News from the front desk Issue 374 – On Elon Musk, Paul Hawken’s Drawdown and geoengineering
16 February 2018
Who didn’t notice Elon Musk launching his own spaceship the other day? It’s been wonderful to see him taking on the deniers and Neanderthals in Australia with his virtual power station and giant battery storage. No-one’s poking fun at South Australia now are they, Messrs Turnbull, Frydenberg and coal pals?
It’s the kind of maverick behaviour that changes everything.
You’ve probably noticed it’s always an outlier that changes the world. The person on the fringe with few or no constraints, sometimes carrying a few too many personality issues. They’re the ones who tear open the Truman Show’s painted backdrop to reveal another possible reality. Amazing. Was that there all along? Yep.
It takes someone who isn’t chemically bonded to the status quo to show that up.
Yet there are limits.
As impressive as Musk is to push that brilliant individualistic/maverick adrenaline button and launch a rocket ship into space there…it’s more than possible he’s crossed a line in the sand, the place where the Truman show drops over the edge.
There’s a thousand issues. It’s space for goodness sake. That magical black and starry thing that’s our planet’s home and that of our solar system.
It’s pristine. We think. There might be strange life forms out there. Did he take precautions? NASA, we hear, sterilises everything it sends into space to within an inch of its life in case it contaminates some precious thing we yet to encounter. But Musk? Well, he’s private wealthy citizen. He can write his own rules, and we might have to bear the brunt of what comes next.
This is the great American dream come to life. That anyone can become president or leader, or major impacter. Elected or not, it seems.
Here we are rocketing off to another planet when we’re in danger of wrecking this one, or because we have already: “Let’s colonise and prosper!”
We’d rather see Musk stick to electric cars and renewable energy revolution.
Curating his own space odyssey is not OK. Aren’t we past the era of privatised colonising?
Surely we’ve learnt from the privatised conquest of India, underpinned and legislated by the British government, that turned the richest country in the world at the time to the poorest when the Brits left.
What Musk (and other private space dreamers; he’s not alone) is risking having an impact that can’t be predicted.
He might get off on such a power trip but we’re more than circumspect.
Not every maverick is benign.
It’s precisely this innocence or arrogance (hard to tell sometimes) that’s led the frightening trend towards geo-engineering. Remember when the mere mention of geoengineering was a dirty word? Chilling, like eugenics., with all of us carrying the DNA it writes into our children’s future.
Today, as Willow has found in this compelling story, there is a massive 800 weird-to-dangerous projects underway to control pollution and the way our climate evolves. With far too many devoid of even a halfway serious look at the possible unintended consequences.
The geoengineering story is so timely.
Right now the cool Paul Hawken is in Australia on a massive national tour of 23 speaking engagements to promote the opposite of crazy geoengineering.
To refresh you, Paul Hawken is the activist entrepreneur and author, with Amory and Hunter Lovins, of the seminal book Natural Capitalism that started to change the way we see business and planet. It’s the thinking that brought logic and a rational framework to the environmental challenge, saying that the traditional system of capitalism
“…does not fully conform to its own accounting principles. It liquidates its capital and calls it income. It neglects to assign any value to the largest stocks of capital it employs – the natural resources and living systems, as well as the social and cultural systems that are the basis of human capital.”
His latest book that’s now a bestseller is based on an amazing and ambitious body of work called Project Drawdown that looks at how we can take carbon out of the atmosphere.
Because we all know that we are not going to totally stop pumping the stuff into the skies any time soon.
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, is a set of 100 calmly reasoned, and scientifically assessed solutions to draw down carbon from the atmosphere.
Quite frankly you have to have some sympathy for the geoengineers. The science is bleak. And what’s worse, sitting around waiting to fall into an ugly future, or fighting to change directions with all your might?
But tackling climate change doesn’t mean playing Russian Roulette with our planet, Hawken would say.
And he’s not. He’s putting forward established and existing techniques. They’re based on respecting the natural order of our physical planet.
Hawken’s tour has been organised – including funding – by the fabulous Alexandra de Blas, environmental and science communicator who previously headed up the ABC Radio National’s Earthbeat. This means eeking out the financial underpinning of Hawken’s visit from fees for his speaking engagements. We mention it because de Blas is yet another example of those individuals who are pushing beyond the boundaries (often without credit or limelight) and putting themselves on the line, to help push the agenda to save this planet.
So what is Hawken telling the Land of Oz about how to draw down carbon?
Here are the top 10 ideas:
- Refrigerant Management
- Wind Turbines (Onshore)
- Reduced Food Waste
- Plant-Rich Diet
- Tropical Forests
- Educating Girls
- Family Planning
- Solar Farms
- .Rooftop Solar
If you put together educating girls and family planning you end up with a whopper of a solution that tops the charts because it can decrease the population dramatically, and that alone is a win for the planet, Drawdown says.
The thing about Drawdown, which exists in book form and a fabulous website, is that the solutions are not some way out silver bullet that we see in the worst of geoengineering. Each of the solutions is “already here, well understood, scientifically studied, and scaling around the world.”
“For each solution, the book describes its history, impact on greenhouse gases, relevant cost and savings, the path to adoption, and how it works.”
It’s worth having a long look around the site.
We were particularly taken by silvopasture form of farming that blends grazing with ample trees that work in unison. Interesting isn’t it, that the best solutions are always the most natural and logical? Even not having a lot of children, since the reason people have a lot of children is to protect themselves from unpleasant possibilities such as early death of their offspring or provisioning for old age. An educated socially cohesive and caring society negates this need.
The work is not Hawken’s alone, his co authors include about 100 scientists and more than 100 expert advisers such as architects, engineers, researchers, people from politics, religion and writers, he told The Fifth Estate this week.
We asked him about the sentiment for take up and funding globally to accelerate these solutions but he declined to comment on these issues. These were not his area of expertise. Drawdown spoke for itself, he said.
And he’s right, the business of taking up these programs is up to all of us, but especially the many business and political leaders who have the power to accelerate them.
Let’s not fool ourselves that personal maverick action – or even the science – is ever enough. We need concerted, socially cohesive, and organised political and business action as well.
We’re all in this together.
As Hawken says, we have no time to waste.
- See the website for speaking events