"The first Women Barefoot Solar Engineers of Mauritania are installing solar panels in their villages. These African women trained for 6 months at the Barefoot College of Tilonia in Rajasthan, India. They will earn an income paid by the people in their village for maintaining the solar-powered lighting systems that they install for each house in the village." (Text and photo: Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia)
Renewable energies such as solar, wind, and geothermal are being used in communities around the world. Rural communities, particularly those struggling with severe poverty, may be forced to rely on energy sources that are not healthy, environmentally-friendly, or sustainable. In India, smoke inhalation from traditional cook stoves poses a serious health problem, particularly for the women and children that do the majority of the cooking. Using renewable energies can provide a safer, more environmentally-friendly source of power.
It is important to note, however, that the initial investment in getting solar panels installed, wind turbines up and running, or tapping into geothermal energy can be very expensive. As these sources become more wildely used and as technologies advance, these sources of energy are becoming cheaper. There are projects being sponsored by both organizations and governments around the world to offset some of these costs.
One organization working specifically with
women to bring renewable energy to rural communities is Solar Sister. Check out these four guest blogs by members of Solar Sister for more information about their work and some of their projects!
What are some of the benefits of renewables in rural communities? As this United Nations article states, “Remote and scattered, rural homes, unlike homes in urban areas, are costly and often impractical to connect to the grid.” Renewable energy such as solar power can be particularly useful in areas where grid connection is difficult and/or expensive: “African countries, blessed with sunlight all year round, are tapping this free and clean energy source to light up remote and isolated homes that have no immediate hope of linking to their national electricity grid.”
For more information on how renewable energies are being used in developing countries, check out this February 2013 publication by the World Resources Institute, “Implementation Strategies for Renewable Energy Services in Low-Income, Rural Areas.”
al.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/youthblast.png” alt=”" width=”548″ height=”377″ />Five young women, seated on the floor, leaned closer to hear. Though we had come to Rio+20 from different continents, our understanding and empathy grew as we realized how similar our issues are. A Moroccan woman spoke of a cooperative founded by village women that distributed unique oil and ensured that the profits remained in the community. The South African woman immediately piped up, sharing a situation in Mozambique that could benefit from a similar design. Business cards were exchanged, and I realized the same communication has been replicated thousands of times during these two days of Youth Blast.
I am one of 500 youth from around the world here at the Youth Blast, opening up Rio+20. I am 17, and am the youngest member of SustainUS, a U.S. youth delegation. However, here, age does not seem to change anything. All ideas are heard and valued, and workshops are lead by youth of all ages. These workshops showcase the incredible things that youth are doing and the impact that we are having. The flurrying exchange of ideas in this conference center is palpable; everywhere one looks, people are excited and sharing their thoughts. Every single person, from the most experienced policy experts to the least has something to share and something to learn. Having a conversation and creating friendships and partnerships is of the utmost importance. Making connections between young people doing powerful things unites youth worldwide over the same relevant issues, and it is this that will make the youth voice strong and heard.
One of my favorite parts of the Youth Blast has been being able to connect some dots. The entire idea of sustainable development is that it uses an interdisciplinary approach to examine many problems together. My history and experience has covered everything from energy conservation to epidemiology to environmental classism, and the workshops so far have really helped me understand the connections between the issues. I began my work in sustainability because of an interest in community health. I caught the public health bug and the chicken pox on the same day, and collected data to track the varicella outbreak in my school. I was able to see exactly how the disease traveled and could see a correlation between many of the cases and one month’s worth of vaccines in the same place, suggesting a faulty batch of vaccines. Health is the most important issue in any society, but with no medical training, it was hard to get involved. I therefore channeled my energy into environmental issues. When one breaks down modern environmentalism, we are simply trying to maintain an environment in which humans can be healthy and prosper.
The International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (http://ifmsa.wordpress.com/category/rio20/) held a workshop Sunday afternoon on the relationship between sustainable development and health. It was a novel concept for me that my work in environmentalism could be directly related to my interest in public health, and the presenters helped me understand that health is really at the crux of the sustainable development issue. Sustainable development can be explained through a triple Venn diagram: the intersections between the environment, the economy, and society. If each of the three sections is cooperating properly, a community is healthy in every regard. Health is essentially the center of the Venn diagram, and should be the goal of every aspect of community. If health is considered in all decisions made, a community will be closer to embracing the principles of sustainable development.
I have been so grateful for the opportunity to develop my passion for environmentalism and health, and so excited to hear and learn about the unique passions of other youth attending the Youth Blast. In the true spirit of sustainable development, we are learning that it will take all of us and our diverse interests to help our countries begin to make change at Rio+20.
Hannah Freedman is a Rio+20 delegate with SustainUS, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of young people advancing sustainable development and youth empowerment in the United States. Through proactive education and advocacy at the policy-making and grassroots levels, SustainUS is building a future in which all people recognize the inherent equality and interdependence of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Learn more at www.sustainus.org.
This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.
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Sustainable Development Needs Peace (Photo credit: SustainUS)
During the last days of the Youth Blast, we discussed an array of topics ranging from policy strategies for Rio+20 and post-Rio activities. The youth who attended the event sought the opportunity to answer an important question: What will be the future of the youth movement if Rio+20 fails? Only 37 percent of the text has been agreed on so far and young people are starting to worry about the fact that failure might be a reality.
First, what we would do if Rio+20 fails? Despite the negative pessimist nature of the question, Rio+20 will be a success in many ways. We will still be young people the morning after the summit; we will still care about the same issues that drove us to Rio de Janeiro; and if Rio+20 fails, we should use the opportunity to recharge our passions and to understand that the real change lies within civil society.
There is a shared sentiment that the main legacy and outcome of Rio+20 will not be a robust and binding document. The legacy of Rio+20 will be a strong platform for exchanging ideas and the creation of new partnerships that will define the future of Sustainable Development. Many of these partnerships will be developed through newfound alliances between international youth leaders.
Not everybody was as calm when discussing the outcomes of Rio+20. During the closing ceremony of the Youth Blast, Mr Sha Zukang,
the Secretary General of Rio+20, expressed his concerns about the lack of progress in the negotiations. His “call to war” included an invitation to lock down the negotiators in a room until they agree on an outcome document during the last day of the conference. Although I do not agree with his statements, I do understand the frustrations of the Secretary General. However, we as youth also have another responsibility in promoting change beyond the negotiation halls of Riocentro.
Sustainable development should not be dependent of binding treaties or trade agreements. We should all strive to live in a world where we can be safe and healthy in a world where the air we breathe is clean and where the water that we drink is safe.
As civil society, we have come up with innovative ways to promote sustainable development. From using social media to spread knowledge, to the creation of small-scale renewable energy schemes, everyday members of civil society are winning the battle for sustainable development.
We should not need a treaty that reminds/tells/dictates that a change is need in our lives. During the hallway conversations with some delegates, we concurred that one of the main achievements of Rio+20 was the discussion of important issues such as upgrading the UN Environmental Programme, Sustainable Development Goals, and the Ombudsperson for Future Generations. The fact that these kind of innovative proposals are being discussed by Member States is an achievement for the environmental community.
I began writing this post with the intention of giving an overview of the past two days. However, I believe it is important for everyone that is following the event to take a step back and remember the reasons that brought us to Rio+20: an undying will to promote solutions for improving processes and tools in order to forge a better world.
This blog post was written by Olimar Maisonet-Guzman of SustainUS, a youth organization for sustainable development. This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.