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The New Environment: ESRAG PreConvention Symposium June 11, 2021

Here’s your guide to ESRAG’s 2021 New Environment webinar: seven hours of 30-minute talks by leading experts on the world's major environmental challenges and solutions Rotarians can advance.

Your $20 registration enables you to view the talks that interest you. To make the program accessible to viewers anywhere in the world, the entire symposium will be broadcast twice, once on July 11 starting at 8:30 am in CST time (Taipei), and again at 8:30 am EDT (New York).  Questions from the webinar will be collected and answers posted with the videos when they are archived on the ESRAG website. This will provide an array of talks of an ideal length for Club meetings or District or Zone workshops.  

Register here

Each talk illustrates a challenge and solutions included in Rotary International’s new Environment policy. The Symposium offers a great introduction to the range of projects Rotarians are now encouraged to undertake under the new Area of Focus. It also illustrates the expertise you can access through ESRAG.

Here are the topics and speakers.

Welcome and Overview:  8:30 am, Drs Christopher Puttock and Pat Armstrong, Co-Chairs

Christopher Puttock, ESRAG Board Chair, is a systematic botanist and President of the Maryland Native Plant Society.  Pat Armstrong, ESRAG’s Communications Director, has a doctorate in adolescent leadership for sustainability. Both have a long, eminent career of leadership roles in Rotary.

Session 1, 9:00 am: Planetary HealthGunilla Ostberg, ModeratorLand, water, and air, substrates for all life on this planet, have been damaged by the poor stewardship of human beings. This hour will focus on two significant planetary environmental problems.  

Microplastics, 9:00 am, Dr. Tamara Galloway, OBE, will talk about the impact of microplastics on marine food chains and what we can do to reduce this contamination of our blue planet. She is professor of Ecotoxicology at the University of Exeter, England, where she also holds an Honorary Chair in the medical school. 

Fire Socio-Ecology, 9:30 am, Dr. Toddi Steelman brings her multi-disciplnary expertise to how humans have exacerbated wildfires, and how communities and agencies can team up to more effectively manage the flames in a warming, and in some regions, drier world. She is Stanbakc Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, Durham, NC, USA.

Session 2, 10:00 am: Biodiversity and Sustainable Food Production, Dr Christopher Puttock, Moderator 

The plants and animals of air, sea, and soil provide the life-giving services and resources that fill our lungs with air and stomachs with food. Botanist Chris Puttock, ESRAG Board Chair, will moderate this session on effective responses to two major biodiversity environmental problems.

Living with Elephants, 10 am: Dr. M. Ananda Kumar will describe how in India the daily interactions between humans and elephants endanger both, and explore how mobile technology and community participation and promote co-existence in these contested landcapes. Dr. Kumar, an expert in the ecological and beavioural aspects of Asian elephants and their interaction with people, is a senior scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation in Mysore, India.

Edible Plants, 10:30 am: PDG Una Hobday, OAM will describe the worldwide database of local edible plants compiled by Tasmanian scientist Bruce French, AO. Many of these local resources are largely ignored. The database can be used to prevent malnutrition and foster food security. Una Hobday chairs the Food Plant Solutions Rotary Action Group, and was the first female District Governor in the Southern Hemisphere, serving in D 9540 in 1999-2000. She was a nurse and health administrator in her professional career.

Session 3: 11:00 am: Clean Energy, Aur Beck, Moderator

For the past 200 years, more than 80% of our energy needs have been supplied by fossil fuels, from which humans are now liberating the energy literally thousands of times faster than it was made. Every second we are overheating our world. Aur Beck, Chair of ESRAG’s Renewable Energy Task Force, will moderate this session on strategies Rotarians can implement to mitigate climate change.

Solar in Schools, 11:00 am: Robert Edwards, OAM, will describe how solar generation and energy storage can advance environmental education and well-being in schools. Rob is the founder of Plastic Free Oceans, Sustainable Social, and Its Time Foundation, which provides solar power for schools in remote Pacific islands. He is one of the leaders of the Climate and Peace Forum, the  quarterly webinar sponsored by Rotary Clubs of Sydney which draws audiences of 500+ people from across the globe.

