September 27, 2013

Davidson: NOAA and global climate issues

Sept 24, 2013:  On Tuesday, The Historic Rotary Club of Charleston was treated to a lively and eye-opening discussion led by Margaret Davidson, Director of the NOAA Coastal Services Center, on the subject of climate change and sustainability issues.

A Fulbright Scholar with more than 13 years experience with the Sea Grant Consortium (, Ms. Davidson clearly demonstrated her command of climatology by walking us through the possible impacts of global warming and rising sea levels. 

“What we are about to cover are not the views of my agency; these are my assessments,” said Davidson, setting the stage for a direct and candid perspective of likely scenarios. “So, the question is, what is your individual tolerance for risk? I’m sure a few of you have wonderful properties on the water that I’m sure you want to leave to your grandchildren. What do you think you’ll be leaving them? I’m just saying…”  She added that by most projections, we can expect about a 5 meter growth in tides over the next twenty years -- “that’s ‘meters’ not feet, you’re with me right?”

Her data citation included a chilling table showing the dramatic increase in the number of billion dollar disasters (financial impacts) that once numbered a few per year, now number close to 14 per year for a total impact nearing $200 billion. (Source: Western Kentucky University) “So clearly, the number of weather related major events has grown substantially; this is not a short-term cycle.”

“Sandy was a major turning point and wake-up call,” said Davidson, commenting on how we need to change the way in which we interpret meteorological data and our response strategies.

Commenting on what seems to be some degree of apathy by the public, she argued for the importance of tools that provide strong visualization of the climatic impacts. “When you can see the potential in living color and the animation of risk, it has a different effect.”

Insured values of properties will be changing for coastal properties. She shared an actuarial table showing, by state, the estimated costs to replace properties. For South Carolina, ranking at the midpoint of all states, that value in 2007 is $192 billion.  (Source:  AIR Worldwide)


If we scan the globe for case examples, the Dutch jump out as among the more visionary land use and water management architects.  “See how they take a 10,000 year view,” noted Davidson. “They lead the way with compelling examples of berms, forestation and other strategies that are what we call ‘Design with Nature.’”

We need to increase our public/private strategies. The costs and logistics are too great for any enterprise to bear alone. “And, the most important thing we need to do is hold gatherings like this one. We need to step up the dialog and have a clear understanding of what we can and should do to mitigate the risks and preserve our good quality of life.”

“We should not wait for a disaster to achieve better resilience today,” said Davidson, imploring the group to think now about tomorrow. “The need for change is here, the time to act is now.”

Thank you, Ms. Davidson, for sharing your urgent perspective of our pressing geologic and atmospheric challenges. There is succinct and concise. And then there is your direct counsel, “we’re just saying…” We are grateful for your expertise and clarion call for discussion and innovation. You are welcome at our club any time!

-- Submitted by Mark Danes, Keyway Committee

September 20, 2013

Field trip to Water Missions International

Sept 17, 2013: It was a field trip meeting for Charleston Rotarians this week as we met with leadership and staff of Water Mission International in North Charleston. Michael Saboe got the full attention of a packed house with the following facts: Almost 1 Billion people drink microbiologi-cally unsafe water everyday. 2.5 Billion people-37% of the world’s population- live without adequate sanitation. Every 21 seconds a child dies from water related disease. Lack of safe water and sanitation kills 5,500 people everyday.

These sobering statistics kicked off a very informative overview and presentation of the work and amazing success of Water Mission International (WMI), a nonprofit, Christian engineering organization based in Charleston. WMI grew from the heartfelt concern of Rotarians George and Molly Greene for those whose lives and homes were devastated by Hurricane Mitch which hit Honduras in 1998. Owning General Engineering Laboratories gave the Greenes the ability to design, construct and deliver six drinking water treatment units, each capable of producing safe drinking water at the rate of 10 gallons per minute. Within three weeks of the hurricane, sixteen volunteers from the company were in remote locations of Honduras setting up these water treatment units. This initial effort was called "Project Living Water" and the water treatment unit became known as the Living Water Treatment System. After selling their company, George and Molly founded Water Missions International in 2001 and it has now improved and saved lives in 49 countries.

Seth Womble, engineer and WMIs Program Director, vividly described the water sanitation crisis in Peru and the irony that villagers often have individual cell phones available but not clean, safe water. By installing WMI water treatment equipment, villagers can reduce time searching for water sources and concentrate on farming, raising livestock and improving their living situations

Jay Cook, Water Mission International’s Director of Operations, continued to educate us on how a lack of clean, safe water impacts the health and economic viability of communities. According to his data, one-half of all hospital beds globally are occupied by patients with diseases caused by unhealthy water. Jay is not a man looking at the half-empty glass of clean water! His enthusiasm is deep, genuine and totally contagious. Volunteers from all over the world have come together in remote villages, Jay says, and "saved those babies." Jay’s photographs of smiling children made the point better than any facts and we can take special pride in seeing a plaque in one village with Charleston Rotary’s name as a sponsor for their new clean water and sanitation equipment.

President John noted that our Rotary club gives WMI a $5,000 check each year but encouraged all Rotarians to get personally involved, volunteering at WMI or supporting it financially on an individual basis. To further demonstrate Charleston Rotary’s commitment to WMI, a check for $2,500 was presented along with special acknowledgement and gratitude to George and Mollie Greene.

