Hilary Clinton and Julia Roberts: Cleaning Stoves Together

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Hilary Clinton famously said in 1992:

I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.

Ironically, daily domestic necessities such as baking and cooking have taken on a different twist in a recent partnership between Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Academy Award winning actor Julia Roberts.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves' mission, led by the United Nations Foundation, is:

...is a new public-private partnership to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The Alliance's '100 by '20' goal calls for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020. The Alliance will work with public, private, and non-profit partners to help overcome the market barriers that currently impede the production, deployment, and use of clean cookstoves in the developing world.

Exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires - the primary means of cooking and heating for nearly three billion people in the developing world - causes 1.9 million premature deaths annually, with women and young children the most affected. Reliance on biomass for cooking and heating, forces women and children to spend hours each week collecting wood. Women face severe personal security risks as they forage for fuel, especially from refugee camps and in conflict zones. Cookstoves also increase pressures on local natural resources (e.g., forests, habitat) and contribute to climate change at the regional and global level.

The use of clean cookstoves and fuels can dramatically reduce fuel consumption and exposure to cookstove smoke. Development of a global clean cookstove industry that is constantly innovating to improve design and performance, while lowering the cost of stoves, can lead the way to widespread adoption of clean cooking solutions.


Humanitarian efforts such as this Alliance inspired a new way to engage students on our campus, described in a commentary I recently published in USA Today:

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is to be commended not only for efforts to improve health in developing countries but also for inspiring educational opportunities for American students ("'Clean stoves' would save lives, cut pollution," USATODAY.com, Friday).

For example, students on our campus have studied solar cookers and learned that they could boil water within 90 minutes on a sunny day -- useful for cooking and eliminating water-borne pathogens.

This example allowed us to teach students subjects ranging from design to biology by using hands-on examples well beyond the classroom. It also can remind them to appreciate our vast resources often taken for granted.

For educators, I recommend that you consider such an approach for teaching and learning. For everyone else, please consider ways that you can contribute to this important cause.

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