Drawdown written by Paul Hawken

DRAWDOWN - Paul Hawken

Do you think it is time to change your habits or those of your company to a more sustainable and profitable method? Come and find out what possibilities exist today.

So, did you know that the world is dying? Although a bit drastic, the question is extremely pertinent in the face of what we see daily, we even dare to ask another one: did you know that humanity is perishing because the planet is as well?

I imagine that your answer is yes! And once again, we get into the "Save the Planet" discussion.

Whatever your feeling about it, we need drastic changes from the State and the private sector to modify this scenario and bring profit to the environment and to the companies.

After all, because we are driven by money, both for our benefit and to manufacture new sustainable technologies based on the Green Economy, we need to join forces across these sectors and thus leverage this process for good.

So whether you are in a transformative position or not, here you will learn everything you need to know about sustainable conservation, from your day-to-day life to enriching your knowledge for the company. The book Drawdown will give you the answers. So, let's dive into it!

The book “Drawdown”

Published by the New York: Penguin Books in 2017, this work addresses multiple plans we do to can reverse global warming. Bringing data, historical processes, and developed research. All with practical and applicable uses in businesses, governments, and citizens' homes.

With 240 pages, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming is divided into eight chapters that address topics relevant to environmental change: Energy, Food, Women and Girls, Buildings and Cities, Land Use, Transportation, Materials, and Attractions.

Who is Paul Hawken?

A name of great weight and importance in the area, the author is an American businessman and activist. He is a great consultant for companies that seek environmental sustainability in their activities. Thus, he wishes to bring balance between business and the environment.

Paul Hawken is the executive director of the Drawdown Project, a non-profit project, and brings his ideas to this book, addressing not only companies and the State but every person to be more sustainable.

Why should I read “Drawdown”?

A re-adaptation in the face of what humanity has been experiencing is inevitable. Nowadays, not only do we have more incentives for companies to improve their environmental impact, but it has also become a commitment that more consumers demand from the companies they consume.

Everyone can and should keep thinking about improving their habits, so whether you are an enthusiast on the subject, a businessman, or an activist, here you will understand and discover great ideas and facts about preservation.

What can I learn from “Drawdown”

  • The current methods of energy generation that are most beneficial and practical for clean consumption;
  • How to modify or improve our food production in addition to the awareness of food waste generated worldwide;
  • How to change behavior through education;
  • The impacts of deforestation and how we can adjust the use of the land we have at our disposal;
  • The materials we have available today;
  • News in the ecological and technological world.

What is Project DRAWDOWN?

With the fundamental goal of identifying, metricizing, and creating doable solutions that should alleviate this climate within three decades, the project emerged in 2013 with the collaboration of more than 70 people from 22 countries.

However, everything was designed to combine sustainability with maintaining human comfort, for example: creating jobs, improving safety and health, saving money, and much more. So let's take a look at the main observations that the leader of this project has to offer in the book.

What are some sustainable energies?

The plans to reverse the climate crisis start with an extremely important part and one of the most polluting we have: energy! We can no longer live without it, so, for this reason, we must find appropriate solutions for it by adapting it.

More and more renewable energies are being compared to those fossil fuel derivatives. After all, gas, coal, and oil are becoming more expensive. To understand more about the issue, let's see some clean energies and to what extent they are beneficial.

Wind Turbines

By 2018 there were 314,000 turbines, they power 4% of the world's energy, and this number is only likely to grow. We can exemplify the wind energy potential of only three states in America (Kansas, North Dakota, and Texas) that can supply the demand from one end of the country to the other.


Not to mention the speed of construction of a turbine farm, which takes only about a year, automatically it generates a return on investment for the owner. Of course, there are drawbacks, because the wind is not constant and variations in the weather can interfere with the process.


However, its benefits and efficiency are clear, becoming shortly the cheapest type of energy capture. What is often lacking is government will and leadership.

Microgrids

Combining multiple renewable energy and a battery in a single spot, the microgrids exists to supply the demand of smaller cities and the countryside. This method grants the accessibility and flexibility of energy without relying on a huge central.

