Drawdown – a review by Tessa Campisi

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming Edited by Paul Hawken (Penguin Books, 2017)

Meticulously researched, visually engaging, and optimistic in tone, Drawdown is the ‘coffee table’ book of the climate movement. With contributions from an interdisciplinary team of experts, the book synthesises and compares 100 ways in which humanity can reduce emissions, sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and as the title declares ‘reverse global warming’.

The solutions are grouped into seven categories (eg transport, women and girls, land use) and ranked by to their ‘drawdown’ potential, according to the authors’ modelling. Whilst some solutions focus on technology and efficiency, such as Geothermal (ranked #18), many solutions present novel ways in which social and cultural shifts can reduce emissions, such as Ridesharing (#75).

Drawdown is an excellent example of effective science communication. Complex or unfamiliar concepts such as the energy grid or soil microbiome are explained succinctly yet clearly, backed up with scientific data carefully selected to illustrate an argument.

Importantly, Drawdown debunks the ‘silver bullet’ fallacy – the idea that climate change can be magically ‘solved’ by new technology. The authors acknowledge the multifaceted nature of the crisis, and therefore the need for diverse and even seemingly conflicting solutions. Whilst Drawdown extols the benefits of a ‘Plant-Rich Diet’ (#4),  it also highlights ‘Managed Grazing’ (#19) as a drawdown strategy. Further, whilst carefully emphasising their role as ‘transition technologies’, controversial solutions such as ‘Nuclear’ (#20) and ‘Waste-to-Energy’ (#68) are examined for their merits and limitations.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis, I like to flip open Drawdown and read about a solution that somebody, somewhere, is working on. It goes beyond touting the virtues of energy efficient lightbulbs and electric vehicles, and hints that another world is possible. Drawdown is not simply a blueprint for a low-carbon future, it is a vision of a world which is more just, more connected and more respectful towards the planet.

*copy in the EGSC library. The author is a regular visitor to Gippsland