“When you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen” – Quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson www.theripplesproject.org

Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 31,000 Rotary clubs located in 167 countries.
Rotary’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative began in 1979 with a five-year commitment to provide and help deliver polio vaccine to six million children of the Philippines. In the early 1980s, Rotary began planning for the most ambitious program in its history – to immunize all of world’s children against polio. Dr. Albert Sabin, developer of the oral polio vaccine, was invited to serve as a special consultant to the committee. By the time the world is certified polio-free, which is expected in months rather than years, Rotary’s contributions to the global polio eradication effort will exceed US$600 million. Rotary made a decision and the universe conspired to make it happen.
The annual Rotary International Convention was held last week in Chicago, Illinois. Rotary was born in Chicago one hundred years ago at a meeting between four Rotarians led by Paul Harris. There were over 42,000 registrants from 161 countries at the Convention. There were over 40 Barbadian registrants.

There were inspirational addresses from the following: (1) Ted Turner of CNN fame, who sees ‘no point in sitting on cash’ and is, together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, indeed a major contributor to the PolioPlus campaign. He committed to be involved in other global campaigns which Rotary may embark upon in the future. (2) Dr. Eric Motley, special assistant to the President, who gave a rather moving address ‘an Odyssey of Grace and Gratitude” – a tribute to his black grandparents who brought him up in Montgomery, Alabama. (3) Dr J. W. Lee, Director General of the World Heath Organization, who complimented Rotary on the success of the PolioPlus campaign. (4) Honourable Professor Wangari Maathai 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Assistant Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife, Kenya. There were numerous other reports on major achievements by Rotary men, women and youths around the world.

There were 28 workshop sessions which were mounted simultaneously over two afternoons of the Convention. I was privileged to present at one of them which was entitled ‘Canadian Computer-Assisted Literacy Solution’ which gave examples of lives changed through the use of Canadian ‘Academy of Reading’ software (www.autoskill.com) in Toronto, the Philippines and the Eastern Caribbean.

The concluding statement made by Mr. David Forward author of ‘A Century of Service’: The Story of Rotary International’ in his interview with the Master of Ceremonies Mr. Roger Climpson was that the ten most powerful two-letter words in the English language are
if-it-is-to-be-it-is-up-to-me. If this had the same impression on the thousands of Rotarians present as it had on me, then the World of Rotary will certainly contribute much more to the earth becoming a better place. Now, onto the next Convention in Malmo, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark in 2006.

Over the last week, the world market price for a barrel of oil reached $US60. Some airlines have reacted by increasing airfares, thus passing it on to the consumer. In the Caribbean basin where there are only two major oil producing countries, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, there are already pangs of panic.

How long is it going to take for us to make a significant investment in looking seriously at research and development towards commercialization of renewable energy sources? In Barbados we have been extremely successful in developing the solar water heating industry, resulting in significant savings of foreign exchange over more than a quarter of a century. It should be noted that this initiative was taken by entrepreneurs with no stake in the power generation industry.

The other two obvious renewable energy conversion candidates would be wind and solar energy for direct conversion into electricity. The reluctance of the monopoly producer of electricity to invest in these initiatives has been stated to be the cost per kilowatt hour which was not competitive with the cost of producing electricity from conventional fossil fuel sources.

Now that the price of fossil fuel has skyrocketed without any predictable decline in the future market, surely it would be wise for a public/private initiative to aggressively explore, through a comprehensive research and development programme, the potential for ‘wind and solar electricity’ for the national grid.

It is understood that a ‘biomass electricity’ study, using high fibre fuel cane varieties, is currently underway in Barbados. The same should be done for wind and solar electricity so that we are ahead of the game when the crunch comes. ‘Renewable energy electricity’ for the national grid, in a user-friendly enabling environment, will not reduce the profit profile of the monopoly producer, but will enhance energy security and be to the advantage of the consumer in the long run.
If the social partners make a decision, the universe will conspire to make it happen. They must adopt the philosophy that “if it is to be, it is up to me”.