In this interview, environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author Paul Hawken discusses Project Drawdown, “the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.” Hawken, who leads the project and edited the just-published book Drawdown, explains why his team felt it necessary to create a master list of the most substantive current solutions to global warming, and how they went about their extensive research. Surprisingly, many of the top solutions they identified and modeled do not involve energy systems, but instead focus on changes in food, land use, and other categories. Hawken speaks about global warming in positive terms, describing it as useful “feedback” that enables humans to take responsibility for what they have done – and to devote themselves to fixing the problem rather than to laying blame.
What Hawken – an environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author – had in mind was a list of the top solutions to global warming. He wanted solutions that already existed and that had been scientifically confirmed as the most effective ways to address the problem. He was astonished that nobody had drawn up such a list.
Twelve years later, there was still no list, so Hawken set about creating one – with the help of a group of researchers that eventually grew to more than 240 people and became known as Project Drawdown. They buried their noses in the scientific literature for two and half years, and when they emerged, they had a list of ways to reach drawdown: “that point in time when greenhouse gases in the atmosphere begin to decline.” A list that is fleshed out in the book Drawdown, just published by Penguin. A list that surprised everyone, even them.
They call it “the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.” It’s a set of 80 solutions that already exist, and 20 “Coming Attractions” that are still emerging. The solutions include the obvious, such as wind and solar power, but the plan doesn’t focus exclusively on renewable energy or even on energy sources in general. The solutions also involve food, buildings and cities, land use, transport, materials, and initiatives aimed specifically at women and girls. Two of the solutions – family planning and educating girls – would be at the top of the list if combined.
Hawken has written seven books, including The Ecology of Commerce (HarperCollins, 1993) and Blessed Unrest (Viking, 2007), and he co-authored Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (Little Brown, 1997) with Amory Lovins. He is the founder of the Natural Capital Institute, and of several companies focused on agriculture and natural food. He serves on the boards of many environmental organizations. Bulletin contributing editor Dawn Stover spoke with Hawken about Project Drawdown and approaching global warming as a problem that is “game on,” rather than “game over.”