In response to an article on The Australian Financial Review website, we posted a thread of tweets this morning. It got picked up on by Dr Kate Marvel, Peter Lipman and a few others and has since generated more retweets, replies and likes than any other post we’ve ever done. You can view it here, or read it in full here
There have been a number of articles this week about Earth Overshoot Day - it was the earliest it has ever been this year; August 1st. There are tow chinks of light however. The first can be seen in the shape of this graph:
Overshoot day seems to be arriving at almost the same day every year now. Since 2011 it has been on, or around, July 31st. Hopefully we won't be stuck on this plateau for another seven years, it is not impossible for this graph to become a bell shaped one. Hopefully we'll start to descend quite rapidly.
We can do this, we can #MoveTheDate if we think systemically and identify the leverage points that can be tugged at to trigger the systemic change that will get us out of this mess.
What seems to be missing from the conversation around Overshoot day is just how much inequality there is in resource use. We do get graphs like this:
These are useful, to an extent, but they give a bit of a warped picture of who's to blame. Inequality of wealth and resource use exists between countries as the graph shows, but also within them, as it doesn't. We need to drill down and look at what is going on in each country.
The ecological footprints of US citizens, for example, are going to vary drastically. For many the footprint will be quite low, maybe 1.5 planets, whereas for a small minority the footprint will be gigantic - 10 planets or more. It is this small minority who are accelerating natural resources use, it is their behaviour that we need to leverage.
This is the other chink of light, we don't need to change the consumption habits of the entirety of humanity. We actually only need to change the consumption habits of a comparatively small percentage of the population in each country.
Overshoot day can be shifted if we tackle economic inequality more effectively. Make inequality a central part of the conversation next Overshoot day.
By Morgan Phillips, TGT Co-Director
Earlier this week I presented a 250g bag of coffee beans at our Trustee's meeting. It was grown by farmers in Deusa, Solukhumbu and roasted in Kathmandu by Nuwa Coffee. It was quite a moment.
As I sat with our trustees delivering my usual update on our project work, I wasn't quite anticipating the emotional impact of what happened next.
Wrapping up my summary of progress in Solukhumbu, I took the 250g packet pictured above out of my rucksack and put it on the table. The delight on the faces of our trustees as they read the label and took in the scent of the freshly roasted coffee beans was so wonderful. It was one of those moments where everyone in the room stops and just appreciates.
It was appreciation, I think, for the skill, tenacity, commitment and team-working that goes into what is happening in Nepal. We have quite brilliant NGO partners in Nepal, led by an exceptional Executive Director, Narayan Dhakhal - it is privilege to work with them. We enable them to do what they do and they enable climate change adaptation and sustainable development in one of the poorest places on Earth.
We should probably stand back and appreciate how brilliant they are more often. Thank you Eco Himal and deep congratulations, the coffee is amazing.
We hope to be able to sell roasted Coffee beans from our projects in the run up to Christmas, please keep an eye out for an email with further information on how to pre-order.
Meanwhile, for a limited time only, you can buy a cup of TGT coffee from our partner restaurant The Great Nepalese. They are a family owned restaurant serving authentic Nepali curry. You can find them on Eversholt Street, near Euston station in London. Make sure you mention us when you order.
We continue to enable climate change adaptation in Solukhumbu and are supporting more farmers to grow, produce and sell coffee this year.
Narayan Dhakal and the local Rural Municipality Government have asked us to increase our funding in 2019 to reach even more people in the district. We really want to help them do this and need to raise £5,000. Please get in touch if you can help.
Last week in The Guardian, fifteen leading economists, including three Nobel prize winners, argued that the many billions of dollars currently being spent on aid are achieving very little. Why? Because they do not tackle the root causes of poverty and climate change.
We agree with the analysis and are calling for help from experts in the field to help us do work that does tackle the roots of the problem.
In this article, we highlight the key points covered by the Guardian and then ask:
What is an NGO to do?
We're not solving poverty
Development NGOs have locked themselves into a pattern of projects that stimulate a lot of activity, achieve great results on a micro level, but create very little systemic change. This is a huge failing, we were meant to 'make poverty history' as far back as 2005. We haven't and individuals donors (even ours) should be asking why.
A paradigm shift is needed, NGOs can't go on delivering projects that leave the root of the problem unmoved. At TGT we would like to start a programme of work under the title 'Striking at the root'; this is what we need your help with.
The Guardian article, feels like a challenge to the Development NGO sector and we encourage you to read it in full. We have drawn out a few quotes from the piece to highlight the key arguments. We offer up a few perspectives (not a defence) from a small UK Development NGO that enables climate change adaptation in Nepal's mountain villages.
