I hope to write several of these diaries, highlighting efforts around the world to combine helping the poor and middle class with helping the environment. For too long the right wing has tried to convince us that it is either/or: EITHER people's lives are improved OR we help the environment and reduce greenhouse emissions. But there are MANY ways we can both improve the lives of poor and middle class families while ALSO helping the environment and reducing greenhouse emissions. Let's start with Mongolia.
Most of my knowledge of Mongolia goes back to the time of Genghis Khan and his successors, and includes the knowledge that an amazing number of people alive today very likely are descendants of Temujin himself through his many wives.
I have always wanted to travel to Mongolia. I never have, but a conversation about this urge DID lead to a trip to Moscow where I stayed at a friend's apartment. That was a trip I expanded into a major search for my ancestry, leading to both my family accidentally winding up in Russia illegally (despite our best efforts) and to my starting a project to save the last surviving synagogue in a town in Latvia. But so far I haven't made it to Mongolia.
I know little of modern Mongolia. So it was with considerable surprise that I learned that recent rapid development in Mongolia has led to a real growth in GDP, but also to a great deal of environmental problems. Currently one of the worst polluted cities on earth is Ulaanbaatar. The pollution is so bad that about 1 in 10 deaths in that city can be attributable to air pollution. Burning of coal in poorly insulated homes with old, inefficient furnaces is one major problem that leads to deaths every year from pollution. Widespread use of old, fuel efficient cars is another.
I like simple and effective solutions to problems like this. These problems in Ulaanbaatar are killing residents of that city. In addition, the same things that contribute to these deaths also contribute greenhouse gasses, affecting the entire world. Mongolia is developing. For decades developing nations have almost been forced to repeat the mistakes of the past, poisoning their own citizens and following down wasteful, fossil fuel dependent paths that were pioneered by the West in the 19th century. Simply telling them not to do what we did is arrogant and is perceived as keeping them from developing. To me the obvious thing is to help them develop solutions that mitigate or avoid the mistakes made by the West from the 19th century to the present.
Kiva.org has a long history with Daily Kos. In fact Daily Kos was one of the main ways word got out about Kiva and when some articles were written by Kossacks, Kiva.org took off rapidly and has been a success ever since. Kiva.org hooks up people like you and me with small businesses and individuals around the world who need credit and works out a microloan. Dozens or hundreds of individuals loan as little as $25 to a single business or individual and the aggregate tiny loans add up to a significant loan at far below bank interest rates. The default rate of loans through Kiva is also much lower than traditional bank loans. I have been lending for many years and by relending to another business or individual each time I am repaid I have helped hundreds of people all over the world. Many Kossacks are lenders.
Recently I found that if you click on "Green loans" at Kiva.org, by far the majority of green loans are in Mongolia and they are aiming to address the issues I started this diary pointing out. The sad thing is that over and over I see these loans fail to raise adequate money to be filled and they fail to get funded. These loans are doing some great things both for the people of Mongolia but for the environment as well. I would like to see more of these get funded. More below.
The green loans in Mongolia are being made through Kiva's partner Credit Mongol. Not all their loans are green, but their efforts seem to be heavily geared towards the three following kinds of green loans:
1. Providing loans for upgrading homes to better insulate them and make their heating systems more efficient. Mongolia is a COLD place, mind you...in fact Ulaanbaatar is considered the world's coldest capital city with an average annual temp around 0 degrees C! Insulation is a must both for survival AND reducing greenhouse emissions.
2. Providing loans for people to buy or rent hybrid or natural gas powered cars to replace old, communist era cars that are inefficient and highly pollutiong,
3. Providing loans for more rural, nomadic families to buy solar panels to power their homes (which often are "gers" (note: I have been told "yurt" is not the correct term...), which are basically large felt tents carried on carts from place to place). Without solar power gers have no energy and the only way to heat them or to cook in them is by burning wood, charcoal, coal or dung, all of which cause pollution and lung problems for families.
