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2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration

It can be hard to feel hopeful about the future of life on earth some days, particularly in the current political climate in most English-speaking nations.

Damon Gameau’s 2040 a Handbook for the Regeneration is something of an antidote to the existential despair and angst of watching the climate change ship sail closer and closer to the rocky shores of ecological collapse.

A companion to the documentary 2040, which is currently creating quite a stir around the country, it pulls together a beautiful mix of science, economics, philosophy, imagery, how-to tips and food.

While that might sound a bit odd, it works wonderfully as an exemplar of how to think and live outside the siloed approach.

One of the key frameworks underpinning the book is Paul Hawken’s Drawdown Project, the best and most do-able ideas for not only slowing emissions but actually sucking them out of the atmosphere and locking them up.

There’s no fancy space-age geoengineering involved either, as Gameau’s exploration of the ideas is thoroughly grounded in existing and emerging technologies for energy, transport, agriculture, aquaculture, consumer goods, finances and social relationships.

In his travels making the documentary, which form part of the narrative of the book, he finds some amazing initiatives such as the village in Bangladesh that’s achieved zero carbon energy independence by installing solar, batteries and peer-to-peer energy trading.

Fun fact – Bangladesh has millions more solar and battery installations than Australia.

The economic theory woven through the book builds on Kate Raworth’s Donut Economics – a model for how we can lift those currently in poverty into a better life while still existing within the planet’s natural resources capacity.

This is not without its challenges, as Gameau explains. There are powerful vested interests that would quite like to retain their grasp on wealth and power regardless of its impact on all living things. So, he outlines some ways we as individuals can subvert that paradigm, and pathways for global economic transformation.

The book also contains a substantial amount of possibly surprising insights, such as why educating girls is one of the most effective ways to mitigate emissions and human environmental impacts. Not only does he explain why this is so, there’s also suggestions for what any individual can do to help ensure every girl, everywhere in the world, has an opportunity to develop her full potential.

It’s this feel-good factor that really shines through. Scattered throughout are images of the children he interviewed, and comments about what they want to see in the world in 2040 and how they think it can change.

There are “reasons for hope” given too in relation to the key challenges, and down-to-earth advice for how to make incremental but significant changes in our own lives to contribute to saving the planet, some quite unusual.

The emphasis on food is important also, not only because agriculture is one of our major opportunities for drawing down emissions through implementing regenerative approaches, but because it is also one of the areas where we as individuals can make a massive difference.

Gameau goes beyond the simplistic “everyone go vegan, it will save the planet” position, examining how animals can actually be positive within regenerative agriculture and food consumption. The book also explains why not all fruits and vegetables are created equal when it comes to environmental credentials, and in a final section of recipes, he gives some tasty ideas for using some of them.

With its visual generosity in terms of photos and illustrations and readable, personable tone, this is a handbook suitable for all ages and an essential reference guide for making important personal shifts.

After all, if enough of us make the small shifts, we can actually tilt the whole misguided ship onto a better trajectory – and that is a reason to be hopeful.

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