The IPCC has 2.5 billion data points behind the last assessment – the fifth assessment. It is the most astounding problem statement that humanity has ever created…Extraordinary!
But you don’t solve a problem by repeating the problem over and over again to each other. You solve a problem by looking at the possibilities that are inherent in that problem.Paul Hawken, Project Drawdown - University of Queensland, 2018
A whole lot of people in the world KNOW that climate change is an issue - so KNOWING THE PROBLEM is probably NOT the real problem.
For someone to take action on change, they need to:
Anyone working in public health knows that you've GOT to do more than fear messaging - they know (as Martin Seligman wrote in LEARNED HELPLESSNESS 30 years ago) that you've got to connect people with immediate action they can take today.
That's why today's anti-smoking ads always finish with a QUIT line number - because when you WANT to change you need to know HOW to change and WHERE change is already happening.
How many of the smokers who stand in groups outside cancer hospitals are there because they don't believe that "smoking causes lung cancer"?
The human mind does not run on logic any more than a horse runs on petrol.Rory Sutherland, Alchemy
So it doesn't matter how many "threatening futures" you talk about - if you don't tell people what THEY can do that will make THEIR world better today, you're not going to get a lot of action. (That's particularly true when we've been told for decades that "the people have to tell the government to take action".)
Back in 2014, sustainability entrepreneur Paul Hawken decided to find out for himself. After years of asking, no one had been able to tell him what the commercial climate solutions actually were. So he started Project Drawdown on a shoestring, and recruited 70+ volunteer researchers from 22 countries. They catalogued the top commercial solutions, selecting only those that had independent, peer-reviewed data that could be modelled at a global level.
Their initial findings - 80 commercial solutions - were published in 2017 in DRAWDOWN: THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE PLAN EVER PROPOSED TO REVERSE GLOBAL WARMING. They've updated their list and their modelling regularly, and in 2022 they were up to 93 commercial solutions that offer savings of $80-$140 trillion as a ROI on their investment.
Hawken moved on from Project Drawdown to explore the solutions that individuals, communities, regions and SMEs were creating, and in 2021 he published REGENERATION: ENDING THE CLIMATE CRISIS IN ONE GENERATION. So far, the experts of Project Regeneration's Action Nexus have compiled nearly 100 action lists for individuals, communities, SMEs, regions and industries.
And in parallel, the world's innovators and entrepreneurs have ALSO been developing design solutions. So anyone in business can get involved in solutions from Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation to Doughnut Economics.
There are a whole range of contexts supporting Regenerative Business innovation, so go exploring for the one that works for you. If you're industry, it might be a Circular Economy hub. If you're community oriented, it might be the Doughnut Economics Action Lab.
I offer 1-on-1 Regenerative Thinking in Action coaching/mentoring programs - check out Think Act Regenerate for details.
Think about who was behind the development, construction and commericalisation of :
Who drove the design and delivery work that made it a desirable consumer product?
The systems that deliver the products and services we use every day go back centuries. Their environmental impacts were multiplied and magnified by the Industrial Revolution. Then they were further accelerated through the 20th century.
Their primary problem is that they are fundamentally 1-way, mine/make/use/dump designs. Making them "more efficient" is like slowing down the speed of the car you're driving over a cliff.
To survive, you actually need to change direction. You need smarter, fairer safer systems - circular, renewable systems that restore and regenerate BY DESIGN. You need to change whole industry mindsets.
Industrial innovation at scale isn't typically delivered by democratic national governments.
Western democratic governments aren't "in charge" of the design of industry. They can set policies and - to a certain extent - regulate what business does.
Who is the primary force in designing, building and delivering the majority of products and services you consume every day?
Who directly briefs the engineers , designers and technologists who work out how to provide us with transport, clothes, energy and communications?
Research and development may be done in laboratories and think tanks using government funding . However, scaling a product or service for a national or global market is primarily done by canny business innovators.
These innovators are at all levels. They can be an entrepreneurial head of a global manufacturing corporation; the owner of a family construction business; or a collective of citizen entrepreneurs delivering a renewable energy coop.
It's surprising how few climate "experts" seem to know this - but we do. According to one analysis, simply by scaling 80 existing, commercial, no-government-required solutions we could be carbon negative by 2050.
This is what Paul Hawken found when he was preparing to release the first Drawdown report on reversing global warming in 2017:
“While we were finishing the book I spoke with three of the best-known international climate change experts—professors and authors who have been leading this field for the past 25-30 years. I asked them to write down their top 5 solutions for global warming. It took them a long time.
Moreover: They were all wrong. Their top solutions are not the top solutions according to the data of the leading institutions as we have researched those.
Here’s my point: We are 40 years into global warming. It is the most serious problem humanity has ever faced. We have created it and the authorities in the field cannot name the top-5 solutions. That’s an astonishing anthropological fact. There is no plan…” (emphasis added)Paul Hawken in The Optimist Daily
The problem experts don't know the answers. If they did they may still not have the supply chain smarts to turn good technology into great products and services.
It seems likely that the most powerful place you could campaign for climate action is inside an entrepreneur's head.
You can still march on climate strikes.
You can still use your vote to send a political message.
You can still reduce your meat intake and your car miles.
And when you've done those things you can do more!
You can learn about the existing, actionable solutions that are being collected under titles like Circular Economy and Regenerative Business.
AND you can do more than protest, vote and eat more veggies - you can take the best solutions to work and use them to build your career (or business)!
Find out more at my sister website Balance3.
We're not in an environmental mess because we don't have better, smarter, safer options.
We've been building technology solutions for over a century. Solar panels have been around since the 1880s and EVs were already on the market in the early 1900s.
Powerful systems solutions and smarter implementation practices have been developing for decades - at least since the publication of The Limits to Growth in 1972.
The underlying reason we're in an environmental mess is that the self-protecting human systems we call “business” and “the economy” have been stuck in 19th century design thinking for way too long.
The same evolutionary biological forces that make mature forests stable ecosystems also impact human behaviour.
We don’t have time to upgrade the global human psyche.
And we don't have to.
Instead, if we leverage the leading edge of the expanding “soft tech” revolution, we can make the improvements we need to make with the human race we currently have.
Following quietly behind the Information Revolution is a whole new world of human understanding. Some examples include:
When we acknowledge what the human race is (and especially what it ISN'T) - then we can get on with the job, applying the wealth of solutions we already have.
It's time to take a good dose of Radical Acceptance, then get to work applying the best solutions from fields as disparate as Systems Thinking and Generative Innovation.
Within multiple disciplines - old and new - the tools exist that can help us make the human systems changes that will regenerate the ecosystems we need to survive.
You win anyway, regardless of how the future develops.
The skills that will shift us more rapidly to a smarter, safer, fairer Regenerative Economy will also enhance your relationships, your career and your working life.
Because the overall ability to get things done in human groups will help you thrive in any environment - from corporate jungle to rural outpost.
I've been building a library of resources on both Regenerative Business solutions and Innovation Delivery skills for years, and now I'm building this blog - An Inconvenient Species - to explore the human in the global warming equation further.
If you'd like to be part of making a world where our Inconvenient Species thrives along with the rest of nature, then sign up for updates to get ideas in your inbox.