Together these three efforts help families survive, save money over current practices, and be less polluting in a country that is becoming one of the most polluted in the world as it develops. These efforts helps to mitigate and to some degree avoid the worst problems the West made as it developed in the 19th century. They are smart and practical ideas that don't even need your donations...just a loan.
Other green loans in Mongolia at Kiva are through XacBank. Here's some info on XacBank from Kiva:
According to a recent study by the World Health Organization, Mongolia is the most polluted country on earth, registering particulates at 14 times the WHO’s standard threat level. Accordingly, Kiva and XacBank have joined forces to offer green loans that finance environmentally-friendly businesses and activities, including organic farming, solar panel purchases, and energy-efficient home renovations.Again you can help with these efforts not by donating, but by making a small loan through Kiva's green loan program. And again I want to emphasize that these green loans in Mongolia often do not get successfully funded. I know of at least four I wanted to loan to that got refunded to me because the loan was not filled. Some of these loans are being backfilled, which means the money has already been lent by Credit Mongol or XacBank, but all that means is that if the loan isn't filled by Kiva, it limits the ability of these agencies to fund further loans.
Some of these green loans are administered by XacBank’s new Eco-banking Department. So far, this division has helped distribute over 60,000 energy-efficient stoves, over 17,000 insulated ger coverings for traditional felt homes, and over 4,000 insulated vestibules that lock in heat and expand the usable space inside these homes.
More than 107,000 families in the five districts surrounding the nation’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, have benefited from this initiative. Together, these environmentally-minded products are estimated to slash coal consumption by 157,000 tons and save households about $2.6 million in heating costs in 2012 alone.
XacBank’s work is also estimated to reduce emissions of particulate matter from household stoves by up to 25% in 2012, preventing 450,000 tons of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.
The bank is working with financial partners to receive accreditation for these greenhouse gas reductions. Under the Kyoto Protocol, this would allow the bank to generate income by selling carbon dioxide offsets on international markets. It plans to reinvest these profits in its clean energy program to expand access to environmentally-friendly products for low-income and marginalized communities.
Mr. Bayarsaikhan is 38 years old and lives with his wife and 2 children in his wooden house in Erdenet, the third largest city of Mongolia. This city was built in the1970s, leaning on the large copper deposit which is called Erdenet. Since 2000, Bayarsaikhan has been working as a blaster in a local mining company. His children are 16 and 7 and attend local schools. His wife runs a taxi business using their car.This loan allows Mr. Bayarsaikhan to improve his home in a way that saves him money in the long run. Furthermore, it will reduce his use of wood and charcoal. Not only does burning these cause a lot of the pollution in the area, but it also contributes globally to deforestation, one contributing factor to global warming. It is a win/win situation to give him this loan. Ultimately the loan is repaid and you get your money back (the default rate at Kiva is only about 1%).
He bought his house in 2008 with money he earned since 2002. The global economic crisis let him a buy house because all real estate prices fell. Before the winter he is planning to thicken his house walls by brick and fiberglass insulation and to replace his wooden windows with double-glazed new ones to burn less charcoal and wood. By doing this his family will cut the usage of charcoal which has being called the primary source of air pollution. The loan Bayarsaikhan is taking will be used to complete this work in order to improve the energy-efficiency of his house.
Currently as I write this all green loans at Kiva.org are in Mongolia. That is not always the case. I have seen organic farming loans being made in places like Mexico and Peru. But the largest and most coordinated Green effort at Kiva are these loans in Mongolia to reduce pollution and greenhouse emissions while saving families and small business owners in Mongolia money.
Please help out. You can start with only a loan of $25 and go on up from there. My son has started participating as well (though he looks for loans with the shortest pay back period so he can quickly lend to someone else). Click here to get started making green loans through Kiva.org:
This is how we change the world...not all at once, but through many small efforts like this, one human to another.