Celebrating World Water Day Every Day!

by Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director 

World Water Day is an important day in a long list of significant calendar dates, sharing the same week with International Day of Happiness, International Day of Forests, and The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. For those organizations that work with water, we know how critical it truly is as an element and necessity of all life on this planet. “Agua es vida, or water is life;” that simple yet profound phrase is uttered in communities across the Americas that have less water than most. It’s a statement and a refrain that captures the full awareness of the delicate nature of life and our total dependence on this one element.

At Trees, Water & People, we seek to expand on that awareness through programs that support enhanced water access in communities throughout Central America and the US. This year in Central America, our efforts with water will focus on rainwater catchment tanks in the Cordillera (mountain range) de Montecillos in the highlands of central Honduras. Our local counterparts, CEASO (Center for Teaching and Learning Sustainable Agriculture) were assisted by several TWP work trip participants this past January. CEASO’s philosophy towards water is holistic and profound; they see the importance of the forests, the soil, and the other elements existing in a balanced cycle that keeps our natural world healthy and able to support rural communities.

Rainwater tank
Work tour participants worked together with CEASO to complete a rainwater catchment tank!

In El Salvador, a country ravaged by deforestation, our counterparts at Árboles y Agua para el Pueblo diligently work to keep their nursery humming with new plants, which will go towards diversifying a smallholder plot or anchoring trees and their roots to a critical watershed. In Guatemala, our partners at Utz Che look to build rural resilience and increased access to water for marginalized indigenous and campesino communities in all of the geographic zones of the country.

La Bendición, our special exchange community that has hosted two recent TWP work trips, seeks to find solutions for their water woes by capitalizing on the old coffee plantation infrastructure that they hope can be transformed to provide the community with more robust water security during the dry season. Here in Managua, work continues at NICFEC, the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy, and Climate, which will serve as a demonstration center for best practices and methods to maximize water conservation and soil management for sustainable agriculture in a changing environment that is projected to see fewer rains in the future.

La Bendición
Community members of La Bendición working to repair old coffee plantation infrastructure to increase their water security.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the region, there are additional stark reminders of the critical importance of water. México City continues to sink due to continued overdrawing of its aquifers, the number of planned resorts for Costa Rica´s booming Guanacaste region is in jeopardy due to a lack of available water, and here in Nicaragua, the land of the large freshwater lakes, many communities south of Managua face an acute shortage of water and virtual dependence on water distribution trucks.

In the United States, TWP stands with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Over this past winter, we provided off-grid solar heaters and generators to provide warmth and energy to the protest camps. These camps are the frontline resistance in a struggle for critical water and natural resource sovereignty. All of our strategic partners are focused on water, and we at TWP are striving to find ways to boost our water-related projects as we continue to hear how critically important it is for the survival of our communities.

Examples abound across the globe, and these stories of water stress are reminders that we must continue to focus our efforts on conservation, education, and innovation to stem the looming water crisis. If you would like to support these Central American communities protect and improve their water resources, please donate today!

Give here

Notes from the Field: Summer Update from Tribal Lands

Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE) and Trees, Water & People (TWP) are continuing our efforts to help Native American communities move towards energy independence. This week we are conducting a solar air heater workshop and installing ten solar air heating systems for the Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe in northeast South Dakota. The training is teaching twelve tribal members about the uses of solar energy and how to install the energy saving solar heating systems. These solar heaters push the number of total systems the LSE/TWP team has built and installed for tribal families to more than 1,000 systems. Additionally, the vast majority of these systems made at the LSE manufacturing facility at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

FullSizeRender
Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe members installing a solar air heater during a training with Lakota Solar Enterprises and Trees, Water & People.

 

It is also the first major installation of our new Off-Grid Solar Heaters, which now operate solely on solar power! Heat is provided even if the grid goes off, as it is apt to do all across Native American Reservations. After this training is completed, the tribe has discussed getting 21 more systems and will use their trained workforce to get them installed.

Next, LSE will be taking down the old defunct wind turbine tower at the Kili Radio Station on Pine Ridge. Friends will install a new 10 kW Bergey wind turbine there in September, and a bit later Henry and the LSE crew will install another 6 kW solar electric array. A few years ago LSE installed a 5 kW solar electric array there, as well as one of their solar air heaters. Together, this should reduce the Radio stationed huge electric and heating bills by more than half.

