Replay–Climate Champ Leo Dicaprio Pledges $43 Million to Restore the Galapagos, Small MD Town Buys First EV, 2021 Maryland Smart Energy Grant Awards

by | Jul 23, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Climate champ Leo Dicaprio pledges $43 million to restore the Galapagos, plus Upper Marlboro, MD buys its first EV. The 2021 Maryland Smart Energy Grant Awards are announced.


The Town of Upper Marlboro, Maryland in Prince George’s County, recently purchased its first fully electric vehicle. It will be assigned to the Town’s code compliance officer who handles property standards issues and assists the Town police with parking enforcement. Upper Marlboro purchased a 2020 Chevy Bolt to replace a 2009 Chevy Impala.

The Town is also working with Pepco and the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) to install charging stations around downtown Upper Marlboro for residents and visitors to use. There are currently four electric vehicle charging stations at the Show Place Arena; the Town is working to bring additional stations into the downtown area, as well as at the Town Hall.

“The purchase of this electric vehicle is another example of our commitment to protecting and preserving the environment,” said Upper Marlboro Mayor Linda Pennoyer. “This will be the Town’s first ‘green’ vehicle, and another great step for the Town’s sustainability initiatives. Mayor Pennoyer said the $22,000 price tag the new electric vehicle is being offset by a pending $10,000 grant from the MEA’s Maryland Smart Energies Community Grant program

And curiously, that’s why this story matters to us: The goal of the Maryland Smart Energy Communities program is to support​ local governments as they adopt smart-energy policies and commit to them for the long term. Communities will benefit from sustained reduction of energy usage, cost savings, and additional opportunities for renewable energy development.​

It also mattes because the Upper Marlboro Board of Commissioners passed the purchase resolution by unanimous 3-0 vote at its April 13 public meeting authorizing the purchase. Finally smart government!

DEEPER DIVE: MEA Grant Program, Upper Marlboro Government



Thanks to a press release sent out by the Maryland Energy Administration, we can announce the 2021 winners of the Maryland Smart Energy Communities grants. Now in its ninth year, the MSEC grant program was created to support local governments as they adopt smart-energy policies and commit to them for the long term.  To date, 78 municipal and county governments have participated in the program. 

The MSEC Grant Program is available to all incorporated towns, cities, and counties in Maryland.  Here’s why this program matters to all of us: Funding for the program comes from the Strategic Energy Investment Fund (SEIF), which was created from public auctions of carbon credits through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

 The purpose of the Strategic Energy Investment Program is to decrease energy demand and increase energy supply to promote affordable, reliable, and clean energy. It’s a model that could be replicated in all U.S. states. 22 separate projects were funded this year. Examples of winning projects include:

Funding for Gaithersburg to support the upgrade of 565 citywide streetlights, expected to reduce electricity consumption by approximately 129,000 kWh annually, saving this Montgomery County city near $13,000  per year in costs. 

Frostburg, md Police used their MSEC award to add an all electric patrol car to their fleet. And staying in Frostburg, the city received funding assistance to install a 1.5 KW solar PV system at their sewage pumping station that will provide additional power for the station’s smaller electrical components. The system will produce roughly 2,000 kWh annually and be tied to a battery storage system that can be accessed for power back-up in times of grid outages.

To find out about the other 19 awarded projects, surf on over to and click on the links in the deeper dive section at the end of the transcript of this story. 



In the mid-1990s, Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio was crowned Hollywood’s, “prince of partying” as well as “The most ridiculous human” for his immature excesses off screen.

But something sure clicked in DiCaprio after the release of Titanic. In a sanguine quote he gave to Time Magazine, he said, “ “I have no connection with me during that whole Titanic phenomenon and what my face became around the world I’ll never reach that state of popularity again, and I don’t expect to. It’s not something I’m going to try to achieve either.”

Perhaps that maturity is what drove him to reconnect with his youth. He’s quoted as saying that he only wanted to pursue one of two professions—actor or marine biologist. He also  claims he was eager to learn about ecology from an early age, watching documentaries on rain forest depletion and the loss of species and habitats. He has said environment is more important to him than spirituality. That’s all well and good, but why does Leonardo DiCaprio matter to us?

Because in 1998, Leonardo DiCaprio established his foundation with the mission of protecting the world’s last wild places. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation implements solutions that help restore balance to threatened ecosystems, ensuring the long-term health and well-being of all Earth’s inhabitants. Since that time LDF has worked on some of the most pressing environmental issues of our day.

During its 21-year history, LDF has awarded more than $30 million to projects in over 40 countries to protect wildlife, preserve marine ecosystems, restore wetlands, and empower communities to defend their lands and livelihoods against anything from oil development to deforestation to overfishing.

DEEPER DIVE: PSMag, LDF, The Guardian



According to the Guardian, in May 2021, DiCaprio announced a $43m pledge to enact conservation operations across the Galápagos Islands.  With the announcement, he ceded his social media accounts to wildlife veterinarian and island restoration specialist, Paula A Castaño.

DiCaprio said: “When I travelled to the Galápagos Islands, I met with Paula Castaño and other environmental heroes in Ecuador working day in and day out to save one of the most irreplaceable places on the planet.

Castaño, who recently took over DiCaprio’s Instagram and Twitter accounts for one day to promote critical interventions needed to rewild the Galápagos, said: “Time is running out for so many species, especially on islands where their small populations are vulnerable and threatened.

“We have seen rewilding in our lifetime, so we don’t really have to wait five years or 20 or 50 years. These are immediate results. We will see the payoff for all of these efforts, and not across only the Galápagos, but farther beyond archipelagos in Latin America.”

The $43 million pledge will fund Galápagos projects including efforts to restore Floreana Island, home to 54 threatened species, and reintroduce 13 locally extinct species, including the Floreana mockingbird – the first mockingbird described by Charles Darwin.

The initiative, in partnership with Re:wild, an organisation founded this year by a group of renowned conservation scientists and DiCaprio, the Galápagos National Park Directorate, Island Conservation and local communities, aims to rewild the entire Galápagos Islands, as well as all of Latin America’s Pacific archipelagos.

DEEPER DIVE: The Guardian, reWild, Island Conservation