Project Drawdown’s Blueprint of Possibility to Reverse Global Warming—A Guide for Grantmaking
September 5, 2018
Scientists have done an extraordinary job detailing the current and future impacts of global warming. Despite three decades of committed international research, however, no one had developed a comprehensive, actionable, and convincing path forward to reverse it. Humanity has been more adept at imagining the end of civilization than its transformation, and more inclined to throw up our hands in despair or to dream of silver-bullet saviors, however unlikely. Detachment and disengagement has been the norm. Many powerful solutions have gone unnoticed or are unknown.
Our work is proving to be a critical resource for funders to frame solutions and guide grantmaking, both in the U.S. and internationally. The $1 million Roddenberry Prize took inspiration from Drawdown, focusing on food waste, plant-rich diets, girls’ education, and women’s rights—solutions the Roddenberry Foundation identified as generally underfunded and often unrecognized for their impact on climate change. “It’s all in the data,” they put it simply. “At the Foundation, we’re moving away from silver-bullet approaches that emphasize innovation and future technologies at the expense of what we know already works. When we learned about Project Drawdown, we found an opportunity to highlight projects that are already working and support them to scale; seek out creative approaches from diverse members of our global community; and catalyze a shift from a fractured and siloed approach to climate change, to one where the community supports and recognizes its own.”
The Skoll Foundation also honed in on our work at the intersection of climate solutions and gender equity. We used Drawdown to frame exploration of a key topic at this year’s Skoll World Forum: women and girls’ central role in “Catalyzing Change in the Climate Crisis.” All too often, the gender-climate nexus is absent in discussions of global warming—particularly solutions to it. Drawdown lifts up and quantifies the importance of securing access to high-quality, voluntary family planning and of addressing gender gaps in educationand smallholder farming. All three must be advanced for the benefit of women, girls, their families and communities. Doing so will also have positive ripple effects on emissions, as well as resilience.
Katharine Wilkinson frames and moderates an impassioned conversation with Wanjira Mathai of wPOWER, Agnes Leina of Il’laramatak Community Concerns, and Willy Foote of Root Capital at the 2018 Skoll World Forum.
The Ray C. Anderson Foundation has been the longest standing contributor to Project Drawdown, and one of the most substantial. “More than a resource for us, we see Drawdown as our partner in a shared theory of change,” Executive Director John Lanier explains. “We have to prove the possible to create it. That’s exactly what Ray Anderson did as founder, CEO, and chairman of Interface—rather than pointing to problems and spreading fear, he showed what was possible. Ray knew that’s what moves people to action, and Project Drawdown is doing it for the greatest challenge facing humanity.”
That approach seems to be working. Organizations and initiatives focused on Drawdown are emerging and taking root worldwide. They are led by educators, NGOs, collaboratives, investors,
businesses, artists, and engaged citizens. For news on these evolving efforts, grantmakers can subscribe to Project Drawdown updates at www.drawdown.org and follow @ProjectDrawdown.
Within Project Drawdown itself, the research team is updating our global systems model with new data and additional solutions and sectors. Research Fellows from diverse fields and six continents initially shaped this work; more are joining the community, bringing different perspectives. University and other research partners are joining together to regionalize the global model, in order to make it pertinent and useful to cities, states, provinces, and countries.
Through communication, Project Drawdown continues to elevate the climate conversation. Dominant messages of threat-and-fear and us-versus-them, intended to spark action, can yield inertia if not indifference. Discourses on climate change filled with jargon may confuse, exclude, and disempower. Better communication is a prerequisite for needed action. Our goal is to craft accessible, actionable content, marked by good storytelling and design—communication that fundamentally transforms the way people understand global warming. Drawdown is and will be disseminated through digital platforms, numerous translations, a TV series, educational curricula, media, and speaking appearances.
Drawdown illustrates that there is no shortage of solutions. The technologies and practices we model and share with the world have extraordinary benefits for all people and places. They offer footholds of action for every individual and institution. Greater awareness of solutions creates greater action and participation. Through the work of Project Drawdown, people are seeing possibility come into focus, then committing to make it reality.
Drawdown and the Sustainable Development Goals
© Katharine K. Wilkinson