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This $1 million climate prize went to organizations you wouldn’t expect

Instead of the obvious clean energy startups, this competition funded by the estate of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry is helping to fund projects that end food waste or support women’s rights.

This $1 million climate prize went to organizations you wouldn’t expect
[Source Image: Maxger/iStock]

On the top 10 list of climate solutions in Project Drawdown, a project that studies the most effective ways to tackle global warming, some are obvious, like wind turbines and solar farms. A new competition highlights four solutions that are more unexpected: educating girls, women’s rights, reducing food waste, and eating less meat.

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[Photo: KadAfrica]
“Really, the motivation is to let the world know that there are other ways of thinking about climate change,” says Lior Ipp, CEO of the Roddenberry Foundation (the foundation endowed by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry), which awarded four organizations $250,000 each today as winners of its biennial Roddenberry Prize. “We need to expand the range in which we think about it. This isn’t just going to be solar panels or solar farms or electric cars. These other issues are really important. And by the way, they’re important in their own right. This is what attracted us to this idea as well. We should be investing in girls’ education and women’s rights regardless of whether it has an impact on the environment.”

[Photo: VoteRunLead]

Four organizations won:

In part, the foundation wanted to highlight how much climate action is possible now–without waiting for breakthroughs in technology or relying on governments to adopt better policy. And some of the most pivotal actions can be done on an individual scale, like reducing food waste and eating less meat.

[Photo: The Green Monday Foundation]

“I think one of the challenges in the climate space is that people feel that there’s nothing they can do individually–sure, I can do some recycling and don’t have to buy a Hummer, but what difference will my contributions make?” says Ipp. “And there’s a sense of despair. Part of that is driven by the discourse in the climate space–people have been talking about the climate issue in terms of the apocalyptic end of the world.”

[Photo: WRAP]

That apocalyptic stance, he says, isn’t conducive to action, especially if people who might otherwise care are convinced that the world is ending no matter what they do. The prize aims to highlight what’s working, and what needs to scale up. “I think what we need is a more positive narrative that there are in fact things that all of us can do, and guess what, they’re really impactful,” says Ipp.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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