Drawdown is a New York Times Bestseller and you can see why. The book, by a large team led by Paul Hawken, has a profusion of detail on ways that the impacts of climate change can be alleviated and ultimately reversed. It provides a guide to drawdown solutions. The book gives an optimistic view of what can be achieved by 2050. Still, there is clearly plenty of work to do. Overall, you have to say it was extremely impressive. There is also a Project Drawdown continuing working on the solution. The project includes offshoots such as Drawdown Georgia. It is great to see this work going on.
A Comprehensive Guide To Drawdown Solutions
The book contains an amazing guide to drawdown solutions. (Drawdown being when we start to reverse human impact on the creation of greenhouse gases). The authors create a common currency to compare greenhouse gases. In looking at the solutions they are not dogmatic. The team discusses the use of bridge solutions — non-ideal things to do in the medium term that are better than the likely alternatives. They obviously prefer, whenever they are possible, no-regrets solutions. Such solutions are just good all around and what we should be doing long-term.
Critically, the solutions offered are very often lower net cost than what is currently in use. Sometimes we need to be willing to spend to make the world better, but we shouldn’t think everything we need to do is expensive. One message is that there is plenty that we can do, with sufficient energy and a willingness to invest for the long-term, that is economically positive.
There is a truly fascinating array of things that can (and are) being done. Some I didn’t know about, while many others I didn’t appreciate how significant they were. (I’ve seen it noted in lots of places but I still can’t get my head around how bad cement is. It seems like it wouldn’t cause that many problems but it does).
Some solutions are fairly clear and can be implemented without massive coordination efforts. People can on their own adopt plant-based diets. All consumers can, and better still companies can, cut food waste.
“People who need food are not getting it, and food that is not getting consumed is heating up the planet”Hawken, 2017, page 41
What struck me most was the scale of the damage being done by substandard cookstoves. To make this even worse, these sub-standard stoves are causing a massive health crisis.
Globally, household air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death and disability, ahead of unsafe water and lack of sanitation, and it is responsible for more premature deaths than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.Hawken, 2017, page 44
I know nothing about global health but even were the problems only half as bad we need a major call to action. Plus, it is women who bear the brunt of this. Sub-standard stoves produce massive emissions, kill lots of people, and have major negative gender equity implications. This is important and urgent.
The book isn’t just a big list. It has some great facts and interesting side notes. The planned Edison-Ford electric car would have been a fascinating product had it arrived. (There were plenty of electric cars at the time).
Edison-Ford never came to pass, because Edison could not get that lightweight, durable battery.Hawken, 2017, page 141
They allow themselves a bit of license at the end with the Coming Attractions that they explain. These are things that could help us Drawdown but aren’t yet making a big impression. Nuclear Fusion is coming soon, hopefully (fingers really, really crossed).
Is Informative Data Too Boring?
One of the interesting book choices is the interspersion of random essays in between the solutions. I must confess I found it a bit distracting. The solutions and the ideas were fantastic. The essays weren’t bad but they were quite different. It felt almost as though someone had decided that the solutions were a bit dry (they aren’t) and essays were needed to spruce it up. (Literally, several essays were about trees). To be fair, bringing in an excerpt from the Pope did seem an interesting choice. That said, I don’t think the essays were necessary. I would hope that people who buy a book on climate solutions are okay with just reading lots of details on climate solutions.
Human Rights And Solutions
I appreciate the challenge the authors had with writing about the contribution that empowering women can have for the climate. This mirrors a recurring theme in a lot of the discussions in the area of sustainability. A person wants to say that doing the right thing will also be the smart thing to do. For example, you want to say that the right thing in terms of climate policy is also the right thing for the firm’s finances. That said, you don’t want to imply that you wouldn’t do the right thing if the numbers didn’t work. So the authors said it is “INAPPROPRIATE TO MONETIZE A HUMAN RIGHT” (Hawken, 2017, page 77) as they didn’t want to be seen as only wanting to do the right thing because it was cost-effective. It is a tricky problem because noting that there are cost-effective solutions might get us to a better world sooner. Still, it would be a Sisyphean task to put a financial number on the value of empowering women, so maybe it was sensible not to even try.
A great book. Many people have already read it; if you haven’t why not now? Then go to the website here for an update.
Read: Paul Hawken (2017) Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Penguin