Drawdown, Edited by Paul Hawken, is likely the most important book on climate in a decade. While its title sounds slightly self-congratulatory, the book lives up to it. Hawken and his team have created a comprehensive review to answer the question, “What do we need to do in order to arrest and reverse global warming?” We may have seen elements of solutions before, but the totality of this has never been done before.
His team selected the top 100 solutions for global warming and climate change and ranked them for overall impact, cost, savings, and gigatons of CO2 reduction. The book is meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated. It is divided into sections: Energy, Food, Women and Girls, Buildings and Cities, Land Use, Transport, and Materials. It is also sprinkled with essays by prominent journalists, writers and scientists as well as “Coming Attractions” of new technologies on the horizon.
While the title uses the word “Plan,” it is more of a blueprint of our collective wisdom. It provides a reasonable route to reversing global warming. It does not assume any self-appointed ability to implement or prescribe. Yet, in showing a logical path forward, Hawken and his team give us hope and potential action to counter the doomsayer whispers of “It’s too late.”
Our society is besieged and obsessed with an apocalyptic viewpoint. Fear predominates our public discussions on almost everything. Hawken changes this perspective and presents global warming as an opportunity.
“The buildup of greenhouse gases we experience today occurred in the absence of understanding: our ancestors were innocent of the damage they were doing. That can temp us to believe that global warming is something that is happening “to us” – that we are victims of a fate that was determined by actions that precede us. If we change the preposition, and consider that global warming is happening “for us” – an atmospheric transformation that inspires us to change and reimagine everything we make and do – we begin to live in a different world. We take 100% responsibility and stop blaming others. We see global warming not as an inevitability, but as an invitation to build, innovate, and effect change, a pathway that awakens creativity, compassion, and genius. This is not a liberal agenda, nor is it a conservative one. This is the human agenda.”
This approach is not Pollyannaish, rather it is the stuff that resonates with the American drive and creative spirit. Hawken emphasizes the economic drivers, in terms of costs, savings, impact and risk for each solution.
While some members of our political class want to take us backward, I believe this book should be required reading for every state and federal legislator. Despite their efforts, the age of fossil fuels is coming to an end. Without a solid vision and strategy, all these tactics are just wasted effort. Without tactics, a strategy for the future is just wishful thinking. This book provides both.
Pay attention. Savor the Earth. Restore the Earth.
L. Hobart Stocking