Geothermal

A resource that depends on heat from below the earth and water to bring this heat to the surface, geothermal energy is very limited and expensive. A new method to dispel its limitations is to create artificial wells where this excess heat exists, but again, this may cost much more than other alternatives.

Another downside is that this energy is not 100% clean, existing still some gas emissions, but much less than the old methods.

Solar energy

Although popular, solar energy generates less than 2% of the world's consumption, but its growth is immense and has evolved a lot. After all, this method makes a lot of sense since the sun is available half a day every single day.

Due to the great incentive of this modality, its costs are becoming cheaper and more accessible, being acquired by families as a means of saving money and consequently helping to reduce gas emissions.

Smaller mechanics that fit on roofs are already being more adhered to, becoming more self-sufficient. More governments are supporting and benefiting those who use this energy.

Biomass

There is still uncertainty about its validity, but biomass energy is widely used. It produces on demand and is very useful for emergencies.

This is the middle ground from shifting to newer and better sources, especially while other modalities are getting cheaper or have not yet reached their potential. One way to improve the sustainability of this energy would be through the modification of materials used to supply it.

Using waste products or even changing the type of crops to perennials. Corn and sorghum are the most used, but these degrade the soil and need a lot of fertilization.

Nuclear

Nuclear energy supplies about 11% of all the world's energy, and these power plants have passed through different generations. Gen 1 is almost all deactivated and made a place for Gen 2, which uses water as a decelerator for the nuclear chain reactions - the old one used graphite - and enriched uranium.

Gen 3 and 4 are still few in number, but are growing and being improved. These improvements are intended to reduce construction time, stretch its lifetime and increase efficiency. Leaving us wondering how much more expensive this technology can become.

Today, it is noticeable how high its price is. While other energies become cheaper, nuclear becomes more expensive, so only the future will tell how worthwhile this energy will be.

However, this evolution to Gen 4 is essential, improving the safety of these plants and making them smaller, thus possibly lowering their costs.

Methane digesters

With the organic materials produced by animals and humans, methane is produced. A toxic gas that can be very useful for generating energy. This is a great way to reuse the waste produced and redirect the gas so that it does not pollute the environment and provides power.

Energy storage

Batteries are in a new category, it doesn't generate energy but store it and makes distribution a possibility. This concept is still quite innovative, but has been surprising to everyone for the steady decrease in costs to install them.

This technology combined with renewables could be of extreme benefit, as the inconsistencies of energy from solar and wind would no longer be a concern.

Our food production can harm the environment?

Does our food influence the emission of pollutant gases? It seems a bit unlikely, but it is real. They exist naturally, as for their retainers too.

The natural balance formed by gases and their reducers no longer exists in an organic way, which generates a great alarm in the scientific community.

It is still uncertain the correct percentage with which agriculture and cattle raising has been influencing the gases in the atmosphere; the most conservative say that at least 15% of world production is due to them. Cattle-raising encourages huge deforestation for the production of their food and it also generates toxic gases on a daily basis.

As a solution, we can combine farming and forestry, it seems unlikely, but it is possible and quite beneficial both to avoid deforestation and for greater financial gain for the owner who will have in the same place grazing and trees of various types to generate products (fruits, nuts, among others).

We also have agriculture that, by its current predatory format, degrades and makes soils infertile. Restoration is necessary, either naturally or with human effort.

One solution is to use more efficient irrigation systems, putting in only what is necessary to avoid desalination of the soils.

One can also think about implementing agroforestry, mixing low plants with trees that bring the benefit of a forest while preventing erosion, infertility, and more. Despite the benefits, it is an expensive idea to implement and its financial return is not immediate, but when well established it generates great profits.

Another issue is food waste. In poorer countries, it is usually due to a lack of infrastructure, transportation, storage space, refrigeration, and more. In better-conditioned countries, it happens because of the aesthetics of the food or if it is extra ordered and served.

We no longer eat for the sake of survival, but for pleasure. Many of these cuisines carry their own cultural values and flavors depending on the method of preparation.

So it is not surprising to see that 40% of the fuels used for cooking are harmful to the environment and to humans when inhaled. The creation of technological stoves is real, they can reduce gas emissions by 90%, but they are very expensive.

