First Runners Up
The Awareness and Community Engagement Campaign across Pakistan for Environmental Protection through a blended digital and offline approach
This amazing team from Pakistan ran the winners extremely close: expect to hear more in the future from these high-flying, young women, Saira Ahmad and Samar Hasan who led a campaign to raise awareness and engage communities across Pakistan about climate change.
The Sohni Dharti campaign included an open competition encouraging people to submit their own videos illustrating the effects of climate change: resulting in some classics - check them out on their Facebook page.
Samar and Saira were also expert at building links with the other alumni teams from across the region and even showcasing the other alumni projects on their site.
There were 3 teams from Pakistan who all did their country proud and on a different day any of them could have been winners. A special mention has to go to Team WIRE, represented by Fatima, Durre and Umar who ran a full weekend bootcamp for women working in renewable energy. They collaborated with the Sohni Dharti team too and it was fabulous to see the spirit of partnership. If you'd like to follow or support WIRE here's the link.
Last but by no means least were the team from Pakistan with their biogas project where they trained and equipped farmers to use biogas slurry as organic fertilizer to improve vegetable farming yields and reduce the use of chemicals. Fawad, Riaz, Mukhtar and Muhammad - great guys making great impact.
Well, three winners actually. The competition was intense and the quality was amazing, making the judging one of the hardest tasks I and the other judges have ever had. Every team here had done amazing work but in the end the top spot went to the team from the Bandarban Hill District of Bangladesh who had been fighting to stop illegal stone extraction which was drying up the rivers and threatening biodiversity as well as the livelihoods of local indigenous people.
They were pitted against powerful local syndicates they had to battle in the courts, as well as educating and winning over the local community. Their struggle is far from over but the extra funds and the chance to make new connections at the Climate Reality event will help. Truly worthy winners.
In the next posts I'll cover the two runners up plus some more on Bhutan itself - possibly the most beautiful little country in the world.
Bhutan is clearly a good place to be an animal: even the numerous stray dogs in central Thimphu are happy and fat thanks to the locals' propensity to feed and protect them.
It also does an incredible job of nurturing biodiversity by putting in place wildlife corridors between the protected areas that cover 72% of its land to allow animals like Bengali tigers, snow leopards and (wow, you really are a real animal!) takins to roam the length and breadth of the country.
The most recent National Tiger Survey in 2015 counted 103 tigers, which is critically important given that 90% of global tiger habitat has been lost, and the expanding illegal wildlife trade is worth 20-40 billions of dollars a year.
Happiness is a serious business in this country ’’
Learning about Gross National Happiness and 'development with values' has been the ideal backdrop for an event about taking effective climate action. Even some confirmed cynics in our number have been visibly moved by GNH and have seen how it can serve as an inspiration and a tool to shape better policy.
Tomorrow is pitch day when the 14 teams have 3 minutes each to convince the judges that they should be the ones to win extra project funding and the opportunity to come to Brisbane next June to be trained by Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader.
I'll be highlighting the winning teams' projects in the next few posts, as well as sharing the secrets of Bhutan's magic teapots!
We will fly very close to the mountains. Do not be alarmed, this is quite normal''
Welcome to the new Pomegranate blog, where I'll be sharing thoughts and tips on how to accelerate action to tackle climate change, examples of breakthroughs and progress, plus any other interesting snippets I come across.
This week the action is in Thimphu, Bhutan where I'm running a climate action workshop for Australia Awards alumni from 7 countries across South and West Asia Regional Alumni Workshop: Australia Awards alumni as Champions for the Environment and Climate Change.
The Land of the Thunder Dragon is still one of the harder places to reach on the planet, partly due to geography, tucked away as it is in the Eastern Himalayas just below Tibet, and partly due to its policy of charging tourists US$250 a day to enter. Bhutan famously pursues a development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than just chasing the almighty GDP dollar, recognising that humans need more than just material wealth to thrive, making this the perfect place for our workshop this week.
GNH is based on the idea that happiness can only come if you look after people and your natural environment at the same time, leading Bhutan to enshrine in its constitution a commitment to remaining carbon neutral for all time. Clearly if the rest of the world took a similar approach we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now but it's never too late to start emulating this seriously enlightened approach. If you'd like to learn more about this unique Buddhist kingdom a great starting point is this TED talk by Tshering Tobgay, the former PM.
The teams here this week will be showcasing the environmental projects they've been working on all year: ranging from a renewable energy bootcamp run by women for women in Pakistan, to new systems to alert authorities to natural disasters in Bangladesh by turning ordinary people into walking alarm systems. I'll cover some of the highlights, as well as insights from some of the great work being done by the World Wildlife Fund and Bhutan for Life. Stay tuned!
Tips and ideas
Read our chapter on climate action in 'No Going Back: Exploring new Horizons in International Education', the new free book on the future of international education.