Posted on May 04, 2021

EcoEducation: Protecting the Environment - Opportunities for Rotary and the Planet

We heard from Rotarian Tim Conners about Rotary's newest area of focus: Protecting the Environment. 
Rotary's history suggests that this has been in the works for a while.  Paul Harris, founder, was a nature lover and had a practice of planting "friendship trees" on his international travels. In 1990-91, RI President Paulo V.C. Costa made the environment one of his primary causes, creating the Preserve Planet Earth subcommittee.  Read about the five original goals of that subcommittee.  In RI President Ian Risely's incoming 2017 speech he said, “The time is long past when environmental sustainability can be dismissed as not Rotary’s concern. It is, and must be, everyone’s concern,”  and in 2019 RI President Barry Rassin agreed "So caring about the environment goes toward our ultimate mission, and we should give it the importance it deserves. As a humanitarian organization, we’re obligated to talk about it. We need to have the conversation." 
ESRAG (Environment Sustainability Rotarian Action Group) helped push the environment even further into Rotary's focus.  Via ESRAG, Rotary was represented at COP24 (The 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference) and it is noted that there is a lot of overlap between the sustainable environmental goals of the UN and Rotary's six areas of focus.  ESRAG partnered with the UN Environment to put together a handbook of Green Themes for projects that support the original 6 areas of focus.   
And now in 2021 Protecting the Environment has been named as the newest area of focus and environmental projects can be granted in their own right. 
Rotary is an organization that is uniquely positioned to be able to create immediate and lasting impact.  Environmental issues will be tackled the same way Rotary has tackled other large unwieldy issues such as Polio eradication:  by empowering its members to complete projects, advocate for policy change, and embrace local solutions.