We can only evaluate and start making practical changes in our daily lives. Composting is a start for those who have their plants or small crops at home and want to reuse the organic material consumed.

With small steps, we can reach our goals.

Where do women and girls fit into the sustainability process?

After all, what is the role of women and girls in society? Especially in this preservation factor? Don't men have the same responsibilities?

Although initially contradictory, this part reflects upon the gender with the highest representation - 51% of the world's population. Because they are larger in number and take part of the 43% labor force in agriculture in poorer countries, women are essential for change in this generation and the next ones.

Due to inequalities, girls can become vulnerable to the direct impacts of this lack of sustainability, ranging from diseases to natural disasters.

This comes from the lack of knowledge in poorer places that end up preventing school and academic education, so the life and farm experiences are acquired from their elders. Therefore, to educate is to bring knowledge to others and avoid disasters.

How we can upgrade our cities and buildings?

Now we will talk about the big cities and their buildings, but most importantly, we will discuss how by improving and modifying their structure we can strengthen our whole strategy to achieve sustainability.

So, here are some ways we can adapt to the exacerbated way humanity has been growing, transforming cities into something beneficial not only for housing but also regenerative for the planet:

  • Self-sustainable buildings, which generate and consume the energy produced, possess some restored in case of diversities;
  • Building walkable cities or adapting to a mode that uses less transportation;
  • Construction of bicycle paths, a method already widely used in Europe and that needs to spread more widely due to the positive impacts on the environment and its better lifestyle;
  • Establishing rooftop gardens that bring life to the middle of the cities. It can serve a more aesthetic purpose with flowers, or a functional purpose, planting food;
  • The use of LEDs, which use 90% less energy than other types of bulbs, but with prices still not as accessible as the others, but they are decreasing drastically;
  • Heat pumps, which resemble refrigerators that take care of the cooling and heating parts. These would be fueled by renewable energy;
  • Retrofit is a way to adapt old buildings to become more sustainable;
  • Water distribution, improving the speed of repairs, minimizing the unforeseen events that waste this resource; 
  • Building an automatic system for the building. It works like a brain, determining what should be done and when improving the overall efficiency of the resources used.

How to optimize the use of our lands?

Humanity's hugest problems lie in the use of the land we own. Since farming was developed, the number of trees has dropped by 46%. However, this is not the only problem, so let's look at some.

The carbon emission associated with deforestation and land use is 10 to 15% of the world's emissions. Therefore, we must create a safer and more effective way to prevent further erosion and salinization.

But what are the costs of it? It is approximately $400 to $1,200 per acre. The reforestation needs to be done in tandem with the population, after all, they are the ones that must maintain it.

We also have the mangroves, an example of a biome that helps in carbon sequestration but are highly polluted because of its location, close to the cities.

Something interesting and strangely efficient is a plant that removes carbon from the air and retains it in the soil. These are the bamboos! Its benefits don't stop there, this plant can replace other materials such as cotton, plastic, concrete, and more.

However, remember that monoculture is not good for the soil, and this grass is considered invasive in many places, so everything must be researched and thought out very carefully.

This goes for our next topic which is perennial and annual plantings. The perennials are very effective, cutting about 85% of the carbon emitted by annuals when it is used in the manufacture of ethanol. It also reduces the use of water and does not erode the soil.

Are there ways to move around sustainably?

Slowly, more countries are adopting better transportation methods, that can take as many people to the same location. We know that is not our only problem, there are many more but transportation is a huge polluter and can make a difference in this scenario.

