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Could climate change leadership shift to Evanston?

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Now that the United States has abdicated its worldwide leadership on climate change, could that action shift now to the headquarters of Rotary International in downtown Evanston?

With more than 35,000 clubs operating in more countries than are members of the United Nations, dedicated to the new theme, beginning July 1, of “Making a Difference,” there is every reason to expect Rotary to pick up the mantle that was so dramatically discarded yesterday by President Donald Trump in pulling out of the Paris Accord on climate change.

Rotary has demonstrated its competence in tackling big challenges by its efforts, now nearly complete, in wiping out the scourge of polio on the planet, and a shift to climate change, which affects virtually every country in the world, is a new challenge that is made to order for its 1.2 million members.

And with help from leaders like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who is a speaker at Rotary’s annual convention this month in Atlanta, there is every reason to believe that the Evanston-based organization could pull it off.

Each club has an international service committee whose mission is to “do good in the world,” and the ability to make a difference is perfectly suited to that mission.

The incoming president of Rotary, Ian H. S. Risely of Victoria, Australia, used climate change as an example for a club service project when he addressed Rotary’s district leaders in February.

“Environmental degradation and climate change,” he said, “threaten us all. It is having a disproportionate impact on those who are most vulnerable—those to whom Rotary has the greatest responsibility.”

He urged each club to plant at least one tree per member, between the beginning of the next Rotary year on July 1 and Earth Day on April 22, 2018.

But that was when the United States was still leading the global effort. Now that our country has discarded that responsibility, it will be interesting to see what the leaders of Rotary have to say at their upcoming convention, June 10-14 in Atlanta.

Risely, who, like his predecessors, lives in a Rotary-owned condominium in Evanston during his two years as president-elect and president, is likely to address the topic in Atlanta.

And we’ll get a chance to hear him locally when he returns to Evanston, as he is slated to address the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse on July 18, during the first month of his presidential year.

In the meantime, a spokesperson for Rotary International said Friday that, with the. Atlanta convention just days away, neither the staff nor elected officials were available to comment .

Charles Bartling is a member and a past president of the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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