If climate activists had a bible, it would be the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken. It was one of the first books suggested to me to read when I started getting active in fighting climate change. Whenever I went to a climate event I’d spot a few of those books tucked under peoples’ arms and poking out of their bags. Naturally, I had to buy a copy, and I wasn’t disappointed. This book is a compilation of the 100 most impactful, science-based solutions to drawing carbon out of our atmosphere.
The solutions blend the familiar and much talked about—wind turbines, solar farms, geothermal heating, smart grids, efficient buildings, electric vehicles—with the more surprising—reducing food waste and eating a plant based diet, tropical forests and silvopasture, family planning and educating girls, and managing our refrigerants found in every refrigerator, supermarket case, and air conditioner (the #1 solution because refrigerants are such a potent greenhouse gas).
“Innovation. Creativity. Ingenuity. Genius. When you set bigger goals, everything opens up.”
We hear a lot of rhetoric of how we need to think big when it comes to climate change—like putting-a-man-on-the-moon, big. That’s what Drawdown is. With a modest budget and little fanfare, a group of 200 scientists and researchers mapped and modeled the 100 most effective ways to draw down greenhouse gas emissions. The Drawdown team did the math to calculate what humanity can achieve with tools already in use around the globe.
What I love about Project Drawdown is that there is literally a solution to match anyone’s interest. Are you farmer? Check out regenerative agriculture and silvopasture. An architect or contractor? Check out passive homes, greenroofs, and retrofitting. Passionate about education? Educating girls is one of the top 10 solutions. Care about job creation and growing our economy? Most of these solutions check off those boxes. The best part is each solution comes with a carbon calculation (how much carbon is estimated to be taken out of the atmosphere) and the actual cost. It turns out that if we implemented these solutions not only could we tackle the greatest threat facing our planet, we stand to save a lot of money.
A copy of Drawdown should be on the nightstand, coffee table, and desk of every political leader and CEO, but outside the circles of climate nerds, it’s not as well known as it should be. Fortunately, there are organizations and individuals working hard to spread the word.
Last October I had the chance to hear Paul Hawken and his team present at Drawdown Learn, a 3-day collaborative event, held at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. This event was open to educators, curriculum developers, parents, students, librarians, community groups, researchers, and local officials interested in learning about solutions and charting a path forward. I’ve already seen good things coming out of this weekend of learning and information sharing: People are giving Drawdown presentations to groups, thanks to the free resources offered by Pachamama Alliance. New York Libraries are holding New York Reads: Drawdown in March. Libraries will be hosting conversations around the essays and topics found in the book.
The Drawdown Learn weekend was divided into two tracks: Working within your community and working in education, which happen to be my two favorite avenues of action.
I learned about a group called Sustainable Hudson Valley, established back in the late 1990’s, that’s on a mission to show all a region can do to reverse climate change, and protect people and nature from its impacts, through planning, policy, investment and the choices we make every day. Sustainable Hudson Valley discovered Drawdown a few months before its publication. They’ve been talking it up and developing projects based on the 100 actions ever since. Melissa Everett, the Executive Director, when asked what she likes about Drawdown, said “I love the combination of scientific rigor and aesthetic power, and the voice that the message comes in—human, vulnerable, acknowledging that we are in terra incognita and using that as the basis for entertaining hope.”
On the education side, I learned about Drawdown EcoChallenge, a three week engagement program open to individuals, schools, businesses, community and religious groups, that provides tools and inspiration, giving participants a fun and social way to think about and act on proven solutions to reverse global warming. Participants track and share their progress online and can earn points for taking action.
I heard first hand from Sarah Duffer, a teacher in Asheville, NC, how she incorporated the Drawdown EcoChallenge into her curriculum. Sarah Duffer teaches Earth and Environmental Sciences at Asheville High School, and they won the Inaugural Drawdown EcoChallenge.
Sarah Duffer decided the EcoChallenge would be a fun, engaging way for the students and greater community to learn about and practice the solutions to reverse global warming. The students were required to complete the EcoChallenge lessons but once they placed in the top 5, they started to get really excited about winning. Even students in other classes and clubs got involved. Duffer said, “I was surprised by how many parents and siblings also joined our team. Ultimately students felt an enormous sense of accomplishment. Part of what made the EcoChallenge so meaningful to the students was they are tired of hearing the bad news about climate change. This allowed them to feel like collectively they had enormous power to affect positive change in the world.” Sarah went on to add that some of the students started eating a more plant-based diet or went totally vegetarian and vegan.
So this March and April, ask your library to make Drawdown their book club selection. Take the Drawdown EcoChallenge. Discover for yourself the solutions for reversing global warming are clear and tangible, and that they can be worked on in our communities, homes, and schools. Let’s get more Drawdown books into everyone’s hands and more of these solutions implemented across the globe!
Want to replicate this idea near you? Here are some ideas: