Peace Corps Volunteers serve around the globe, working in local communities to drive change from the ground up. In celebration of Earth Day, I talk with three RPCVs about their service and the environment. From droughts in Tanzania, to rising seas in Kiribati, to receding glaciers in Georgia, these volunteers saw the impacts of climate change first hand.
Photos from Michael’s Story
Photos from Kate’s Story
Describe the environmental conditions you found yourself in:
Michael Roman, Kiribati 2000-2002 – Kiribati is one of the first nations predicted to vanish as a result of global climate change. When I was there the first time (have been going back to work with the nation since 2004) prolonged drought, a king tide, and salinization of fresh water wells were already occurring.
Kate Schachter, Georgia 2016-2017 – I lived in Kutaisi, the second largest city in the country. The weather was what I call “Philadelphia weather,” because if it snowed, it would generally melt within a day or two. However, housing conditions were cold due to lack of insulation and no central heating. Environmentally, Georgia was having significant issues with flood control. Glaciers in the Greater Caucasus Mountains were melting at an alarming rate, feeding the 26,000 rivers in the country as they flowed into the Rioni River to the west and the Black Sea, or the Mtkvari River to the east through Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea.
What impact were you able to have with your work?
Michael – I think the country had a greater impact on me than I did on them. It started a lifelong mission to help the country. Still, am doing it today. Was propositioned to help them at the UN just yesterday.
Kate – An impact I’m especially proud of was working with the Students for Energy Efficiency (S4EE), a group of university students who were committed to reaching out to middle and high school-age youth to teach them energy efficiency habits and techniques. The group was started by Spectri about a year before my arrival. S4EE was engaged in Black Sea region network of other youth groups focused on the environment, and I presented at and participated in a multi-day networking conference of people from Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. I shared information on US models of alternative energy cooperatives, volunteerism in the US, and strategic planning processes.
What are positive actions you think anyone can take to make a difference?
Micheal – Learn about endangered human populations. Act not, for the goal of money or convenience, but for the goal of saving humanity. Get to know people (face to face) next door neighbors would be a great and easy start. … the one that everyone knows… live simply so others can simply live. Learn more about Humans of Kiribati.
Kate – Work with local schools or youth groups on awareness activities. Call or email your legislators. Testify at city council meetings on legislation to protect your local environment. Challenge businesses to take action and show commitment. Become an active participant in a local organization (350.org, Citizens Climate Lobby, Elders Climate Action, so many more). Start a local organization if it doesn’t exist. Spread the word, raise the alarm level. Of course, if you are an RPCV, join the RPCVs for Environmental Action and learn from each other, sharing techniques. Together, let’s make a difference!
How did the climate of your country of service shape your experience?
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