Environmentalist, entrepreneur and bestselling author Paul Hawken is a man with a plan. As editor of the remarkable new book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, he has assembled some of the most creative, intelligent and industrious movers and shakers, out to do nothing less than reverse global warming. Their proposed solutions may be surprising, but the numbers are real. In anticipation of his visit to Bookshop Santa Cruz, he offered insights into this undertaking.
What made you want to get involved with Project Drawdown?
PAUL HAWKEN: The slow realization that the climate conversation was being dominated by fear, threat and doom. The science was impeccable, but it was not a motivating communication to humanity. I wanted to know what we could do on all levels of agency, from individuals to neighborhoods, communities, cities, utilities, companies, farmlands, forests, grasslands, states and provinces. I wanted grounded, science-based information on the solutions, not just the problem. And I wanted to name the goal.
Last year was the hottest year on record. Is reversal, rather than adaptation, even realistic?
It is not so much about rather as further. We are at 450-500 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the air. The last time they were this high was 10-15 million years ago. But those levels occurred gradually. We’re doing it overnight, geologically speaking. Adaptation is like saying we are going over a civilizational cliff and ought to lower the speed as we approach the edge. We need to turn around and go the other way.
How did you assemble such an impressive team of scientists and innovators?
By virtue of the goal itself. They wanted to be a part of something that had not been done before, which is to map, measure, and model the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming. What we found is that after 40 years of public and scientific awareness about the greatest crisis human civilization has ever faced, no one had done that math and could name the top five solutions to global warming. Our guesses at the outset of the project about what they would be were all wrong. We were shocked—in a good way—as to the top solutions.
Who is this book written for?
Everyone from ninth graders to farmers, your aunt, and the plumber. But it was also written for colleges and universities, to be a textbook. We wanted to write a book that anyone could understand and enjoy, with images that would intrigue, inspire, and delight, because the solutions are amazing. Global warming is feedback, an offering from nature that can lead to a renaissance of transformation. That is what we saw in the solutions.
In one section of the book, you address empowering women and girls as key to reducing the impacts of climate change.
When a girl is pulled from school at or before puberty, she will have an average of five-plus children. If she is allowed to complete her secondary education, she becomes a woman largely if not completely on her terms, and she decides the size of her family, with the average being two children. Those children are better fed, educated, and cared for, and when they have families, they do the same. Educating girls can make the difference between 10.8 billion people in 2050 and 9.7 billion people in 2050.
How can we find common ground on global warming?
Listen to what people are saying who deny or reject climate science or policies. They are trying to say something about their lives that is important to understand if we are to come together. And note that 98 percent of the solutions have many benefits in terms of clean growth, jobs, health, security, well-being, and more. Don’t try and sell the problem, sell the benefits of the solutions.
What can I do in my own life to help?
The simplest change a single person or family can make is to stop wasting food and eat a plant-rich diet, the No. 3 and No. 4 solutions to reversing global warming.
Paul Hawken will discuss and sign his book on Thursday, May 25 at 7 p.m. at Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-0900. The event is free.