Global poverty remains intractable: more than 4 billion people live on less than the equivalent of $5 (£3.80) a day, and the number of people going hungry has been rising. Important gains have been made in some areas, but many of the objectives set by the millennium development goals – to be reached by 2015 – remain unfulfilled. And this despite hundreds of billions of dollars of aid.
This is an uncomfortable truth, not just for the Development NGOs who have been running projects in the developing world for several decades, but also for their supporters and donors. It begs the question: Why, if we have been giving billions of dollars in aid for over 40 years, are more than half of the world's population still living on less than £3.80 a day?
Aid projects might yield satisfying micro-results, but they generally do little to change the systems that produce the problems in the first place. What we need instead is to tackle the real root causes of poverty, inequality and climate change.
A critique of TGT funded projects, which are by no means unusual in the NGO world, would likely point to this weakness. We have produced numerous very satisfying 'micro-results' especially for those communities we directly engage with. These are very valuable to those who benefit, life changing in some cases, but not not enough. We are doing very little to tackle the root causes.
Donors increasingly want to see more impact for their money, practitioners are searching for ways to make their projects more effective, and politicians want more financial accountability behind aid budgets. One popular option has been to audit projects for results. The argument is that assessing “aid effectiveness” – a buzzword now ubiquitous in the UK’s Department for International Development – will help decide what to focus on.
Aid effectiveness is something we are very aware of. Many TGT projects are education focussed, either through our Higher Education Programmes, or through interventions like Farmer Field Schools and Climate Change awareness. And we of course want to be effective. The success of these sorts of programmes can be measured by metrics such as the number of new crops farmers can grow and sell; our partners report on these regularly. But, aid effectiveness for education programmes can be a little bit intangible, the results are hard to measure and quantify, especially in the short term.
More tangible in the minds as donors are projects that involve installation of physical infrastructure. This is why so many NGOs use fundraising calls such as '£30 a month buys a coffee pulping machine' or '£10 a month provides a rainwater harvesting pond.'
But the real problem with the “aid effectiveness” craze is that it narrows our focus down to micro-interventions at a local level that yield results that can be observed in the short term. At first glance this approach might seem reasonable and even beguiling. But it tends to ignore the broader macroeconomic, political and institutional drivers of impoverishment and underdevelopment. Aid projects might yield satisfying micro-results, but they generally do little to change the systems that produce the problems in the first place. What we need instead is to tackle the real root causes of poverty, inequality and climate change.
It seems impossibly difficult for a small charity like TGT to strike at the root causes of poverty, inequality and climate change, but there are ways to respond as we have previously discussed. We need to work out a way to do it and then bring others along with us in common cause.
What is an NGO to do?
The Glacier Trust will continue to invest in 'micro-interventions'. The race to adapt to climate change is very much upon us, we know that our project work is effective and doing nothing is not an option.
However, we want to go further and need expert help to do this. The Guardian points to the macro-scale structural factors that shape economies and hold people in poverty. The usual narrative we hear to explain this, especially in the global North, is that there are 'corrupt national government officials' who siphon off aid for their own ends or lose it in a maze of bureaucracy. Things are obviously far from squeaky clean in Nepal (or in just about any other nation - rich or poor) when it comes to national governments, but the most damaging, structural, problems are harder to explain and uncover. Numerous vested interests are happy for it to remain that way.
Over decades, as the IMF, WTO and World Bank work with rich nations and multinational companies, trade and aid has been set up to favour the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Indeed, it can be argued that 'poor nations are developing rich ones'.
To date, we have found only found one paper (published in 2010) that outlines Nepal's trade relationships and how structural adjustment programmes have shaped the national economy. Things have moved on and we desperately want to learn more. Please write to us if you can help us develop our understanding further.
We want to design ways to lobby for the sort of structural changes that are needed to systemically challenge the root causes of poverty and inequality in Nepal.
Please share this article and please write to us to get involved with our efforts to 'strike at the root.'
The World Bank released a report last week into the impact that global warming will have on living standards in South Asia.
South Asia’s Hotspots, finds that average temperatures in the region have increased in the last sixty years and will continue rising. Eight hundred million South Asians are at risk to see their standards of living and incomes decline as rising temperatures and more erratic rainfalls will cut down crop yields, make water more scare, and push more people away from their homes to seek safer places. (World Bank, 2018)
This has huge implications for the communities we support in Nepal as we explain below. We urgently need donations to enable us to run climate change adaptation projects in some of Nepal's most remote and vulnerable communities.
