In the climate change campaign, as in life, it’s the little things that count.
One might think climate health is about solar, wind and electric cars — the big things — but there’s a new strategy called "Drawdown" being enacted globally and in Ashland, which offers 100 solutions, many of them simple and already in place, intended to roll back, not just reduce, climate change in 30 years.
Almost 100 people Tuesday got an introduction to Drawdown at an enthusiastically received presentation by Southern Oregon Pachamama Alliance at Bellview Grange in Ashland.
The Drawdown Project is the work of Paul Hawken, whose book “Drawdown” lists seemingly unlikely top goals, including refrigerant management, reduce food waste, plant-rich diet, educating girls, bamboo, clean cookstoves and afforestation (which means planting trees where none ever grew).
“I was feeling hopeless and helpless,” said attendee Pete Cotton of Earth Teach Forest Park, “because of the many problems facing us — sea rise, heat death, the food chain, endless wars. It’s totally unsolvable. But we don’t get anywhere focusing on just the big problems.
“But what if we reverse that with with little responses? That delivers the goods. The concrescence of little solutions is the big solution. It’s a new source of encouragement to me.”
In a video, Hawken urges listening to climate deniers because climate activists demonize them as “not as good, not making a meaningful contribution, but … they are doing the best they can. When we get off our position, we can hear what they are saying.”
People broke into small groups to speak their fears and frustrations, with one man confessing, “I can’t stand to talk to people on the other side. I’m a sinner. Help me, I’m dying here.” Another responded that it’s important to get with opponents face-to-face because “it’s hard to hate people close up.”
The word “drawdown” refers to the point at which warming and climate change halts and begins, hopefully by 2050, to head downward, Hawken said. “The enormity of the problem can make you feel hopeless, but it’s our belief that what we do together can reverse global warming.”
Humanity lived many centuries with about 250 parts per million of carbon dioxide, but it’s now pushing 400, Hawken warned, adding, “If we’re going the wrong way, we have to stop, not slow down. We don’t want to go over the cliff slower. We want to turn around and go the other way.”
He suggested drawing down seven parts per million per year.
Many of the target goals are fairly simple, but new and in need of explaining, which his book tries to do. Number one, refrigeration management can cut atmospheric CO2 by 90 ppm — and is vital because such gases are more powerful in a high-carbon atmosphere, he said.
Food is a huge component of greenhouse gases so, in goals 3 and 4, he urges we cut down the huge amount of food tossed in the garbage — and the huge amount of trees cut for pasture to produce meat, as well as the carbon in their waste. Solution: Eat less of it.
The number 6 strategy, educating women and girls, is about family planning, especially in less developed countries. Clue: high population is ultimately behind every goal, yet contraception is widely opposed for religious and political reasons.
Karen Potts said, “What he is proposing is a healing from the inside out, changing the whole way we treat life on the planet … It models a life of meaning.” She said climate change has brought much fear that “at any time we could be gone,” so it’s important to keep returning to what we have in common.
Climate activist Barry Thalden noted his frustration with widespread “negativity about what’s going on in the world, especially in Washington (D.C.). I don’t want to hear about it. We’ve always had hard things to deal with. Our job is to move forward with new and creative ideas for the future that are sensitive to being in concert with nature.”
Elinor Berman, focusing on food solutions, said, “It’s so beautiful to have so many caring, heartfelt people who are making a difference.” Facilitator Lorraine Cook echoed the sentiment, saying, “These are all things we’d like to do anyway, even if they didn’t make a difference.”
Pachamama is presenting five-session series on Drawdown starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3, at Bellview Grange. It will be “a new understanding of what’s possible,” said presenter Lorraine Cook. The course has started in Toronto, New York and San Francisco, with Ashland being the fifth site in the world, she notes.
“You will be fully engaged with others on the cutting edge,” she adds, “with the offer of a big frame to expand in.”
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.