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I have started a series (started in November) to highlight local solutions around the world that directly face up to global warming while also helping people locally. Two recent studies re-inspired my interest in these kinds of efforts.

First off, my wife reported to me from last December's American Geophysical Society meeting in San Francisco a talk outlining how the wait for big government action from big players like the US and China are stifling our chances of mitigating the effects of global warming anytime soon (soon meaning in the next few generations) or of limiting tipping points. Smaller scale, local responses in towns and villages across the globe are needed and are possible NOW without waiting for the US or China to act. This does not downplay the need for action by the US and China, but it highlights something I have said for some time: the responses to global warming have to come from everyone and waiting for some big players to save us all ignores a huge range of actions that could really make a difference right now. (I have my own project I have started that my wife mentioned to this lecturer and he loved it...I will highlight that project once it gets a little further down the road).

This report dovetailed nicely with another report I think I saw on BBC.com, but can't dig up at the moment, that shows that environmental actions of ANY kind work best if they also work with and give direct benefit to the local community, whatever kind of community that is. This is not a new idea (it is, for example, the foundation of the work done by Conservation International for decades) but this was a study that shows actual data supporting what is a pretty common sense idea...another thing I have been saying for a long time.

And these two studies come together into yet a third idea I have advocated for ages. Environmental action, including action aimed at mitigating climate change, does not in any way, shape or form have to go against economic development or the well being of a community or limit jobs. Quite the opposite. The jobs vs. environment lie was begun by the right wing as a wedge issue between two large parts of the American left: labor and environmentalists. Yet it has never needed to be true. Often environmental and economic policy compliment eachother, as in the case of green energy programs like wind and solar projects or public transportation projects in the US which reduce our carbon footprints AND create jobs.

There are hundreds if not thousands of projects worldwide that combine this idea of community/economic benefit with environmental benefit. They aren't hard to find despite their supposed mythical nature. Many are quite successful (as the second study I refer to suggests). I want to highlight over months a handful of such projects and I suggest that if each member of dKos helped a small amount on at least one of these projects, the benefits both for some local communities and for the environment would be considerable.

I will begin briefly with two I have highlighted already with brief updates. Then I will more extensively highlight a third project.

Project 1: Going Green in Mongolia

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.

My first recommended project is through an organization that has had a good relationship with Kossacks: Kiva.org. This organization connects people like you and me with small businesses and individuals around the world who need small loans. You can lend as little as $25 (the level my 8 year old son got started) and will eventually get it paid back...so you can then keep loaning or, if you like, take your money back once the loan is paid back. I have been doing this for years and have helped hundreds of people around the world.

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 causes of air pollution in Mongolia, particularly through better insulation (to reduce heat loss), more efficient heaters, and more fuel efficient cars. I highlighted these loans as my first priject because over and over I saw these loans fail to raise adequate money to be funded. Since I highlighted them in November and December, I have noticed most of them now get funded. Not sure I did that, but I am glad they are getting funded.

You can find the current list of Green Loans on Kiva.org here. The best thing about this project is you get your money back.

Project 2: Tribal Renewable Energy in South Dakota

This is one of my favorite projects and I donate whenever I can. Trees, Water, People is one of the most amazing organizations I know of. I make monthly donations to them...small I have to admit, but every single month. They help build energy efficient stoves in Central America that save not just trees but also the lungs of the women who have to cook over the stoves. They plant trees in the horribly deforested areas of Haiti.  And they are looking into expanding their efforts into Africa.

But for the purposes of this project I want to focus on one particular project funded by Trees, Water, People: providing solar heating for poor families in Indian Country right here in America. It is a smart, green, and long-term solution.

This project is moving along slowly but surely. It will need help for a long time to come. But for the families in Indian Country it can make a huge difference every winter.

Now...a new project I want to highlight: Solar lighting for families and schools in Mali (below)

Mali is a nation I have been fascinated by for a long time. It's history is amazing. Its architecture is beautiful. And, as I have written before, its music is AMAZING.

For many years it was a fairly stable democracy despite attempts of Islamists and separatists to destabilize the country. Recently it has been destabilized but hopefully with French and African aid it will return to its former democratic strength.

This project is aimed to help one village environmentally and socially. From Global Giving:

Summary

Project Yelen is important because it will provide electricity, education, jobs, healthcare, and clean water to the villagers of Salamale. Energy For Opportunity and Project Yelen are teaming up to provide a solar powered community charging station (CCS) for the community of Salamale in Mali. The CCS will disseminate LED lighting to households, and pave the way for more solar power projects in the community's schools and health clinic in future.
What is the issue, problem, or challenge?

The community of Salamale, like most of rural Mali, has no access to mains electricity. School children have to use kerosene lamps for studying, which produces a deficient light for reading. This a major concern, as Mali has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Fundamental changes are needed at the village level if things are to be improved. Ultimately access to modern forms of energy is a necessary precursor for stimulating development and ensuring improved and diversifed livelihoods.
How will this project solve this problem?

The project will involve the installation of a solar powered community charging station (CCS) in the community. This will provide lighting to an adjacent building, and act as a central hub for recharging electrical items. This will include mobile phones and radios, as well as LED lanterns which will be disseminated as a part of the project. These lanterns provide much improved lighting as compared to kerosene lamps. A small fee will be charge for using the CCS, raising community funds.
Potential Long Term Impact

The community charging station will create jobs and opportunity for the people of Salamale to be self-sufficient, who are now bound by their limited resources and economic instability. It will raise funds for the community and allow future opportunities to spread solar power into the communty's health clinic and school. The CCS serves as the foundation project in a community and allows for community funds to be generated that support long term maintenance and contributions for other projects.
Project Message

I grew up in Salamale seeing four of my siblings die from preventable diseases, and my mother blinded because we had no access to healthcare. Project Yelen will help prevent this from occurring again.
- Lanssine Traore, Co-president of Project Yelen, from Salamale Mali
Funding Information

Total Funding Received to Date: $5,225
Remaining Goal to be Funded: $19,775
Total Funding Goal: $25,000

Your donation can help use solar energy to replace kerosene lamps, provide better lighting for students, and for charging cell phones and radios.

Originally posted to mole333 on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 06:49 PM PST.

Also republished by SciTech, DK GreenRoots, and Kosowatt.

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