Building personal habits with a global perspective – the art of the possible

Did you ever believe you could change the world?

Did you ever stop believing?

In Drawdown, Paul Hawkens, in collaboration with researchers across the globe, details the top 100 ways in which we can not only stop the level of greenhouse gases increasing, but drawdown CO2 from the atmosphere, reducing the level of greenhouse gases and reducing the worst of the impact of climate change.

The solutions are many and diverse.

They range from the personal choices we make every day, to solutions that require a systemic shift, to those that require existing beliefs about the way the world is to be reconsidered. Many sectors of our economy have within their grasp, earth-enhancing and life-enhancing solutions that will have a positive impact.

Paul paints a picture of what is possible, what is already starting and needs nourishing and enabling. He intersperses the 100 solutions with writing from some deep thinkers, and, interestingly, some of the themes and solutions that emerge chime with the work of FutureAgenda 2.0. Paul subdivides the 100 solutions into sectors including some that would be expected Transport and landuse, Energy and Food – and those less expected: Women and girls.

Women and Girls is the shortest section – with only three solutions identified. Taken together, Women and Girls could significantly reduce the human CO2 footprint. The surprising findings were that educating girls and offering family planning support to women would have the greatest impact on our human greenhouse gas emissions. Paul notes the surprise himself – Malala Yousafzai would perhaps not be quite so surprised.

For those who have spent more time in this world of systems dynamics and sustainable living, it will be no surprise that some of the principles that you can trace across the 100 solutions include:

  • Systems based approaches, enhancing what the earth already does well and the natural systems available to us.
  • Reducing ‘mono’ of anything and increasing integration and diversity – requiring deep collaboration
  • Recognising the complexity of relationships and dynamics between things, and the necessity of facilitating and deepening those relationships.
  • Mirroring nature and mimicking natural structures, going with what naturally works and augmenting it.
  • Reducing a one size fits all regardless of global location and working with local knowledge and community based practices.
  • Oddly enough – making things more ‘human’ and less inhumane, less sterile.

The impact of the solutions presented have deep ramifications, meaning stronger communities, democratization of resources and gender equality.

Not all the top 100 are ‘no regrets’ solutions – but most are – that is they have positive or neutral rather than negative longer term impacts. Taken seriously, this book contains a blueprint for turning what is currently a global ‘death economy’ into a life economy. There are many winners  (eg bamboo) and staples in our current economy that are losers (eg cotton described as ‘the dirtiest crop’).

Paul focuses his attention on the evidence-based solutions available. He doesn’t ask or insist we adopt one or another, merely lays these out for our consideration. And in words that Wendell Berry might use, these things are worthy of our consideration.

As a leader in any walk of life, Drawdown provides some clear ways that you can influence how the scales tip when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.

As one person, there are so many habits that each of us could adopt that are part of the solution.

The only questions remain:

  • What are you going to pay attention to?
  • What is the solution that is within your gift to adopt or promote?
  • Is there more than one?

Even your money speaks for you. Every choice you make, every penny or cent you spend can be part of the solution.

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. Edited by Paul Hawken, 2017. Penguin: New York

See also the drawdown website