Visionary of the Year
Each year, we here at the Euphrates Institute are pleased to honor those who inspire us to do this better through our annual “Euphrates Visionary of the Year” award. The Visionary of the Year is someone who “makes the impossible, possible, and the idealistic, realistic,” says Euphrates founder Janessa Gans Wilder. In 2011, we were moved by the compassionate, peaceful, spiritual vision of a Palestinian peacebuilder whom we met in Bethlehem, Sami Awad.
VISIONARY OF THE YEAR 2014
This year, Euphrates is honoring the sustainability guru, TH Culhane, who has brought practical sustainable solutions to some of the world’s poorest urban areas.
T.H. Culhane is a Middle East sustainability expert/inventor/innovator, and a truly groundbreaking thought-leader. He has taken his skills of invention and ingenuity to bring sustainable projects, such as solar water heaters and biogas digesters, to the poorest of the poor in the Middle East and other developing countries, enabling them to capture natural resources and waste to power their basic needs.
The Rivertowns Enterprise say “Culhane, who is based in both Irvington and Essen, Germany, where he lives with his wife Sybille Fruetel and two children, Kilian Aurelius, 5, and Ava Luna, 1, spends much of his time crisscrossing the globe spreading the good news about sustainable energy solutions.”
A National Geographic Explorer, T.H. Culhane has traveled the world transforming lives and our planet. Euphrates first encountered T.H. abroad in Israel/Palestine, where he was working with Palestinian Bedouin communities to install biogas digesters to use their animal waste and food scraps to generate cooking fuel, and also presenting his work on solar projects to the renowned Arava Institute in Israel. He’s also worked in the slums in Egypt, and the favelas in Brazil, and many other places! A featured speaker at the Euphrates Summit in 2011, T.H. wowed participants with his ingenuity and passion.
His nongovernmental organization, Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S., works with residents of Cairo’s poorest neighborhoods to install rooftop solar water heaters. Culhane described to National Geographic, “The water heaters generate 200 liters of hot water and 200 liters of cold water for each household every day. ‘And since the technology is completely CO2 free, it contributes nothing to global warming. If people don’t have access to enough water, it becomes a serious health issue. And when women spend all their time tending stoves to heat water, they how can they go to school or get ahead?” Culhane and his wife even moved to an apartment in the Cairo slums in order to experience what the needs and challenges were for residents!
Culhane describes his organization as “an idea generator.” Says Culhane, ‘We realize the value of collective intelligence. These neighborhoods are filled with welders, plumbers, carpenters, and glassworkers. We bring capital and plans; they bring talent and creativity. We build these systems together from scratch.” Check out a video of one here: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/specials/in-the-field-specials/culhane-solar-wc/
Culhane stresses time and again that living sustainably is practical and possible in a world where sustainable solutions often seem relegated to those who can afford to care about the environment. “‘We’re not being idealistic; we’re out to provide solutions. Solar energy plays a principal role in our work because it makes practical, perfect sense…I believe Egypt could solve at least half its energy needs by immediately going solar.”
Culhane plans to give Principia College, a biogas digester, made by Solar C.³I.T.I.E.S.. According to Tamera, a peace and research center, “a basic biogas digester consists of a tank in which the organic material is digested, combined with a system to collect and store the biogas produced. The digesters can be quite simple, and the details vary depending on available materials and the needs of the community.”
Tamera’s “biogas digester, built in cooperation with T.H. Culhane from Solar CITIES e.V., consists of a cylindrical 3000 liter tank, open on top, in which the organic material is digested. A second, slightly smaller tank is placed in the larger tank, upside-down.” USA Today also quote Culhane as saying, “‘We feel that biogas is appropriate for everybody on the planet. We’ve done systems in Alaska, we’ve done systems in Botswana, I have one on my porch in Germany. My wife and I cook every day on yesterday’s kitchen garbage.’”
VISIONARY OF THE YEAR 2012
For the year of 2012-2013, we honor an Israeli from Tel Aviv, Ronny Edry, whose simple message of love to Iranians in the face of impending war, has inspired a global response.
Ronny Edry, creator of Israel Loves Iran, was the keynote speaker at Principia College’s 64th annual Public Affairs Conference in March, 2013. Click here to watch Ronny’s rousing address and acceptance of the Visionary of the Year award.
Ronny Edry, a graphic designer from Tel Aviv, Israel, is Euphrates’ Visionary of the Year 2012, and accepted his award at the PAC event at Principia College. This award is given to an individual who continues to “make the impossible, possible, and the idealistic, realistic,” and who would have ever thought it possible that Israelis and Iranians would be exchanging messages of love and peace with each other in a time of impending conflict?
In March of last year, Ronny Edry, a graphic designer, father, and husband living in Tel Aviv, Israel, with his family, was frustrated and concerned. All anyone talked about was impending war with Iran, and he wished he could do something to prevent it. One night he created and posted an image on Facebook of himself holding his daughter and waving an Israeli flag. On it was the caption, “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We love you.” Within 24 hours, thousands of people had shared the poster on Facebook, and Ronny started receiving messages directly from Iranians, much to his great astonishment. His heartfelt action started not only the popular online community Israel Loves Iran, but inspired a wave of response from the other side—groups like Iran Loves Israel, Palestine Loves Israel, and several others. Since March, Ronny has garnered significant media attention and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Watch his incredibly inspiring TED talk here.
Like Ronny, citizens around the world are feeling empowered to take charge of their political, economic and social futures. His message amplifies what one person can do—be authentic, pure, simple, and determined. Ronny’s everyday courage has initiated a dialogue between the peoples of two nations that the world had written off as impossible. His passion and dedication to fostering this conversation at the grassroots is a powerful example of the power of the individual to implement tangible change in our world.
When we asked Ronny how he would define sustainable peace, he responded, “It’s both individual and collective. The first part is individual: you have to see the person in front of you as a human, a person. We must stop fearing the “Other.” Once you see your enemy as a human being similar to yourself, then you understand that he doesn’t hate you as years of propaganda succeed to make you believe, and you can never go back to that blind hate. Then, collectively, you can start to know each other and you will be ready for peace.”
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