IMG_0550 - Copy
Henry Red Cloud (left) leads a solar panel installation training at the Kili Radio Station in 2013.

Training and demonstrations like these are possible because of you, our supporters! Your contribution helps build job skills for Native Americans while also reducing CO2 emissions. Please donate today to keep programs like these going into the future.

donate button

Henry Red Cloud Wins the 2012 Energy Globe World Award!

Photo by Energy Globe 2012

The 2012 Energy Globe World Award was presented to Henry Red Cloud today at an award ceremony in Vienna, Austria. Mr. Red Cloud, owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises, was presented with the 17-kilo bronze statue in honor of his project “A Better Future through Natural Power Energy “, which was also the winning project in the category of Youth.

Award nominees from 14 different countries were in attendance at the award ceremony in the grand ceremonial hall of the city hall in Vienna, Austria, on 13 September 2012. Thrilled with excitement they looked forward to the announcement of the final winners in the categories of Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Youth.

“Through renewable energy, we can provide sustainable, environmentally friendly, economically beneficial, and culturally acceptable solutions that improve the quality of life for Native Americans, while protecting and honoring Mother Earth” said Henry Red Cloud.

Thanks to prominent supporters such as Kofi Annan, several presidents of the EU Parliament and EU Commission, EU environmental ministers, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNEP, and celebrities such as Martin Sheen, Aamir Khan, and Alanis Morissette, the Energy Globe Awards have become a global beacon for environmental awareness and sustainable actions.  With 151 participating countries this is the world’s biggest and most important environmental platform.  Since 1999, over 6,000 projects have been submitted but only 12 top Global World Awards have been presented.

Richard Fox, long-time friend of Henry Red Cloud and Executive Director of Trees, Water & People (TWP), said “This is a tribute to the great work of Henry Red Cloud, but also to the whole Lakota Solar Enterprise team and to all the Native Americans who have strived to blaze a path to understanding true sustainability and the importance of building green jobs and moving their tribes towards energy independence.”

Together with Henry, TWP runs the Tribal Renewable Energy Program, which puts the power of nature — the warmth of the sun, the power of the wind, the shelter of trees — to work for Native Americans. Working with reservation communities, TWP builds and installs supplemental solar air heaters for families in need, provides green job training to tribes around the country, and plants windbreak and shade trees around homes. These solutions are sustainable, economically beneficial, environmentally friendly, and celebrate the Native Americans’ respect for Mother Earth.

Learn more about the Energy Globe Award here: http://www.energyglobe.info

Yellow Hair Family to Receive Solar Air Heater and New Pallet Home

Solar Air Heater
TWP’s Solar Air Heaters, like the one pictured here at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, reduce a family’s monthly utility bill by 20-30% for up to 25 years.

Thanks to TWP’s supporters on Causes.com, we far surpassed our $2,800 fundraising goal to provide solar air heaters to Native American families. To date, we have raised nearly $7,000 from 322 donors!  With these funds we will provide three different Native American families with solar air heating systems, giving them free, clean heat for years and years to come.

Walter and Alison Yellow Hair
Walter and Alison Yellow Hair watch the construction of their new house on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

The Yellow Hairs are one of these families.  Right now, our partner organization, Earth Tipi, in partnership with Texas Natural Builders, is constructing Walter and Alison Yellow Hair a new pallet home from reclaimed materials.  This new, sustainable house will provide much better protection from, and insulation against, the harsh South Dakota winters than their current mobile home, which was originally headed for the dump when they inherited it.  With huge holes in its walls, such a poor structure can be deadly in the extreme weather of the Great Plains.  We believe that every family is deserving of dignified and comfortable housing that is properly heated and we are so lucky to have supporters who feel the same way.

Now, Walter and Alison will enjoy a new home and a new source of clean, free heat with a TWP solar air heater.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the fundraiser and helped make a significant improvement in Walter and Alison’s lives!  Your contributions mean so much to the Native American families who are struggling each day to survive. Stay tuned to learn more about the other families who will receive solar heaters.

Interested in contributing to the building of Walter and Alison’s new home? Please click here to learn more about how you can help!

Click here to join the Solar Energy for Lakota Families cause on Facebook and help us spread the word about solar energy for Native American families living on tribal lands.

