A little while back I asked whether carbon offsets were irrelevant, suggesting that rather than focus on "atoning" for our eco-sins, we might be better off viewing such carbon financing as an opportunity to invest in the new industrial and cultural revolution we see evolving around us and the real-world benefits it can have for some of the world's poorest communities.
That's why I was interested when UK-based offset provider Climate Care started talking about the roll of carbon finance in helping fight pneumonia. And now that same company has launched a fascinating partnership funding distribution of Vestergaard Frandsen’s LifeStraw® water purifier using carbon offsets as the funding source:
One of the ways to treat potentially contaminated water in Kenya is by boiling over an open fire that produces carbon emissions through burning mostly non-renewable wood, which also contributes to a serious deforestation problem in the region. LifeStraw® Family meets World Health Organization standards for “highly protective” means of household removal from water of the bacteria, viruses, and parasites responsible for common diarrheal diseases—without the need to burn and boil. This produces significant carbon savings, and each filter will purify at least 18,000 litres of water—enough to supply a family of five for three years. Safe drinking water is of critical importance to development in places where waterborne illness is the cause of many missed educational and economic opportunities, and, in too many cases, death.
So while we should, of course, all be cutting carbon at source—let's not reject the notion that offsets can play an important part, not just in reducing emissions where it is most cost effective, but in saving lives too.
Check out the TreeHugger archives for more on the revolutionary potential of the LifeStraw®.