SAN FRANCISCO – Earlier this month Sierra Club announced the organization’s first ever “Green Energy & Green Livelihoods Achievement Award” winners for India. The new award recognizes community initiatives to promote green economic development, adaptation of renewable energy alternatives and organizational leadership in a grassroots environmental campaign. The award represents Sierra Club’s growing interest in building international partnerships to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Two organizations share the award this year. Ecosphere Spiti, from mountainous Himachal Pradesh, has successfully created sustainable livelihoods linked to conservation and ecotourism. And the Barefoot College in Rajasthan, led by social entrepreneur Bunker Roy, has applied practical, traditional knowledge and community-owned sustainable technology to reach the poorest residents of the impoverished desert state. Each award comes with a $40,000 prize and a trophy to be presented during a ceremony in Mumbai on July 30th.
Praising Ecosphere Spiti, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said, “We set out on this path more than a century ago by promoting conservation awareness through mountain outings in the United States. We are delighted to recognize Ecosphere Spiti because it so clearly shares our own ideals for protecting a nation’s cultural and natural heritage for future generations.”
The 117-year-old Sierra Club, best known for its dual focus of outdoor adventure and civic engagement, also announced a unique association with the legendary Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) based in Gujarat. Both organizations are democratically structured, serve large grassroots memberships and focus on public education. The groups will explore SEWA’s social and economic development programs as an avenue for informing Americans about the challenges associated with climate change adaptation in India. SEWA will receive a $20,000 gift from the Sierra Club for its celebrated service to its network of underprivileged working women.
"It is a great honor for Ecosphere to be the joint recipient of the Sierra Award alongside the likes of Barefoot College,” said Ishita Khanna, President, Ecosphere Spiti. “We are extremely thrilled and pleased since this is the first time the Sierra Club has instituted an award of this nature in India. It really motivates us to try and attempt to emulate what the Sierra Club has successfully achieved over more than a 100 years. It will indeed be a long journey; however, it is highly inspiring for us to learn that the Sierra Club sees the seeds of their own beginnings in Ecosphere."
Sierra Club International Programs Director Stephen Mills had equally effusive praise for the Barefoot College. “As much as we are interested in sharing resources and supporting environmental leadership in India we have also come to listen and learn,” Mills said. “We believe that much of the important energy and environmental work happening now in India has exciting applications in the U.S. Bunker Roy’s amazing record of teaching a community’s most disadvantaged members to become solar engineers is a prime example. We are not the first, and we will not be the last to recognize this astonishingly scalable and replicable model for creating green livelihoods.”
“We are delighted, honored and humbled by this award,” said Bunker Roy. “The recognition is to Mahatma Gandhi, ‘The Last Man’ who has shown the simple way of how to respect the Earth.”
“It seems fitting that one of the Sierra Club’s first steps in India is to recognize a group that reminds us of our own beginnings and coincidentally my birthplace,” said Pritpal Singh Kochhar, a long time Sierra Club Outings trip leader from New York, commenting on the award to Ecosphere Spiti. “Though the Himalayas are somewhat taller than the Sierra Nevada, both mountain ranges are threatened by climate change.”
The Sierra Club’s Carl Pope recognized several Sierra Club supporters as most responsible for leading the organization’s outreach in India, a new product of the organization’s multifaceted Climate Recovery Agenda.
“Without a doubt, this timely new program would never have come about were it not for the tireless efforts in of Sunil Deshmukh, Sadhana Shenoy, Pritpal Singh Kochhar, Sanjay Ranchod, Dr. Mohan Durve, Anil Deshpande, our friends at the American India Foundation, and my wife Shahnaz, a Mumbaiker herself. Volunteers are the backbone of the Sierra Club,” Pope continued. “In this case they were also the brains, the feet, the arms, the legs, and the heart.”
“For more than 100 years the members of the Sierra Club have harnessed public demand for conservation and for reducing natural resource consumption in the United States. But neither America nor India can win the battle against climate change alone,” said Sadhana Shenoy of Portland, Oregon and a founding member of the Sierra Club’s India Advisory Council. “We must share resources and do this together.”
“I joined the Sierra Club because they are advocating so vociferously for U.S. emissions reductions, for global agreements that address climate equity or for increased international funding for climate adaptation and mitigation,” said Sunil Deshmukh, a Miami, Florida Sierra Club member and a driving force behind the organization’s outreach to India. “Our citizens must lead so our governments will follow,” he continued.
A ceremony for the award winners will be held at the Ravindra Natya Mandir auditorium in Mumbai on Thursday, July 30th. The Chief Guest will be Dr. B.L. Mungekar, a member of the Planning Commission of the Government of India. CNN / IBN Environmental Editor Bahar Dutt will be the guest emcee. The event is open to the public. To attend, please contact FTC Events: firstname.lastname@example.org