Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Basic Plan To Save The Planet As We Know It

Here's a pretty much random quote.  I just opened the book and started reading and found this interesting, but I'm sure I could do that with almost any page in this book.
"Most landfill content is organic matter:  food scraps, yard trimmings, junk wood, wastepaper.  At first, aerobic bacteria decompose these materials, but as layers of garbage get compacted and covered - and ultimately sealed beneath a landfill cap - oxygen is depleted.  In its absence, anaerobic bacteria take over, and decomposition produces biogas, a roughly equal blend of carbon dioxide and methane accompanied by a smattering of other gases.  Carbon dioxide would be part of nature's cycles, but the methane is anthropogenic, created because we dump organic waste into sanitary landfills.  Ideally, we'd do it differently.  Paper would be diverted for recycling and food scraps sent to composting or run through methane digesters.  When they are not entombed, these wastes can create real value.  But as long as landfills are piling up, we must manage the methane coming out of them.  Even if we stopped landfilling immediately, existing sites would continue polluting for decades to come."

Landfill Methane is #58 in Paul Hawken's (editor) Drawdown:  The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming.   

The book's premise is that we have to cut back - drawdown - on carbon emissions.  And not only is this possible, but it's a great opportunity to rethink how we do everything which will lead to a better life for all.

He breaks down that overwhelming goal into more manageable tasks.  If you wanted to climb the highest peak in North America - Denali - you'd also have to break that overwhelming goal into smaller doable tasks.

After almost six years of monthly Citizen Climate Lobby (CCL) meetings, I understand that the biggest obstacle to cutting back on carbon emissions is people's belief that it can't be done, or that it can't be done without ruining our economy and way of life.  I understand that both of those beliefs are wrong. Many, many people are working on ways to change how humans get and use energy.  Reversing our carbon use is very doable and it will make life better and create lots of jobs.  BUT it will force change on many people as some kinds of work disappears and new kinds arrive.

But as our current national attack by hurricanes shows us, the rules of climate are changing.  100 year, 500 year, 1000 year floods are happening with a frequency that shows the old equations are no longer valid.  Global warming is changing the conditions of earth,  giving us more frequent and more powerful storms.

Paul Hawken seen from Anchorage CCL meeting Aug 2017
So last month, Paul Hawkens was the speaker at the monthly CCL speaker.  Local chapters around the world connect by video conference.

 I took notes and was duly impressed, but never managed to post about it.  (You can see the video of the meeting here - the Paul Hawken intro comes at 2 minutes in and he begins a little after 3 minutes.)

The book has 80 ranked 'solutions divided into seven 'sectors.'

1.  Buildings and Cities
2.  Energy
3.  Food
4.  Land Use
5.  Materials
6.  Transport
7.  Women and Girls

The quote at the top about Landfill Methane came from the section on Buildings and Cities.  Landfill Methane is ranked as solution number 58.

The top ten solutions are listed below

Top Ten Solutions
1.  Refrigerant Management
2.  Wind Turbines (Onshore)
3.  Reduced Food Waste
4.  Plant Rich Diet
5.  Tropical Forests
6.  Educating Girls
7.  Family Planning
8.  Solar Farms
9.  Silvopasture
10. Rooftop Solar

Each solution has calculations on "Total Atmospheric CO2-EQ Reduction" and Net Cost (US$ billions) and Lifetime Savings.

This is an amazing book.  It's visually beautiful and it essentially has the basic plans for saving the planet as we know it.  That's all.

So, why am I posting this a month after the meeting instead of posting about today's meeting?  Well, George Donart, the dynamo leading our Anchorage chapter, took orders for books at the last meeting and he brought them in for us at this meeting.  So I'm newly recharged by the book.

This book would make a great gift for anyone about ten or above.  I'm thinking graduation gifts, gifts for college students, for people you know who don't have climate change on their agenda of important issues.  For people who are concerned about climate change but think there's nothing we can do about it.  For teachers.  For people who are worried about climate change don't know what to do about it.  For yourself.

It's almost like a coffee table book.  You can pick it up and read about one or two solutions.  Then pick it up later and look at the rankings.  Another time read the introduction.

And the CCL website gives you lots more information and you can find the local chapter nearest to you. at this link.

Is my title an exaggeration?  I don't think so.  Climate change related events - and that includes things like the war in Syria - has disrupted the lives of more people, I would venture, than any other single cause in recent years.  If we don't reduce our carbon emissions things will only get worse.  The money we will spend on rebuilding Houston and (as I write this Irma's eye is about to hit Florida.

Screen Shot Google Crisis Map 12:41am Alaska Daylight Time
I personally don't think there is a more significant issue facing humankind.  And as the sectors in Hawken's book show, the solutions cover all aspects of how we live.


  1. I have seen in my lifetime that we can affect large-scale change by responding to (and practicing) belief as action in our lives. It's how equal marriage became the force for change it has become -- the few who became the many, moved by positive example to what was then shared, over and again. It's just positive peer pressure, really.

    Drawdown looks promising for just that reason: it's something I can do that matters to me and those I can show with my own example.

    I just might pick up a copy.

    1. I don't think you'll regret getting a copy. So many options tend to be blocked because we already have 'adequate' solutions, so we don't look for better ones. He identifies so many paths to better ones.

  2. I put this on my list of books to read. People trend to get overwhelmed when dealing with climate change. My thoughts are to start local. My lot is 7,200sf in South Anchorage, I took out the lawn and made it garden about 15 years ago. I can’t remember the last time we bought potatoes, carrots, kale, or beans from the store. We are able to grow and save enough for the both of us by freezing and drying. That also includes taking a lot of the surplus to share with my coworkers. In the summer we do not have to buy lettuce, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes or squash (never have been able to grow peppers in any real quantity). Just think of the savings if people turned their lawns into gardens, I read there are over 40 million acres of lawns in America. You should check out The Urban Farmer web site. I remember that saying that you cannot save the whole world just a piece of it. Grow something.


    1. Oliver, if everyone focused on doing it right at home, no one would have to 'save the world.' And growing your own food in Alaska saves lots of transportation costs to bring food here. And you eat really fresh food. Thanks.

  3. I have to know -- why are "women and girls" listed as a separate sector? are we somehow more of a pollution threat than men and boys? or are we supposed to clean up the earth behind the piggy males?

    (pardon the paranoid feminism...)

    1. So glad you asked.
      #62 Women Smallholders - "On average, women make up 43% of the agricultural labor force and produce 60-80% of food crops in poorer parts of the world. . . According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if all women smallholders receive equal access to productive resources, their farm yields will rise by 20 t0 30%, total agricultural output in low-income countries will increase by 2.5-4%, and the number of undernourished people in the world will drop by 12-17%. One hundred million to 150 million people will no longer be hungry. IMPACT: This solution models reduced emissions from avoided deforestation, resulting from increasing yield of women smallholders. Based on literature in the field, we assume yield per plot can rise by 26%. . . If women managing 98 million acres receive equal assistance and achieve that 26% gain, the solution could reduce 2.1 gigots of carbon dioxide by 2050.
      #7 Family Planning - Will lower population by giving women control of how many kids they have. Fewer people drastically lowers carbon use.
      #6 Educating Girls - This goes hand in hand with #7. Everything gets better when girls have equal access to education.
      Find a copy of the book for the details. I was hoping someone would ask because this doesn't sound like the normal way people think about fighting climate change.


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