By Judith Schumacher-Jennings
Reversing climate change requires political will, practical solutions, commitment and cooperation.
Several months ago, I wrote a column for Earth Matters about the Green New Deal. It was the most exciting climate news since the Paris Climate Accord. You may have considered it a “pie in the sky” idea. After all, it is supported by Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the like.
Turns out, the Green New Deal is not “pie in the sky” after all. I recently discovered a book that spells out how addressing climate change is not an impossible task. Paul Hawken’s Drawdown, published in 2017, takes us step by step through the 100 best ways.
In Drawdown’s preface, Dr. Jonathan Foley explains why reality of climate change is upon us. Dr. Foley is the executive director of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. He argues climate change is affecting weather patterns, ecosystems, ice sheets, islands, coastlines and cities. It is also affecting our health, safety and security.
Processes Producing Carbon Dioxide and Methane
We release heat trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) when we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. CO2 is also released manufacturing cement, plowing fields and destroying forests. We release methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas, with our cattle, rice fields, landfills and natural gas operations. However, Foley believes we have all the tools we need to reverse climate change. He says, Drawdown is the most important book ever written on how to do just that.
Hawken defines “drawdown” in atmospheric terms. Drawdown is the point in time at which greenhouse gases peak and begin to decline. He decided to demonstrate how reversing the accumulation of greenhouse gases is possible. Hawken compiled a list of applied, hands-on practices and technologies that are commonly available, economically viable and scientifically valid. His list highlights the practices and technologies with the greatest potential to reduce emissions or sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
The Drawdown Background
To this end he gathered together 70 Drawdown Fellows, students and scholars from 22 countries. This group compiled and sorted through the existing research. Then Hawken assembled a 120-person advisory board to review and validate the findings. The board included prominent geologists, engineers, agronomists, politicians, writers, climatologists, biologists, botanists, economists, financial analysts, architects and activists.
Drawdown’s resulting solutions lead to regenerative economic outcomes. They will create security, produce jobs, improve health, save money, facilitate mobility, eliminate hunger, prevent pollution, restore soil, and/or clean rivers. Hawken sees global warming as an opportunity. Reversing climate change is an opportunity to build, innovate and effect change and a pathway to awaken creativity, compassion and genius.
Cooperation v. Competion
An essay by Janine Benyus describes the history of a great debate in the early 1900s. The debate was between ecologists Frederic Clements and Henry Gleason. Clements studied bayous, chaparrals, hardwood forests and prairies. His research indicated plants actually cooperate with each other to survive. Gleason, on the other hand, was in the Darwin tradition and thought plants merely competed with one another for survival.
Clements theory held sway until the 1940s. The Truman Doctrine and the onset of the Cold War made any mention of “communism” impossible, even when talking about plants. In the last 20 years, however, Clement’s ideas have seen a resurgence. Over 50 years of research into the competitive nature of the plant world proved inconclusive.
Gleason had promoted the cutting of thousands of acres of California blue oak trees. The Blue Oaks thrived for eons to provide for rangeland grasses free from competition. In the 1990s ecologist Ray Calloway’s research showed the blue oaks act as nutrient pumps and feed the surrounding landscape. He has since compiled more than a thousand (1,000) studies describing how plants enhance their neighbors’ survival, creating a virtual manual for how natural communities heal and overcome adversity.
Collaboration and Community
In the epilogue, Hawken writes about Norwegian psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes. Stoknes found we tend to become immobilized by fear, guilt, passivity, apathy and denial when inundated with threats and dire warnings about climate change. Hawken believes a conversation framed about possibility and opportunity can shift the paradigm.
The economic data collected for Drawdown shows clearly that far greater profit is achievable by instituting regenerative solutions than the cost of conducting business as usual. For example, the most productive method of farming is not conventional agriculture, which depletes the soil and adds to the carbon footprint, but regenerative agriculture. Regarding power, the solar industry has employed more jobs as of 2016 than gas, coal and oil combined.
As it turns out, climate solutions depend on community, collaboration and cooperation. Reversing climate change will require groups of people forging new and promising alliances: developers, cities, nonprofits, corporations, farmers, churches, provinces, schools and universities. Curiously, research has shown that children typically exhibit altruistic behavior even before they speak. Concern for others is seemingly innate.
Hawken suggests we’ll reverse global warming when we remember who we are meant to be.
Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, January 8, 2020. Email Judith Schumacher-Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org