Every two years The Roddenberry Foundation, launched by the family of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, provides $1 million dollars to organizations that help tackle climate change. And while most foundations look towards clean energy to solve this problem, the Roddenberry team have opened their minds to solutions most overlook.
The Roddenberry Prize crowd-sources solutions for the largest issue plaguing our planet. Through the prize, the foundation aims to highlight how much action can be done now–without waiting for advancements in technology or other far-off solutions. The goal is to help people understand that the most impactful actions can be done by each of us, like eating less meat and reducing food waste.
Yesterday, The Roddenberry Foundation awarded four organizations $250,000 each as winners of its 2018 Roddenberry Prize. The $1 million prize focuses on food waste, plant-rich diets, girls’ education, and women’s rights —all generally underfunded and often overlooked for their impact on climate change.
This years prize was inspired by Project Drawdown, whose rankings indicate that access to quality education coupled with gender equity, food waste reduction, and plant-rich diets have the greatest potential to reduce climate change —even more than switching to solar, electric, or wind energy.
The four 2018 Roddenberry Prize winners are:
- Green Monday Foundation, which has successfully shifted 1.6 million people in Hong Kong to adopt a plant-based diet at least one day per week.
- Waste and Resources Action Programme, that created the “Love Food Hate Waste” campaign to reduce food waste by 21% in the UK, saving more than £13 billion.
- KadAfrica, building resilient farming communities in Uganda centered around the training and empowerment of young women ages 14-20.
- VoteRunLead, which is the largest and most diverse campaign and leadership program in the United States with more than 33,000 women trained to run for office.
In addition to the four awardees, the Foundation has also recognized several top-ranked organizations as Prize Finalists, including the Good Food Institute and the World Resources Institute. The awardees were selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants from 59 counties by a committee of 12 distinguished NGO leaders, academics, thought leaders, and social entrepreneurs.
“We were interested in a climate initiative but wanted to find a different/unique angle (one less focused on traditional solutions like green tech) and in Project Drawdown’s findings we discovered the outsized impact food waste, plant-rich diets, women’s ed, and girls’ education had on climate change. We realized that if this was news to us, which it was, it might be to others, particularly those in the field and to other funders, and that connecting the dots between these 4 issues and climate was critical.” – Lior Ipp, CEO of The Roddenberry Foundation
Ipp said they wanted to use a different tone and language for this initiative, as it was important to move away from the fear mongering, apocalyptic language traditionally used in the climate conversation. Using the Drawdown data allowed them to focus on something positive. Which is that there are solutions to the crisis and they’re accessible now.
In discussing the prize with Drawdown, the Roddenberry team were further convinced that the utility of a prize like this was in raising awareness of the these four issue areas and their impact on the climate. They accomplished this through a social media campaign in parallel with the prize. Unlike wind turbines or solar farms, “everyday” people can do something about food waste or eating plant rich diets. It’s immediate, it’s relatively easy, and most importantly it has potential (at scale) to have great impact.
The 12 judges and their organizations (Global Fund for Women, Equality Now, Care, United Nations Foundation, etc.) have been very helpful in spreading the word on social media. The Roddenberry team is hoping to inspire similar organizations to begin to articulate their work through the lens of climate change.
Interestingly, the judges ended up selecting four organizations that were relatively small (less than $5 million budgets), compared to many of the other applicants whose budgets were closer to $50 million and who represented more traditional NGOs.
The key takeaway to all of this is simple. Climate change is rapidly intensifying, and all too often the conversation veers towards energy solutions. While understandable at first, it seems crazy when you realize that agriculture is far and away that largest contributor to deforestation, water consumption, emissions, etc. That’s like addressing obesity through exercise instead of focusing on diet. Both are important, but one far outweighs the other.