The East Brunswick Public Library determined the need for sustainability projects at their “Sustainable Agriculture Projects in Zimbabwe” live event on YouTube and Facebook this month as part of the Option Green 2021 Climate Change and Community program.
Tait Chirenje, a professor at Stockton University, who has a Ph.D in trace metal biogeochemistry from the University of Florida, was the primary speaker at the event.
Chirenje said that determining an individual’s ecological footprint highlights the need for sustainability projects across the world.
“When I do this (determine my ecological footprint) as a Zimbabwean, living in a small house with many people when we go down there to do research,…it would tell me that my footprint is so much smaller, that if everyone lived like me, we would need about one planet to survive,” he said.
Chirenje said that when he stays in the U.S. his ecological footprint changes drastically.
“If everyone lived like me, we would need about seven and a half planets,” he said, “Which means that we can’t keep up this lifestyle. The lifestyle that I’m living is way over what the earth’s systems can support.”
Chirenje said that the effects of climate change, such as larger scale hurricanes and flash floods, are everywhere but developed countries can better recover from them and, essentially, deny what is happening.
He said, “If you look at the cost of some of the disasters that have happened over the last century compared to what’s happening [now], it’s kind of scary.”
Chirenje said the sustainability projects he worked on while in Zimbabwe can help mitigate the effects of climate change.
He said one of these projects was distributing sustainable power.
“Our focus was trying to get as many people as we could to start using photovoltaics,” Chirenje said, “Here in New Jersey, in the summer we get 10 or so hours of sunlight and decent solar radiation for solar panels. In Zimbabwe, it’s like that all year round. This house…is supported by solar and nothing else.”
He said the projects also focused on sustainable food production.
“One of the biggest things that drew me to go back and work in Zimbabwe was just reading the headlines about food shortages,” Chirenje said.
Chirenje said that he researched foods that could be grown without reliance on temperature or precipitation, including mushrooms.
He also said that the project group was even able to find cheaper more sustainable ways to build the sheds required for mushroom farming.
“If you wanted to do this using modern equipment, it would cost us about $15,000-18,000. You could build this with local materials, and you’d spend about $700,” Chirenje said.
One of the event attendees, Kath Weck, said that straw and thatch bale growing mediums may also be helpful in this project.
Another event attendee, Shane McCormack, said, “This event was really interesting. I can’t wait to watch the next one.”
Melissa Hozik, the adult programming librarian at East Brunswick Public Library, said, “The next lecture, which is the final one in the series, is March 11 at 7 p.m., and it’s with Dr. Melissa Jauregui. It’s about disparate environmental impact causes, and solutions to environmental injustice.”
A full recording of the event is available on YouTube. Viewers can learn more about the Option Green program at www.ebpl.org/optiongreen.