To commemorate Earth Day 2018 and as part of Mission Poland’s environmental outreach, Embassy Warsaw and CG Krakow invited Dr. Thomas Culhane from the University of Southern Florida in Tampa for a week of workshops, meetings and discussions with students, academia, NGOs, city government officials, business and start-ups on solving environmental challenges through technology and innovation, using an entrepreneurial, free market approach. Dr. Culhane studied biological anthropology and urban planning at Harvard and UCLA. He is a leading expert in sustainable development as well as a six time Google Science Fair Judge and National Geographic and Google Science Mentor with extensive experience leading interactive Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) classes for a wide range of audiences from school children to ministers of science and technology.
Dr. Culhane exemplifies the possibilities of green technologies and innovative solutions for sustainable development, as he and his wife actually live in an off-grid 40-foot trailer in Florida powered primarily by food-scraps, waste-water and solar energy and grow most of their own food on vertical hydroponic towers without soil. During several interactive events with high school students, he demonstrated how different small-scale solar technologies are available and accessible for individual use – even in countries not well known for very sunny weather, such as Poland. Dr. Culhane also built a model biogas digester with students, demonstrating how simple it can be to collect or reuse easy-to-find items and create your own small-scale device to turn food scraps and other household waste into safe and reliable biogas energy. In discussion with city government officials and NGOs he developed a framework for cooperation among different sectors in civil society to improve environmental education and green entrepreneurship. With university professors, students and business leaders, Dr. Culhane emphasized the importance of viewing Poland’s high-quality anthracite coal deposits as assets in a comprehensive approach to energy sources and needs. He explained how even solid fuels along with solar, wind, hydro and biogas can really complement each other and offer ways of saving us from the disastrous effects of global warming. Dr. Culhane’s exceptional interactive style made all his presentations and meetings not only highly informative (replete with many practical solutions for communities and individuals) but also a lot of fun –including videos, stories and songs on biogas and sustainability. At one point he commented, “If what I am saying resonates with only a few students, I have achieved my goal.” By their reactions, it seemed that he connected with many students and others.
Dr. Culhane’s visit supports the Department of State’s efforts to raise awareness of today’s environmental challenges including this year’s Earth Day themes of curbing growth in the world’s mismanaged waste, in particular plastic waste and marine debris. The United States is working internationally to encourage technological innovation and private sector engagement to promote market solutions to global environmental challenges. Dr. Culhane’s visit to Poland promotes this effort by illustrating how advances in green technology and market-based solutions can address these challenges – particularly relevant and timely for Poland’s growing start-up community that hopes to address air and water quality and waste management problems and turn them into profitable and responsible solutions.