On Changing the World

by Belinda Munoz on September 26, 2011

It’s one thing to be aware of what’s wrong with our world today.

It’s quite another to do something about it.

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting and hearing from those who fall in the latter category. The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an annual convening that takes place in New York, is a meeting of U.S.-based and international public and private sector entities as well as current and former heads of state that are working to create solutions to some of our world’s biggest and most urgent concerns. Thanks to founder and former President Bill Clinton, cooperation, participation and innovation are taking place to alleviate climate change, poverty and some of the most desperate of women’s issues at home and around the globe.

At CGI, it’s all about serious action and commitment. Participants understand that every problem is a breeding ground for innovative solution. They engage each other regardless of region, create synergy in their work, share best practices that are replicable and make monetary and time commitments to achieve quantifiable results such as creating employment, fighting communicable diseases, combating sexual violence against women and reducing CO2 emissions, to name a few.

After three days of listening and learning about all the good work currently being done by good minds and good hearts, I can honestly say that there are many reasons to be optimistic despite the less-than-good news being hammered over our heads. Here are a few examples:

Currently, we are disposing of 52 tons of waste per second. In the U.S. alone, approximately 230 million tons of waste is generated each year. At CGI, there is a re-thinking waste action network whose main goal is, at the risk of sounding crass, to turn trash into cash. As we all know, trash doesn’t fall from the sky and is mostly generated by us humans. Today, we have made technological strides in turning waste to wealth. Waste, or what those in the business refer to as secondary raw materials, can now be turned into energy that powers just about anything that requires oil or electricity. Some countries have begun to use these innovative solutions to create sustainable industries that employ those who need work.

Women bear the lion’s share of household work such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. that require water. (This is a non-issue to privileged citizens of developed nations where clean water is accessible through a swift turn of a spigot.) Because women in developing countries spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water, they possess much knowledge about their ecosystem and the terrain they walk, thus, making them willing and able partners in the business of agriculture, water sanitation or fighting water-borne diseases. Entities such as Unilever and Living Goods (an Avon-like company) know this and are investing in women as business partners.

One billion of today’s population will never see a health care worker in their entire life. Okay. I admit that the main reason I attended this session was so I could see one of my heroes, Dr. Paul Farmer. Not knowing anything about the 4.2 million health care worker shortage, I walked out of this talk thinking I didn’t need to be a physician to get involved in the health care industry. In Liberia, physicians employ women and former patients as well as make an effort to partner with those who have been left behind. And in the interest of pursuing a personal goal of one day becoming post-partisan, I must mention Barbara Bush, the young daughter of the second former President George Bush. She spoke eloquently about her efforts through an organization she founded called Global Health Corps (GHC). GHC’s mission is to mobilize a global community of emerging leaders to build the movement for health equity. Fellows who are admitted into their program learn invaluable skills such as partnership and collaboration by serving NGOs in countries where health care workers are in demand.


Do you, like me, get excited about or encouraged by all the good work that innovative people do?

Do you see really big problems as shared responsibilities that call for a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors?

For a peek at webcasts, click here.

A note to my fellow bloggers: I apologize for not having been able to visit your sites lately. September has proven to be an impossibly packed month and I’m hoping October will offer a little wiggle room for quality poetry, prose and thoughtful comments on my part.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amber September 26, 2011 at 8:16 am

Oh I love this so so much. It is companies like these that give me hope; and I, too, feel there is room for optimism. We are changing the world and it feels so good.


2 ayala September 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm

An important post. How blessed to be a part of all this and witness the world changing in a better way. Inspiring…and to see Dr. Paul Farmer…wonderful, my son loves him as I have told you before. Belinda, it is encouraging to see the good work being done. Thank you.


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