Saving the world through rain forests PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer   
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 10:50
Saving the planet may come down to helping poor women in Kenya cook supper more efficiently.
Dr. Mark Lung and Dr. Anton Espira of ECO2LIBRIUM came to Bowing Green State University Monday to discuss their company's efforts to preserve the world's rain forests as a way of helping forestall climate change and to improve the lives of the poor people who rely on those forests.
Those forests, Lung said, still exist, but are in danger. They are important to global health because they create oxygen and store carbon. They moderate weather, clean the air and prevent drought.
Multinational corporations are not the greatest threat. That comes from the people who depend on the forests for their livelihoods. It is hard to ask those people to sacrifice when they are barely scraping by.
"We cannot expect people to conserve the forest when poverty is a problem," Espira, a Kenyan who grew up in the Kakamega Forest, said. "Conservation is an economic problem."
Some estimates have the globe reaching the point of no return for global climate change in 2020 if nothing is done, and just having the developed world make changes will not put off that tipping point very long.  People in the developing world aspire to the levels of comfort people in the United States and elsewhere enjoy, and as they achieve that it will mean more carbon emissions.
Five years ago ECO2 launched two projects aimed to improve the lives of those who live in the Kakamega Forest in western Kenya and conserve the forest.
Forest Again pays people to plant trees in place of gathering wood to sell. The aim is to reforest a 1,500-acre tract that has been clear cut. That project, Lung said, is still in its infancy as up to 500 workers nurture the more than 400,000 seedlings planted.
The other project, Stoves for Life, provides women with more efficient cooking stoves. These stoves use half the wood the traditional stoves do.
The stoves are made, marketed, sold and installed by locals, creating more than 1,000 jobs. It has placed stoves in as many as 100,000 households.
The stoves have a wide-reaching effects, said Espira.  Beside reducing the amount of wood taken from the forests, the health of women benefits. They are spared the physical effects of hauling 60 pounds of wood three or four times a day. The stoves improve the indoor air quality of their homes, reducing respiratory illnesses. Children sharing the work now have more time to attend school.
All this serves the purpose of economic development. "We need to create value in the community," Espira said.
These projects generate money through the cap and trade market aimed at reducing global CO2 emissions.
The cap is the limit, which decreases over time, that companies and other entities have on how much greenhouse gas they can release. A company in lieu of meeting that cap can trade with other entities who have reduced to levels below their caps. Companies can also purchase offsets from projects such as those started by ECO2 that are reducing emissions.
The money paid by these companies is funneled through a marketing company to the people in Kenya, Lung said .
A certain amount, he said, is retained for microlending to support the most promising local entrepreneurs. "We need to support those individuals who can help the community in the long term. "
Lung noted that BGSU, which emits 113 tons of CO2 a year, has promised to be carbon neutral by 2030. The university cannot put up enough solar panels to meet that goal. It will need to purchase offsets. And while some may come from the City of Bowling Green, Lung urged those present to consider projects with far-reaching effects.
The talk was the kickoff to Earth Week. Other events include: documentary screenings tonight, Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. in the student union theater; an eco-fair Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the oval outside the student union; and the city's celebration Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Montessori School at 515 Sand Ridge Road.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 April 2014 12:05

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