Notes from the Field: The Gift of Heat, The Preservation of Culture

Lacey GaechterBy Lacey Gaechter, Assistant National Director

Pine Ridge, South Dakota

“The heater works great,” says Leonard Littlefinger of the solar heater that Trees, Water & People supporters donated to his Lakota language school. Our partner, Henry Red Cloud, installed the heater in the school’s meeting room, which Leonard said came in handy this winter as he consulted with tribal elders who are helping him establish his curriculum’s vocabulary and grammar. In Leonard’s words, the heater “did the trick.” “It just quietly did its job,” he added, “you know, when you get to be our age, you need a good heater.”

Leonard is the founder of the Sacred Hoop (Cangle’ska Waka’n: “chan-GLAY-shka wah-KAHN”) School, which is a part of the efforts on the Pine Ridge Reservation to preserve traditional Lakota culture. Part of learning a language, says Leonard, is understanding the way a society’s culture is integrated into its words. For instance, the Lakota word for hoop carries with it undertones of “the circle of life”. It is for this reason that Leonard chose the word hoop instead of circle for his school’s name.

The Sacred Hoop School’s first group of students is scheduled to arrive this June. Currently, Leonard is finalizing his curriculum with, as he puts it, “the combined knowledge of over 500 years of Lakota language and culture” between himself and the other elders. At this inaugural two-week immersion program, Lakota students, parents, and siblings will be invited to bring traditional language back into their home.

Leonard is truly a leader in his community and has been selected for an honorary Doctorate of Humanities from the College of Mount Saint Joseph in Ohio, where he is delivering this May’s commencement address. We hope all Trees, Water & People supporters take the same pride that we do in playing a small role in the amazing endeavor of preserving the Lakota language.

To learn more about TWP’s Tribal Lands Renewable Energy Program please visit http://treeswaterpeople.org/tribal/tribal_intro.htm .

Help Raise Funds for Straw Bale Homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation

The Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota, has a major housing crisis. It is common place to have Lakota families living in conditions of extreme overcrowding, with 3 to 4 families inhabiting one three-bedroom home. Many of the families have no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewage systems; and many use wood stoves to heat their homes, depleting limited wood resources. The Lakota people are living in third world conditions, right in our own backyard!

Straw bale Home + Solar Heat = Sustainability

In partnership with Henry Red Cloud, Pine Ridge resident and owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises, we are working to bring sustainable housing solutions to reservation communities and we need your help!  We will begin by constructing a straw bale demonstration site at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), complete with solar heating and lighting. This demonstration site will be a place to conduct workshops, share knowledge, and pass on green building skills throughout Indian Country.  This will be the beginning of a long-term project to bring 600 straw bale houses to the Pine Ridge Reservation, providing families with dignified living conditions that every human being deserves.  Please join us in this effort and consider a donation to this important fundraiser.

How can you help? Make a donation, share this with a friend, donate your birthday (click here to learn how), join us for a FREE straw bale home workshop on Pine Ridge.

Donate Button

Notes from the Field: A New Class of Solar Warriors

By Lacey Gaechter, Assistant National Director

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Lands Program, a record 16 trainees from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe completed a ten day solar air heater installation training with our partner Henry Red Cloud. Henry traveled to Lame Deer, Montana to instruct the students in assembly and installation of solar heater kits. In addition, each trainee received a solar air heater for their family home. One of the new “Solar Warriors,” Landon Means, has been interested in renewable energy for years after growing up with his father employed by the Pea Body Coal Mine.  Landon says of the mine, “It looks like an energy intensive way to get energy. I think there’s a better way. There has to be a better way.” Landon and his cousin Kale are among the renewable energy enthusiasts now working with Trees, Water & People to develop their own sustainable livelihoods on their reservations. They both plan to attend Henry’s upcoming straw bale demonstration and hopefully his radiant heating demonstration this fall.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Trees, Water & People could not provide these life-altering trainings without the support of our sponsors and donors. Thank you for your support, and a special thanks to the National Wildlife Federation!

For more information about TWP’s Tribal Lands Renewable Energy Program please visit http://treeswaterpeople.org/tribal/tribal_intro.htm

Proud Solar Warriors (Photo Courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation)