By Terry Odendahl, Executive Director at Global Greengrants Fund
Trucks shovelling sand from main streets; children wading through the sludge that used to be their living rooms – as I took in the reports from friends and news media on Hurricane Sandy, I realized the future is here. This is what I hear Sandy saying:
‘Climate change affects everyone.’
This is not news to people in the global South. Even as I write, families in the Philippines are searching for loved ones in the wake of Typhoon Bopha. 900 people are missing, and nearly 400,000 people lost their homes.
Europeans have also felt the effects of climate change: the last ten years have been the warmest on record in Europe; heatwaves have caused tens of thousands of deaths.
And people in the US have felt it, from Hurricane Katrina survivors to farmers struggling with drought. But I believe the devastation in New York City, the financial centre of the US and its largest city, provides an opportunity to bring this issue home. Climate change affects us all, and we as funders must keep this in mind as we establish new initiatives and funding priorities.
‘It is time for action.’
For years, greenhouse gas-emitting industries have collaborated with the rightwing to muddy the science of climate change. But the so-called ‘climate debate’ is over. 97 per cent of scientific experts agree that climate change is highly likely to be man-made. Even three quarters of the general public in the US believe the worsening weather is linked to global warming. Let us hear Sandy’s clarion call: the Earth is out of balance. We must leverage our power as funders in every way that we can. We must act.
‘Act locally and globally.’
When we destroy the Amazon, New Yorkers feel it. When we burn fossil fuels in the United States, rising sea levels threaten islanders’ lives. Climate is interconnected. If we truly want to turn global warming around, we do not have a choice. We must take responsibility for our own communities and country, and we must act globally.
And so it felt terribly disjointed to follow the recent climate talks in Doha. Once again, many of the world’s most powerful leaders demonstrated that they are still not ready to take the action we need to turn global warming around. What, I wonder, will it take?
We as funders have some power. Ever since I arrived at Global Greengrants Fund, I have been asking myself, how can I leverage the power that we have as a funder to address climate change? In the last three years, Greengrants made over 1,100 grants totaling over $5 million that are related to climate change. Through this grantmaking we have supported indigenous communities to take on multinational oil companies; grassroots organizations that are protecting and restoring forests; and women’s groups who are starting local organic farms. We also established a Climate Justice Fund that has raised $1.4 million to date to support communities impacted by climate change.
And yet I believe that Global Greengrants Fund, and the larger funding community, must still do more.
I also believe that women, indigenous communities, people from countries in the global South and young people hold a key to the solution. Each of these groups brings crucial perspectives to the table, from deep respect for the Earth, to care for the next generation.
It is no coincidence that each of these groups has been cut off from traditional channels to power. For one, the beliefs that drive sexism, racism, and colonization also drive our treatment of the Earth: the planet, and some of the people on it, are to be used for profit without consideration of the psychological or ecological impact. And secondly, these groups have been silenced precisely because their perspectives challenge the status quo.
A truly long-term, sustainable solution to climate change must involve empowering these communities to become part of the solution. In my view, this is one way we as funders can leverage our power: we can support and amplify the voices of women, indigenous people, people from the global South, and youth.
As one example of how to do this, I am deeply excited to announce that Global Greengrants Fund has launched a new initiative, the Next Generation Climate Board. This board comprises three young women and two young men from five different countries. The group will be given a modest budget of $50,000 at first, to make climate-related grants. With support from Global Greengrants Fund staff, they will develop their own unique grantmaking strategy and will focus on putting grant dollars into the hands of youth-driven policy and grassroots climate change campaigns. These young activists have already developed impressive expertise and done great work on climate issues. You can read about our Next Generation Climate Board members here.
I believe Sandy, and all climate disasters, call on each and every one of us to reflect on what we can do to restore the Earth to balance. It is my belief that funders can and must play a powerful role in this process. It is going to take all of us working together to create a sustainable world.
I’d like to hear from you: What can funders do to turn climate change around?