You can find out more about the World Bank report and what is happening to address this crisis at worldbank.org/southasiahotspots, via this excellent New York Times article, or by watching this short film.
There a several implications for Nepal and the communities we work with:
- Living conditions in the southern Terai region of Nepal are likely to get harder as temperatures rise. We need to enable citizens living there to adapt to the changing climate. We are currently doing this in Nawalparasi and desperately need to expand our reach.
- Extreme temperatures and intolerable heat in India and Bangladesh may force millions of people to migrate north to cooler environments at higher altitudes. The rural Himalayan communities we work face their own climate change challenges, but in the long run they may become net recipients of migrants. We are strengthening the social fabric and economic prospects of mountain communities, most notably in Solukhumbu.
- Climate change is already impacting weather patterns and growing conditions. Nepal and India trade heavily in agriculture, these patterns may become severely disrupted in the coming decades. Our focus on Agro Forestry means that communities are becoming economically and agriculturally self sufficient. With more funding we can help more people to lift themselves out of poverty through our projects.
This is why our work in Nepal is so important, we are enabling people living in remote mountain communities to adapt now to climate change. Thanks to The Glacier Trust projects, that you fund, thousands of Nepalis are prepared for the impacts of climate change. But we urgently need more money to enable even more vulnerable people to adapt.
Please make a donation if you can.
Here is a little bit about The Singing Glacier from Hercules Editions who have recently published the poetry Helen wrote for the project:
In August 2016, poet Helen Mort, along with composer William Carslake, travelled to south-eastern Greenland to cross the remote glaciers and climb mountains near Sermiligaaq Fjord. They were later joined by filmmaker Richard Jones, and together their responses formed a unique performance with original music, poetry and film footage.
We caught up with Helen via email to find out more about the project:
Morgan Phillips: I'm totally new to The Singing Glacier and your work. So, first things first, please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?
Helen Mort: I'm a poet, fiction writer and teacher - I've been writing since I was a child and poetry is my first love. I teach Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School, Manchester Metropolitan University and find coming into contact with new authors really rewarding. I'm also a keen fell runner, climber and walker who grew up on the edges of the Peak District, so my work has always been concerned with how we respond to landscapes. My second collection 'No Map Could Show Them' (Chatto & Windus, 2016) explored the history of women's mountaineering.
MP: The Singing Glacier is a collaborative project, there is an amazing film, a score and your wonderful poetry. How did it come all come together? Did you set foot on any glaciers yourself?
HM: In 2016, I went climbing in East Greenland along with composer William Carslake and filmmaker Rich Jones. We spent three weeks living beside the calving face of the Knud Rasmussen glacier and would cross the crevasses most days. We were there with Matt and Helen from Pirhuk - a company which leads expeditions in Greenland. We wanted to explore the glacier and get to know its rhythms and we hoped to capture the awe we felt through an interdisciplinary artistic response. While we were there, we were all writing, trying to note down our (often contradictory) impressions of the complex landscape.
MP: How has the project been received so far? Have you had any interesting conversations about it?
HM: We've performed the project live (an orchestral composition for a baroque orchestra along with a poetry reading) on many occasions in many different places and I've now published the poems I wrote as a collection too. I'm fascinated to talk to audience members about their responses. A highlight for me so far has been meeting poet Nancy Campbell who has written extensively about West Greenland.
MP: People seem drawn to glaciers, what do you think it is about a glacier makes it so magnetic? And, what drew you to this project?
HM: I think we need to be faced with the contradictions glaciers present: we feel utterly dwarfed and pointless in the face of them, but we also have to accept that we've had a tremendous impact on their behaviour - that's the strange arrogance of the anthropocene, we're significant and insignificant at the same time.
MP: Glacier melt is inextricably linked to climate change, how do you feel about the changing climate and the impact it is having around the world?
HM: I recently watched Chris Jordan's film 'Albatross' on Worlds Oceans Day and it highlighted the devastating effects human have on ecosystems for me more than any other experience (apart from my trip to Greenland itself). I'd like to get more involved in campaigning to reduce the use of plastic. Writer Horatio Clare is calling on children' magazines to stop featuring plastic toys on their covers and I think that's a really important initiative to support.
MP: Finally, how can people engage with The Singing Glacier? And, what's next for you? Do you have any exciting projects lined up?
HM: If people want to read the poems inspired by East Greenland on the page, they can find out more about my Hercules Editions pamphlet on the Hercules editions website.
You can watch a version of The Singing Glacier below.
Enter the password: Kulusuk.
It is beautiful.