Rotarians toured the Water Mission International (WMI) facilities and saw first hand the state of the
state of the art engineering and production techniques and equipment that WMI leaders say have brought relief and hope to more than 2.4 million people across the globe.

Submitted by Cheryl Kaynard. Keyway Committee 

September 13, 2013

Mayor Joe Riley
 Sept 10, 2013:   Our speaker, Mayor Joe Riley, was first elected Mayor of Charleston in 1975 and is currently in his 10 term. He has been called America’s most visionary public official.  His visions for the future of the city continue as he summarized current and future plans:

Plans are nearing completion for a new African/American Museum to be built on a site between the Aquarium and the parking garage. The board of directors includes many national figures.

The Gaillard Auditorium is on schedule for completion in December 2014 with the first concert to be held in March 2015.  95% of the removed materials have been recycled and 30% of the workforce has been women and minority workers. The finished structure with a world class performance hall will have 3 million pounds of Indiana white limestone on its exterior.

The Horizon Project is being planned for open space between Fishburne, Spring, Hagood and Lockwood. It will include research facilities for MUSC, and have new streets and available space for innovative start-up companies.

People Matter, a renowned software company has completed its headquarters on upper King Street and plans a second facility on Morrison Drive, and area expected to become a digital corridor.

The Market Street drainage project is now 1/3 complete. Deep shafts will carry rain water away and a new streetscape with underground utilities is part of the overall plan.The first phase of the Crosstown Expressway is complete with the second phase about to begin. It will include a 12’ tunnel that extends 120’ into the ground.

Three new Fire Stations are underway with a new central headquarters at King and Heriot Streets. This station will be equipped to serve as control of emergencies and disasters.

The Battery will be constructed as a 2.6 million dollar renovation gets underway. The first phase will include a temporary coffer dam to keep the water away from the construction. In the second year all new blue stone will be installed.

The Municipal Golf Course is the most heavily used in the state and will soon get a new irrigation system.

A new Water Taxi pier is to be built at Waterfront Park with an additional location planned when the relocation of the cruise terminal is complete.

Re-development is also underway at Midtown in the area of Spring and King, to include hotels, restaurants, apartments and retail stores.

The list of projects is impressive as is the continuing vision of Mayor Riley. 
Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

September 6, 2013

Col. Jamie Fontanella, USAFR—315th Airlift Wing Commander

Sept 3, 2013:   For the second installment in our Military Series, Colonel Jamie Fontanella, Commander of the 315th Airlift Wing, discussed our Citizen Airmen – the men and women who are a part of our Air Mobility Command.  These Citizen Airmen are men and women who work alongside us each and every day.  Colonel Fontanella is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and commenced his career as a Navy helicopter pilot upon graduation.  In 2001, Colonel Fontanella joined the Air Mobility Command flying the C-5, and spent most of his time training other Airmen.  He assumed duties as deputy operations group commander of the 349th Operations Group in 2007.  Today he oversees the 2,500 Charlestonians who are a part of the 315thAirlift Reserve Wing. 

The 315th Airlift Reserve is very involved in our community. One of its core values is Service above Self, which all Rotarians can identify with.  While most think that being in the Air Force Reserve involves a commitment of “one weekend a month, two weeks per year,” Colonel Fontanella explained that the men and women in the Reserve give so much more.  Their Reserve job is a part-time job, but just one of their three jobs.  Citizen Airmen must balance being in the Air Force Reserve, being a citizen and having a family life.  Reservists are business owners, teachers, and sometimes our bosses.  They buy homes, vote, pay taxes, and send their children to local schools. 

In the past, most Air Reserve personnel were trained as Active Duty Soldiers.  However, due to the economy, the retention rate is at an all-time high for those Active Duty Soldiers.  As a result, the Air Reserve is now being forced to train its own.  Many of the Air Force Reserve pilots are airline pilots.  These pilots have the same requirements as active duty pilots, typically consisting of about 6-7 days per month on average to stay current.  This training is critical so that the Air Reserve will always be combat-ready. The 315th Airlift Wing is combat-ready with rapid mobility.  The Air Force maintains the weapon systems as well as the equipment and the Air Reserve brings the people to the equipment.  In conflict, the Air Reserve asks for volunteers.  Charleston has not had to institute involuntary service since 2003. These Air Force reservists work with Active Duty Officers. 

There is total force integration between the Air Force, Air National Guard, and the Air Reserve.  The retirement age for these reservists is typically delayed until age 60. 

In addition to being combat-ready, the Air Force Reserve provides humanitarian and disaster relief worldwide.  Colonel Fontanella remarked that when there is a crisis and the United Nations is there, you will see a C-17 with a Charleston Tail Flash – often Charleston Air Force reservists bring the United Nations personnel to the disaster.  The Charleston Air Force Reserve also provides emergency medical services.  Within 24-36 hours of injury, they can get a medical team into combat.  If the medical personnel are there within 24 hours of combat injury, then there is a 95% chance that the Soldier will survive. 

These brave men and women exemplify service above self in a way that is invaluable to our country.  In addition to leading busy lives just like we do, these Citizen Airmen make enormous sacrifices every day to protect each and every one of us. 
Abby Edwards Saunders, Keyway Committee