Climate Crisis and Sustainability

This article was originally posted in the RAGFP’s January 2021 Newsletter. Read the full newsletter here. 

Supporting the Environment is Rotary’s newest RAF. Like Peace & Conflict Resolution, the Environment is foundational to the success and resiliency of each RAF. To have clean water to drink and prevent disease, we must keep pollutants out of our rivers and waterways. To keep communities resilient to economic problems and to feed the masses, the soil must be fertile to continue to grow crops. Learning to live with the environment sustainably for generations to come is a core educational element to prevent conflicts in resource scarcity and climate change. Preserving nature, protecting biodiversity, and building green solutions to peace obstacles will help ensure resilient, sustainable positive peace communities today and long into the future. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change was the most immediate threat to peace globally. The last decade was the hottest decade on record. In 2019, there were nearly 2,000 weather-related disasters causing 25 million new displacements in 140 countries around the world. From hurricanes, cyclones, flooding, forest fires, and earthquakes, vulnerable communities are often left with little resources to bounce back from dangerous and more frequent environmental disasters.

Forest destruction that accelerates climate change due to the decrease in CO2 absorption can also encourage diseases such as coronaviruses. Loss of habitat hinders the health of wild animals and ecosystems while bringing these same wild animals into closer contact with humans and domesticated animals. The close proximity to unhealthy wild animals facilitates the animal-human barrier of these diseases that eventually spread through human-to-human contact as we’ve seen with COVID-19.

Indigenous peoples are on the frontlines of environmental degradation and destruction. The COVID-19 pandemic has switched many governments’ focuses away from environmental regulations to disease prevention, contributing to relaxed environmental protections in vulnerable regions. Brazil, which is home to over 114 documented “uncontacted indigenous communities” are at risk of displacement and extinction due to the growing Amazon fires and deforestation.

To maintain a future of peace for all, Rotarians must fill the gaps to protecting the environment as well as create projects that do not add unneeded stress to local and global ecosystems.

Rotarian Intervention Inspiration

Rotarian, Dr. Binish Desai engineered ways to convert coffee grounds, used face masks, human hair, and plastics into durable recycled products. These products, including bricks, jewelry, and home decor items are produced by previously impoverished women in India. Desai’s products are between 15-20% cheaper than competing products, maintain the same durable quality and reuse materials that would normally go into a local landfill. The eco-bricks created from used waste materials have been used to build toilets in rural communities in India. This entrepreneurship product and system provides local communities a means to create goods and new revenue streams to support themselves and their families, diverts waste into durable materials, and creates affordable materials that build upon the needed infrastructure in the local community.

Dr. Desai’s eco-products is an example of how one project can leave a lasting impact on positive peace through its implementation of multiple RAFs. Projects do not have to be complex to have a high impact. Former RI President, Ian Risely, proposed a challenge in 2017-2018 to plant 1.2 million trees — one for every Rotarian in the world. Planting trees are a low-cost investment to the future of a community. Among a long list of benefits, reforestation and tree planting provide future habitats for local animals, create shade and future resources for a community, places nutrients in the soil, and pulls CO2 from the atmosphere.

Dr. Desai embraced vocational service by using his talents to serve humanity through environmental sustainability.

Inspiration for Vocational Service

To read the full article on Peace at the center of all Rotary Areas of Focus, please read the entire RAGFP January newsletter here