Just a few weeks ago, more than 300 Oregonians gathered at the Natural Capital Center in Portland to hear best-selling author, environmentalist, and climate advocate Paul Hawken present Drawdown, his long-awaited new book that chronicles over 100 creative solutions for addressing global warming.
“Climate change isn’t a curse,” Hawken said. “It’s feedback.” What if global warming is not an obstacle but an opportunity to innovate and reimagine everything we make and do? What if we view our circumstances not as daunting, but as a worldwide cue that it’s time for something different?
Land use is the only way to draw down carbon
“If you’re going the wrong way, you need to stop and turn around. Slowing down just means you’re going the wrong way more slowly.”… He was talking about the need to not only arrest greenhouse gas emissions, but the equally important goal of pulling them out of the atmosphere. This is what the term “drawdown” refers to — the point where atmospheric greenhouse gases peak and begin to decline year-by-year as more carbon is sequestered back into the earth.
The normal functioning of natural, healthy ecosystems pulls carbon from the air and stores it in soil or biomass. Most people know that trees store carbon, but perhaps not everyone is aware that grasslands and wetlands also do so, sometimes even to a greater degree. Still, forests are a crucial part of the picture. Drawdown found that restoring the world’s temperate rain forests could result in nearly 23 gigatons of carbon sequestration by 2030.
A huge surprise – food is a greater solution than energy
Eight of the top 20 most effective global warming solutions found by Drawdown researchers were food-related. Solutions three and four — reduced food waste and a plant-rich diet, respectively — exist on the consumption end of the spectrum. But every other of the eight — silvopasture, intercropping, and more — are related to how we produce our food.
What we talk about when we talk about climate: notes on language
Throughout the talk, Hawken noted the confusion of terms that swirls around the topic of climate: decarbonization, negative emissions, climate change, global warming. There’s a need for an accessible, simple vocabulary, Hawken said, and also a need to move away from the typically violent rhetoric that surrounds the topic: the war on carbon, slashing emissions, combating global warming. “Any time you have a military metaphor, you’re saying there’s an enemy or other,” Hawken said. “That’s dualistic thinking; that got us exactly where we are.” Plus, Hawken noted, you can’t “battle” climate change. The climate is always changing in response to chemistry on earth, and always has. When we refer to “climate change” as the problem, we are talking about its dramatic changes on a planet warmed by excessive greenhouse gas emissions in a very short period of geologic time.
In summary: We want to reverse global warming to reduce the effects of drastic climate change. (Final answer.)