Alternate Energy, 11:30 am: Joy Huang, CEO of Sun Power Silicon, will explore how quickly and radically the use of fossil fuels can be curtailed while applying policies to reverse climate disruption. A philanthropist and Rotarian of D 3523, DS Joy Huang leads an architecture firm and two renewable energy companies, and has participated in Rotary projects in more than eight countries.

Session 4, 1:00 pm Circular Economy, Dr Yasar Atacik, Moderator

Over the past several millennia humanity deviated from natural circle of life by creating a linear economy of things. Humans made products to be durable then disposable when past their useful life. This was a trickle two centuries ago and now rapid torrent of permanent waste. The circular economy emulates the circle of life, designing commodities that will have a new life when the first purpose has been consumed. This session highlights two significant circularity environmental problems: the way we use resources in our communities, and vast, largely unnoticed, environmental costs of our clothing.

Circularity and Community Resiliency, 1:00 pm, Brian Braginton-Smith, Lewis Bay Research Center

In connected communities, wastewater is converted to clean water, energy, oxygen and food. They also capture excesses of carbon dioxide, nutrients and methane. Environmental scientist Brian Braginton-Smith will outline how resource reclamations driven by reuse, repurposing and recycling, are managed by microgrid-based SMART Internet of Things networks. These elements underpin the assessment of Net-Zero Communities. Brian's many leadership roles include serving as Smart Cities Director of Boston Greenfest. He has been working on advanced infrastructure systems evolution, alternative resource development, and ultimately the Connected Community nexus. 

Textiles, 1:30 pm Ebru Debbağ, Permatürk Foundation, Istanbul, Turkey 

Clothing is a very significant pollution source, beginning with farming and synthetic fabrics and ending up landfills, where it generates greenhouse gas emissions and toxins leaching into soil and water. Ms Debbağ will explain how to minimize the environmental damage of our fabric footprint. With more than 30 years fashion supply chain experience, she consults with global industry stakeholders in their transition to circularity through her platform Indigofriends, based in NYC and Istanbul. 

Session 5, 2:00 pm: Well-being and Resilience, Rick Randolph, MD, Moderator

Long gone is the time when human presence was so small that it made no noticeable impact on our planet. Today there is virtually no place where our footprint cannot be seen, felt, or heard. Our surroundings, our neighborly interactions, our natural and built environment, affect our health, equity, and happiness. The joy of living requires this harmony and balance, the curiosity, sustainability and resilience we have with our world. Today we focus on food choices – which affect not only our health but also the environment – and  managing the burden of the oversized collective human footprint.

What We Eat, 2 pm, Geetha Jayaram, MD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Our food-chain accounts for 80% of deforestation, 85% of fish-stock depletion and 70% of freshwater use. Even without climate change, and what and how much we eat affecting health, this path does not bode well for life on Earth. Dr Jayaram, an advocate for plant-based diets. recommends stepping up to eat to beat climate change and biodiversity loss. Dr  Jayaram is the associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Shw received the Rotary Foundation Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award  in 2015 for her  service Baltimore's poor and mentally ill, and for establishing a network of mental health clinics for women and children serving more than two million people in India.

Carbon Net-Zero by 2030:  the Role of Rotary, 2:30 pm,  Dr. Sibyl Anwander, Sustainability Consultant

To keep global warming below 1.5 degrees C, greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced as much as possible, but carbon capture and sequestration will also be important. Changes made now will save future generations from having to spend much more to repair the damage. Dr Sybil Anwander is an expert in natural carbon solutions in working toward net zero. She served as lead of Public Affairs and Sustainability with the Swiss Retailer Coop, specializing in sustainable supply chains. She then became Head of Economics at the Federal Office for the Environment, specializing in sustainable consumption, production, and finance. She is now CEO of Anwander Consulting in Hamburg.

Closing Remarks, 3:00 pm, Drs Chris Puttock and Pat Armstrong

The conference co-chairs will discuss the common threads connecting the ten presentations and ways for ESRAG members to inspire and empower the Rotary family to implement sustainable and impactful environmental projects around the world,

3:30-8:30 pm Environmental Short Films Tune in to enjoy these films during the interval between the Taipei and the New York broadcast of the Symposium!