenting an online panel on the connections between safe maternity, population, and development. The purpose is to help Rotarians cooperate on programs addressing maternal and child health and family planning. The 2021 World Population Data Sheet projects that global population will grow from 7.8 million today to 9.7 billion in 2050. 

The Guttmacher Institute reported in 2020 that 218 million women want to delay or limit births but don’t currently use a modern method of contraception. Given the pressures of growing human population on planetary systems and the implications for survival and peace, ESRAG members may want to sign up for this talk 


Read about ESRAG and Rotarians' environmental projects on our new website!  Articles without bylines in this issue are by ESRAG Newsletter Editor Ariel Miller (Cincinnati Rotary Club, Ohio, USA). Heartfelt thanks to ESRAG Director Karen Kendrick-Hands and to Jennifer Lucas, communicator for ESRAG's Central North America Chapter, for sending important resources for this issue. Please email news and resources you'd like to share with ESRAG members.

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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