Cher Gilmore | Project Drawdown and an Opportunity for a Better Planet

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Part 2 of 2 (Part 1 was published Oct. 29)

Project Drawdown has produced a framework to guide us on a new pathway of ecological recovery and sustainability, but to act, we need to be able to touch, see and feel the existing solutions at hand. In “Drawdown 2020 — The Time is Now,” the virtual event that introduced Climate Week in New York City in September, we experience the sight, sound and feel of just a few of those solutions, and watching it is electrifying. For a full inspirational hit, consider taking in the recording, under News and Events on drawdown.org. 

One of the solutions you’ll see under land use is the rehabilitation of large-scale, damaged ecosystems, such as the Loess Plateau in China, an area the size of France whose restoration John Liu documented in 1995. Since then, Liu has become a leader in ecosystem restoration and the founder of Ecosystem Restoration Camps (ecosystemcamps.org), which train people how to restore biodiversity, soil fertility, and the hydrological cycle on degraded land, plus how to ensure equity for everyone. With 36 of these camps now on six continents, he promises many more soon. His award-winning films have inspired restoration efforts worldwide, and two upcoming are “Kiss the Ground” and “Age of Nature.”

Under the category of food, CEO Komal Ahmad formed Copia because she believes business has to be a force for good — with both profit and purpose. Ahmad believes hunger isn’t a scarcity problem; it’s a logistics problem. Her company has developed a technology to deal with food waste by connecting businesses having high-quality excess food to nonprofits in need — in real time. The company can dispatch a driver to deliver unused food anywhere in North America within 30 minutes or less on average. People are fed, and the business gets a tax deduction for food they would otherwise have thrown away. Copia also uses software analytics to help small businesses reduce food waste from over-purchasing and over-production (https://www.gocopia.com/about).

Bren Smith, a former commercial fisherman, had an awakening when local cod stocks crashed and he realized “there are no jobs on a dead planet.” Shortly thereafter, he founded the nonprofit GreenWave (greenwave.org) and not only became a regenerative ocean farmer but also started a movement. His nonprofit has more than 6,000 requests to start ocean farms in every coastal state in North America, plus more than 100 countries around the world. GreenWave actually brings two Drawdown solutions together. Ocean farming captures carbon and nitrogen in the water, and by dedicating a percentage of crops to regenerative land-based farming, additional carbon gets sequestered in the soil.

Ocean farming is important for climate change because oceans soak up 30% of our CO2, and the crops require zero inputs. All ocean crops are regenerative, because they bring life back to the ocean by sequestering carbon and nitrogen. “Kelp is the rainforest of the sea,” Bren says, “soaking up five times more carbon than land-based plants.” Further, these farms also function as reefs. His vertical kelp farm was a barren patch of ocean, but now it’s a thriving ecosystem that also protects coastal communities from storm surge. “Our economy creates soul-crushing, meaningless jobs,” he continues. “We are hell-bent on creating a set of jobs in the regenerative ocean economy that are soul-filling.”  

From an economic perspective, the World Bank found that farming only 5% of U.S. waters could create 50 million jobs.

There is so much in this inspiring presentation that one can get overwhelmed with possibility! At the end, clips of Academy Award-winning filmmaker Louis Psihoyos’ film “Racing Extinction” were shown — as they were being projected on the Empire State Building and then on the Vatican during the COP21 international climate conference, creating 4.4 billion media impressions worldwide. Psihoyos says that “once you get 10% of the population 100% committed to a cause, it’s unstoppable.” With his films he aims to get 10% of the planet aware of the extinction crisis, and he’ll be doing similar projections of his film on iconic buildings worldwide next year. 

Project Drawdown ultimately is a response to Rachel Carson’s observation many years earlier: “The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery — not over nature but of ourselves.”  

Rather than feeling climate change is something that’s happening to us, Paul Hawken asks us to consider that “global warming is happening for us — an atmospheric transformation that inspires us to change and re-imagine everything we make and do.”  

If we do that, he says, we begin to live in a different world. 

Cher Gilmore is a member of the Santa Clarita chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and lives in Newhall.

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