Speaking of drawdown (2): Our roles as ‘Personal leaders’

This is the second part of the recording of Geelong Sustainability’s first ​Clever Living​ seminar for 2020, titled ‘​Drawdown – The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming​’.

The event featured Gene Blackley from Drawdown Australia and was MC’ed by David Spear who is a member of Geelong Sustainability and is the Executive Officer of Geelong Sustainability’s brand new social enterprise called ​GreenLight​.

New York Times 10 January 2020: How to stop freaking out about the environment and tackle climate change:

Ditch the shame
Focus on systems, not yourself
Join an effective group
Define your role
Know what you are fighting for, not just what you are fighting against


How to take personal leadership and action on climate change

In his presentation at the library, David Spear started off with painting a picture of our emissions profile in Geelong region:

“If we look at the latest available emissions snapshot for the Greater Geelong, we can see a couple of things to be alarmed about. Firstly, the total CO2-equivalent emissions for Greater Geelong clock in at 3,236,600 tonnes per year.

By my calculations, that’s equivalent to the weight of water in 1,295 Olympic sized swimming pools. On a per capita basis, that’s about 13.2 tonnes per person – or the weight of about 10 mid-sized family cars for every person in this region.

Or in Gross Regional Product terms: about 260 grams of CO2 per dollar.

Unfortunately, the evidence highlights these measures are going in the wrong direction! They are going up, not down. So this is a major concern.

If we want to take action on climate change here in our own backyard, where might we start to look?

Well, if we look at that data for our region, ​energy and transport​ are a big part of the answer. Emissions from electricity​ use – non-renewable electricity, that is – make up 58.37% of all our emissions, split roughly 50/50 between industrial use, and the balance between household use and commercial uses.

Emission from gas​ use make up an additional 12.85%, bringing the​ total percentage of emissions from
non-renewable energy use in our region to 71.22%. So almost three quarters.

Road based ​transport then comes in and adds another 24.18%

So it is logical, that if we are to make an impact on our own regional contribution to emissions, ​we need to make a dent in our use of non-renewable energy sources, and transform the way we choose to move ourselves – and our things – about.

But this is only part of the story.

We are part of a much larger global system, so tackling the challenge of climate change involves more than just dealing with our energy and transport emissions profiles in our own backyards.

The things we thoughtfully – or perhaps I should say, thoughtlessly – consume have a huge impact on people, our planet and the natural systems that make it work.

The emissions and impacts we create as consumers as part of a global supply chain ​really matter​ in the overall equation, giving us significant power either to help and protect or destroy the natural systems that sustain us.

So there’s no doubt about the need to act. We’ve had all the warnings and evidence in the world​ telling us what’s coming for a very long time, but I think we can all safely say that this summer for many people was ​a turning point​.

There’s nothing quite like direct impacts on our families and friends close to home to shake the cage, wake us all up and provide a renewed focus and call to action.

This summer alone, we’ve seen unprecedented bushfire emergencies, not just impacting country folk, but also disrupting the lives and health of people in big cities like Sydney and Canberra too, resulting with the loss of about five million hectares of habitat, human life, and more than a billion animals killed – contributing to extinctions.

We’ve also had the dubious honour of having the worst air quality in the world for a time in Sydney – with impacts felt across most of the Eastern Seaboard, including Melbourne and Geelong, and

And we’ve experienced a wide range of other bizarre – but not unpredicted – weather events as a result of climate change – including extreme storm events, snow and hail in the middle of summer, fires creating their own weather systems, huge dust storms, major floods, and persistent drought, often happening at the same time.

These impact our physical and mental health and safety, the performance of our economy, and smash not only our assets and infrastructure, but also the great Aussie dream of a relaxed and enjoyable lifestyles – damaging our egos, our sense of identity, and reputation on the international stage.

While this all sounds very ​serious, costly and scary​ – because, frankly it is – the good news is we have the answers to reverse climate change.

Despite what people might say to suit their vested interests, or to undermine the credibility of the science of climate change – or both – we have the technology and capability available to us today​ to move beyond zero net emissions, and reach the point at which the planet begins to drawdown​ more carbon than released – to reverse global warming​.

We can change our fortunes from something that looks quite bleak, to something we can all celebrate and look forward to​.

There’s no time to lose​.

. . .