Perhaps some solutions can be found in this chapter or, at least, improve the existing ones, even if not immediately. So below are some types of transportation:

  • BRT: the bus-oriented road is extremely useful in encouraging a higher use of public transportation. It just needs to be more applicable on a variety of routes;
  • Bullet trains (HSR): the problem is their high cost, exceeding 15 million dollars per km. However, they reduce carbon emissions by 90%;
  • Ships: these carry the largest percentage of commercial exchanges between countries and cause about 3% of global emissions of polluting gases. However, new technologies to make this transport more efficient are being developed since ships are cheaper than airplanes.
  • Electric cars: as we know this technology is still not very accessible, so a middle ground would be hybrid cars, where one part consumes electricity and the other gasoline/diesel;
  • Airplanes: just like ships, this transportation is under constant research to improve by about 60% its efficiency. These changes should occur in the next decade, decreasing total consumption;
  • Trucks: still widely used to transport goods internally. It is cheap to improve it, and the financial and environmental return is huge;
  • Carpooling: a method to still have the comfort of a car, but decrease the overall consumption by giving paid rides - apps like Blablacar and Uber are great examples.

How do we reduce waste?

Only in the last few years the awareness of reuse has been more widely adopted. This action is something that large and small corporations should adopt without question.

They produce and sell a large part of the waste they generate, so they should adhere to more material recycling practices.

Paper and plastic are great examples, but there are other materials used in manufacturing or in their packaging. Many don't have a second use yet, but others do!

The use of bioplastic is a start, but there is also the possibility of transforming industrial waste into cement. Many don't know, but this mass and the way it is composed pollutes through a decarbonization process.

So it is clear that more recycling must be implemented in the industrial area beside the traditional water-saving factors.

What are the ecological and technological innovations?

Athe end of the book we have the ideas that could be applied beyond those observed so far, after all, talking about energy, food, and transportation are methods studied by many and we have a basic notion of each of them. So let's look at some new attractions:

  • Repopulating the area of Steppe Mammoths with mammals;
  • Grazing harvesting, with rotation between grazing and crops;
  • Enhanced mineral weathering;
  • "Reforestation" of the ocean with algae, as a fuel medium;
  • Agroforestry;
  • Artificial Leaves;
  • Sharing autonomous electric vehicles;
  • Wearables that capture wave energy;
  • Living buildings that produce, create, and sustain themselves with their own energy and by growing food;
  • Technology that captures carbon dioxide from the air;
  • Buildings that use wood in their base and not fossil derivatives;
  • Fusion of the elements Boron and Hydrogen to create the power that a star would have;
  • Smart roads that generate power and charge cars;
  • Use of the Hyperloop, futuristic transportation faster than airplanes;
  • Microbial agriculture;
  • Industrial use of the hemp plant to replace other more polluting materials;
  • Consumption of red algae by grazing can decrease dramatically the methane production;
  • Ocean farms that grow algae;
  • Smart appliances that can monitor and direct energy where it is needed.

There are several innovations that have not yet been implemented or even imagined, but one thing is certain, they all need investment and a prior strategy to apply them. This is not simple, something that individuals do alone, but rather a joint action with private and public entities.

But despite being a long and futuristic effort, change happens when we become aware of the opportunities and implement them, influencing our generations through example.

Books about tecnology

The book "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century" by Tim Higgins explains more about the technology that is changing our way of consuming and, simultaneously, transforming it into something sustainable.

It is also interesting to observe the vision of the creator of this technology, so reading "Elon Musk" by Ashlee Vance is an indispensable complement.

Finally, for those who want to understand more about technology in enterprises, we have the book "Empreendedorismo Inovador" by Nei Grando.

From where can I start changing habits?

Depending on what position you are in, there are different types of approaches to start changing. Obviously, many things said in this summary apply to larger companies and governments, so let's focus on topics that everyone can accomplish:

  • Researching more about it is a starting point, but this is a must for gaining more knowledge to achieve any meaningful change. Remember, you are a propagator of these ideas and should present these innovations to your superiors or even implement them.
  • Look at your financial life and set aside a monthly reserve to replace your energy resources at home or in the office. Although it may be difficult to get extra money, this will influence the planet and your pocket.
  • Invest your time in improving your knowledge in composting, whether inside houses or apartments. Nourishing a garden with your leftover organic nutrients is extremely effective!
  • Approach the possibility of a majority plant-based diet, so we spend fewer resources and money on livestock care.
  • Finally, try to use public, non-polluting transportation or joint transportation apps. This requires not only a change of habit but depends on the circumstances and the place where each one lives. It requires effort but is worth it at the end of the process.

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Drawdown by Paul Hawken

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