Happy 20th Anniversary the Solar Decathlon! Drinkable Rivers Foundation Launches Citizens Study, Climate Artist Es Devlin’s “The Conference Of Trees,” Peers for the Planet

by | Apr 13, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Happy 20th Anniversary the Solar Decathlon! Plus the Drinkable Rivers Foundation launches a citizens study. Climate Artist Es Devlin’s “The Conference of Trees,” and Peers for the Planet.



The Drinkable Rivers Foundation launched a project for 2022’s World Water Day. The initiative calls for trained citizen researchers to carry out research and data collection on the world’s rivers. The ambitious study is being launched with forty teams in fifteen countries. 

They will all have a professional measuring kit that measures 25 different parameters. Founder of Drinkable Rivers Li An Phoa says, “This program does not only contribute to increasing awareness of the importance of fresh water, it also provides a lot of useful data.” 

To accomplish this mammoth but important study Drinkable Rivers has cast a wide net. To participate you can be a single researcher, a team or hub within an organization or even an entire organization. 

Why does the study launched by the Drinkable Rivers Foundation matter to us? The importance of this initiative in terms of climate is that recent studies have shown that the increase in global temperature brought on by climate change will increase the toxicity level of anything from chemical pesticides and fertilizers to plastics made from fossil fuels found in the global water supply.

DEEPER DIVE: Drinkable Rivers, AIWW, NOAA 



The Solar Decathlon, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. The competition challenges students to create efficient, affordable buildings powered by renewable energy. 

Held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the decathlon was first called the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge and is a two-year design-build competition. In 2019, the Race to Zero competition joined the decathlon as the Design Challenge, a design-only competition.

Race to Zero which was featured recently on the Climate Daily. It’s a global pledge for governments, businesses and organizations to hit net zero and 50% emissions reduction by 2030. Since 2002, more than 25,000 students have competed in the Solar Decathlon. Teams have come from all over the world: Europe, China, Latin America, Africa, India and the Middle East.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm summed up the reason the competition exists saying, “Our fight against the climate crisis is a lot like a decathlon, with all kinds of individual contests we need to get through—and we can’t win unless we do well in them all.” 

The current Build Challenge is underway with 32 competing teams constructing houses in their local communities by spring of 2023. The 2022 Design Challenge is also happening and will culminate with the Solar Decathlon Competition Event, this month, April 2022.

Why does the Solar Decathlon matter to us? According to DOE analysis, buildings currently account for approximately 74% of electricity use, 39% of total energy use, and 35% of carbon emissions in the United States. According to DOE stats, there are more than 125 million buildings in the nation that need retrofits to achieve the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. The Solar Decathlon supports a key strategy to bring that vision to life.

DEEPER DIVE: Solar Decathlon, PV Magazine, DOE, NREL



London-based artist and designer Es Devlin created a temporary forest installation entitled Conference of trees at last year’s COP26. One of her inspirations was American novelist Richard Powers’ award-winning work, The Overstory. Devlin adds that for her “the most striking thing about the book was that for once the protagonists weren’t human”, the trees were the protagonists.

“I am interested in placing Climate Hub visitors within an environment of a parallel gathering of trees, as if the trees are bearing witness, listening, and observing the progress that the humans may or may not make during the program of talks and COP26 negotiations.”

As she researched the role of trees in the global ecosystem for the installation, she found a “very calculable” benefit of living in and around large, tree-covered spaces. Imagine walking out from the city into a forest of 197 living trees. The forest hosted a series of COP26 keynote addresses by Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai and Ban Ki-moon. Devlin added,

Each tree in her installation represented a country. And all were local varieties of trees that were taken to Glasgow after COP26 and replanted. For Devlin, the role of art is to so amaze people that they change their behavior. This experience and the reality of climate change means that trees have become a recurring theme in her art. 

Why does Devlin’s art matter to us? A friend of Devlin’s once said, “The role of art is to make revolution irresistible.” So, if you feel the transformative experience of being among trees it is likely you will make a change to protect them. 

DEEPER DIVE: Dezeen, Design Indaba, Wallpaper



Peers for the Planet is both a Parliamentary Group and non-profit organization launched in January 2020. It brings together 140 members of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom to respond to the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, working across-party affiliations.

According to its website, Peers for the Planet believe they have “an opportunity and a responsibility to provide sustained momentum and thought leadership on climate and biodiversity issues through the decade to 2030, reflecting the latest IPCC timeline.”

The latest legislative achievement by the organization is concerning the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS). The NHS is responsible for around 5% of the UK’s carbon emissions and around 40% of all public sector emissions. However, the NHS was the first national health service to agree to net zero commitments.

The Health and Care Bill, passed in both parliamentary chambers, embeds climate, environmental and adaptation responsibilities within any future NHS framework.

Peers For The Planet focus on a number of key activities under three core themes:

  • A domestic focus to place action on climate change and biodiversity loss at the top of the political agenda
  • Partnerships with civil society and particularly youth groups
  • International partnerships with other Parliaments, governments, cross-governmental actors and international businesses.

Why does Peers For The Planet matter to us? Groups, like it, that can effectively communicate climate change issues within governments are an essential part and often a missing link to real significant short and long-term change.

DEEPER DIVE: Peers For The Planet, BILLS UK, Business Green