To quote quote renowned American cultural anthropologist, the late Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.​

But let’s be clear – ​it can be overwhelming and confronting​ working out where to begin, and how to make an impact. That said, ​we’re not starting from zero​ here – we have some excellent work right in front of us to launch from.

Project Drawdown​ gives us at least 100 solutions that we can implement today – backed by credible science and rigorous financial analysis. We don’t need to wait for new technologies and solutions to save us, we can take action now to implement any and every one of these solutions – if we choose.

But which are the best fit for this region?

That’s a question we’ve tried to answer at Geelong Sustainability through the development of ​our new strategy​, looking out to 2025, which will be out for public comment soon.

By thinking more deeply about the drawdown solutions available that are best suited to this region, and how they align with the ​United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we are now targeting our overall direction and scale of ​effort for impact​ on:

● Affordable and clean energy
● Decent work and economic growth
● Sustainable cities and communities
● Responsible consumption and production
● Climate action
● Partnerships

Geelong Sustainability Strategy 2025 will be publicly available very soon, and we look forward to hearing what you have to say about it. And, ideally we look forward to ​working in partnership with you to implement it​. But overall we would like to recommend you take action on ​two key fronts​, demonstrating personal leadership​ and action as well as community leadership​ and action.

Let’s step through each of those.

At a personal level​, you can take action on the things within your immediate span of control.

● You can​ change the way you shop​, to model and support responsible consumption and production methods

● You can make deliberate decisions about the ​efficiency of your home​ and influence sustainable practices in your workplaces

● You can either buy ​100% renewable energy​, or generate it yourself

● You can lead and shape the behaviours of others in you family and at work by ​role modelling the change you want to see in the world​ – and

● You don’t have to do it alone! ​Change starts with you​, and with lots of you all together – ​we have us​, and together we can change the world.

Here are some practical things to think about bringing this mindset into reality at home and at work. Thinking about ​conscientious consumption and investment​, we can take into consideration:

● Food
● Waste
● Recycling
● Building design efficiency and appliance efficiency
● Using renewable energy
● Creating and distributing your own renewable energy
● Supporting a Community Owned Renewable Energy project

And here are some specific opportunities at Geelong Sustainability and GreenLight:

● We run a ​Sustainable House Day​ (get involved for inspiration)
● We deliver ​Victorian Residential Efficiency Scorecard assessments​
● We also offer​ bulk buy opportunities​ to for solar, battery storage and heat pumps
● as well as Community Owned Renewable Energy projects​.

Geelong Sustainability: Personal leadership and action

These are all ​designed to help you take personal leadership and action on climate change​.

And by becoming part of our Geelong Sustainability community, you can have your finger on the pulse of all the opportunities available to you, and do it in an environment ​with like minded people where you feel welcome and well supported​.

The New York Times recently published an article titled ​‘​How to stop freaking out about the environment and tackle climate change’​ and it gives some excellent guidance on ​how to shift from individual to community leadership and action​.

In summary it says, first: ​ditch the shame​. It’s easy to feel like a total hypocrite when you’re stuck in the grind of an economic system and consumer society that effectively commands us to act in a way that isn’t sustainable on a daily basis. This can be very deflating, and be a big hurdle to individual action. But by ditching the shame, and accepting that we are not personally responsible for the system, liberates us to ask questions and challenge to dominant common sense:

How might we redesign this system or process in a way that puts people and the planet at the centre?

What role might I – you or we – play in testing and refining new ways of doing things that are different and better for people and the planet?

How might we then bring this experiment to scale, to make a real and lasting impact?

Separated from the personal guilt about living in a less than perfect world,​ these are good questions to ask​ – and can ​activate shared action​ and impacts far greater than we might expect to achieve on our own.

Working outside your immediate span of influence ​involves working with others​.

Groups like ​Geelong Sustainability and Transition Streets Geelong​ are great places to connect and engage in shared thinking and action. You don’t need to fix the world’s problems on your own.

Like any good team, the ​diversity and collective capabilities of the group you join will be the engine room of its success.

The advice given in the New York Times is to not rush to find your place – but over time, as you get to know the community and establish shared priorities and interests, it will become clear where you are most needed and can create impact. So ​enjoy the ride, and then find your time to hop into action​!

And finally, a note on building and sustaining energy levels and commitment – know what you are fighting for, not just what you are fighting against.