This autumn we will start a new fundraising and school linking partnership with Hong Kong's German Swiss International School (GSIS). Over the next few years, students and teachers will travel from Hong Kong to Nepal to spend a week in Solukhumbu at the Deusa Agro Forestry Resource Centre. The first cohort are due to arrive in Kathmandu in mid October.
The partnership has come about as a result of a connection we made with the former headteacher of GSIS, Mary Peart. Mary has traveled to Nepal many times and visited Deusa with TGT and EcoHimal team last November. Now retired, Mary lives in Scotland, but returned to Hong Kong at the beginning of June to see old friends and visit GSIS. While she was there she caught up with the students and teachers who will be coming to Nepal.
Mary reported back to us:
On 4 June I met with the 12 students and two teachers from my former school, the German Swiss International School (GSIS), Hong Kong, who will be travelling to Deusa in October to visit the AFRC. Despite the challenging journey and very basic conditions I described to them, the students are excited at the unique opportunity they will have to see the work of the AFRC as well as to engage with the local community. The group will stay at the AFRC and will be actively involved in seasonal work there as well as constructing bio-intensive plots and learning a variety of local skills.
The students are fortunate to have this opportunity as a result of the partnership agreed between GSIS and The Glacier Trust. In the first of what we hope will be a successful fund-raising model, the students will raise funds for TGT for a minimum of two years and in return, in addition to the trip, TGT will keep the school up-dated on the project and provide case-study and other teaching materials.
We are preparing the visit very carefully to ensure that both the GSIS students and their counterparts in Deusa, get a fresh perspective on how life is lived around the world. Both rural Nepal and urban Hong Kong have challenges and opportunities for young people. These are vastly different environments where the lives people live are extremely different. Bringing students together in this way is a fantastic chance to explore previously held assumptions, challenge stereotypes and develop solidarity. The contrasts between life in Hong Kong and life in Deusa will be stark.
Firstly, the schools look quite different:
Then there are the roads, this is a particularly bad stretch on the track from Salleri to Deusa and the sort of highway that runs through the centre of Hong Kong:
Finally, here is what being 'down by the water' means in Deusa and Hong Kong:
Mary is raising funds for The Glacier Trust as part of this linking partnership. She is aiming 'bag' six Munro's in Torridon, Scotland. You can sponsor Mary via her fundraising page.
Meanwhile, stay tuned for more news on this partnership and please get in touch if your school might be interested in organising a similar link with a school in Nepal.
We've been encouraging supporters in our network to do sponsored challenges for us and it is paying off!
Off the back of the 'Around the Grounds' challenge that saw Glyn and Adam raise over £1,000 for TGT, there are five more fundraising pages live at the moment. To celebrate this, we thought we'd give you a quick rundown!
First up, this weekend Guto Edwards will be running the Cheltenham Challenge. It is a cross country half marathon in what promises to be hot and humid conditions. Guto is raising money for TGT and LATCH, the Welsh Children's Cancer Charity. He has so far raised £500 and hopes to raise £750 by the end of the weekend.
Second, we have Mary Peart. Mary is a retired headteacher and is volunteering with TGT to help us organise a partnership between her former school GSIS Hong Kong and pupils at Deusa Secondary school in Solukhumbu. As part of the partnership, pupils, teachers and ex-headteachers(!) are raising funds for our project work in Deusa! Mary, who now lives in Scotland is aiming to 'bag' six Munro's in Torridon! Mary is aiming for £500 and is already up to £120!
Dan Old - Purposeful.Money
Purposeful.Money exists to help raise awareness of the problems facing people and the planet, and to help solve them through the ‘better’ use of money. One of their co-founders, Dan Old, is setting out on a 100 km walk, the Jurassic Coast Challenge! The challenge takes place on July 22nd and Dan is walking as part of a team who are aiming to raise £1,000!
John is a former Keep Britain Tidy colleague of our Co-Director Morgan. He's doing a brilliant challenge to celebrate turning 60. It's called Sixty at Sixty! He has been getting up to all sorts of things already, most recently he did the Great North Swim in Lake Windermere! John is raising money for several causes and we're delighted that he's chosen The Glacier Trust as one of these!
Owen, Andy and Morgan
Last September, Morgan led a team of five cyclists at the inaugural Velo Birmingham. This year, he is heading to the brand new Velo South to take on another 100 mile cycling challenge with his good friends Andy Hillier and Owen Matthews. They'll start promoting their challenge very soon, but the page is open now if anyone wants to take the honour of being the first to sponsor this year's #TeamTGT!
We've got two more people lined up to take on sponsored challenges and we'll be announcing them soon. But, it you've been inspired by these stories, you could be the next person to take on a 'bespoke challenge' to raise funds for our important work in Nepal!