Change isn’t necessarily a linear process, so it’s important to ​stick to your guns​ and build up enough ​pressure in the system​, so when the time is right, ​step change​ can occur. This can be a long and sometimes grueling process, requiring ​resilience​ and ​strong commitment to the core values and principles​ you are fighting for. So, here are some things to get started on:

● Sign Private Members Bill petition​ for a conscience vote on Climate Change Act

● Advocate for Victorian Renewable Energy Targets to limit warming to 1.5 degrees by 2030​. Ring Daniel Andrews on 9651 5000 to ask for strong climate targets in March

● Advocate for improvements to the City of Greater Geelong Sustainability Framework​.
Geelong Sustainability are currently preparing a submission, and we would welcome your support for what we have to say in that

● Protest!​ There is a Climate Strike on 15 May – be there!
More details on www.schoolstrike4climate.com/may15

Other opportunities include:

● Become a member of Geelong Sustainability and/or Transition Streets Geelong

● Get involved with Climate Action Drinks (monthly)

● Volunteer – Advocacy campaigns

● Volunteer – Help implement key projects

I encourage you to put your personal and community leadership plans into action.”

You can listen to the two-hour audio recording of the seminar here

Excerpt from David Spear’s presentation:

What the science tells us

Our civilisation is now experiencing a human induced climate crisis, underscored by the rapid acceleration of climate change occurring at a magnitude and speed not seen for at least 50 million years.
The science – with 97 per cent global consensus – shows since the industrial revolution the atmosphere has 40 per cent more carbon in it. This means it now has over 410 parts per million – and climbing rapidly – compared to the 280 parts per million it had pre Industrial Revolution.

Digging up and burning stored carbon is pouring more than 40 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year… roughly equivalent to the weight of water in 16 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. This is a major concern.

As the sun heats the surface of the planet, that heat is getting trapped by the excessive carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Since 1910 the temperature has gone up 1 degree Celsius, and is on track to rise another degree over the next couple of decades – which would see devastation of habitat and extinction of many living things.

The excess heat not only leads to an increase in wildfires and more severe droughts, but the hotter air also holds more moisture, leading to more intense storms and heavier rainfall and snowfall. The oceans are also warmer and at least 26 percent more acidic than before the Industrial Revolution, absorbing 90 per cent of excess heat and vast quantities of CO2, impacting coral reefs which cover less than one percent of the planet but house almost a quarter of marine life.

2017 snapshot of Geelong’s emissions

Snapshot Climate – a tool which provides greenhouse gas emission profiles at municipal level – shows that every year, the Greater Geelong community emits more than three million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents into the atmosphere. That is our carbon footprint as a city. And that is the weight of 10 mid-sized cars for every resident.

“Greater Geelong is a city that is small in area relative to the state average and has a high urban density. It’s major emissions source is electricity consumption with the majority of this coming from industrial electricity consumption. The carbon emissions for Greater Geelong have demonstrated a very large increase since 2005, with relatively consistent rate of change occurring in the last few years,” writes Snapshot Climate.

For every dollar we spend in Geelong, and in that way add to Geelong’s Gross Regional Product (GRP), we currently blow an additional 260 grammes of CO2e into the atmosphere.

Conscientious consumption and investment

• Food choices and food waste
• Less waste materials and packaging
• More recycling and composting
• Improve building design and household appliance efficiency
• Use 100% renewable energy
• Generate, store and distribute your own energy
• Community owned renewable energy projects

“Why is Drawdown such a really important concept? Because Drawdown is the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby stopping catastrophic climate change.  We need to get there as quickly, safely and equitably as possible. Best yet, Drawdown offers cost effective, existing, proven solutions to addressing climate change. If most of these were taken up, we could get to zero emissions and make a better world at the same time.”

→ Geelong Sustainability – 26 March 2020:
Project Drawdown

Find your role in reversing global warming

Its time to consider – or reconsider – the role you can play in reversing global warming. “When we come together as a human family, anything and everything is possible,” writes Pachamama Alliance, which offers three online seminars based on the research of Drawdown Project.

In Reversing Global Warming, Pachamama Alliance’s free, 90-minute, on-demand online course, you will discover both the possibility of reversing global warming and the important role you can play in that process. Sign up to get involved in the growing movement to reverse global warming.