Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown: Mathematics Springs Eternal

Guest Blog Post, David Michael Smith, SAGE

Hope doesn’t usually equate with the empiricism of mathematics, but I left a recent lecture by Paul Hawken with a renewed optimism about the future of planet earth after hearing his explanation of Project Drawdown’s “new math” approach to climate change. Hawken, a well-known entrepreneur, author and environmentalist, has been at the leading edge of climate change research for decades. His appearance in Portland, as a Visiting SAGE, was part of a series of speakers brought to town by Senior Advocates for Generational Equity (SAGE), an organization dedicated to leaving earth a better place for younger and future generations. As a father and grandfather, this is a mission I am particularly passionate about.

Rather than bemoaning the existential crisis we face due to the increasing effects of climate change, Hawken has initiated Project Drawdown as a unique way of recalculating our survival odds. The “old math” looks at the many ways we can stop putting climate pollution into the atmosphere. While that is certainly key when it considering how we’ll solve the climate crisis, Project Drawdown offers an ambitious and bold series of strategies for actually decreasing the amount of climate pollution that has already been released. Humans are, according to Hawken, capable of inspired and brilliant problem solving when we truly put our minds, hearts and souls into the search for answers. According to their mission statement, Project Drawdown “is facilitating a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhD’s, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.”

Hawken confirms the science is clear: if we don’t aggressively pursue climate change mitigation, we are destined to become just another failed experiment in evolution. Project Drawdown offers a three-pronged approach:

  1. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere through efficiency and resource productivity,
  2. The replacement of existing energy sources with low carbon renewable energy,
  3. And finally, (here’s the “new math” part), bio-sequester of carbon dioxide through innovative farming, grazing and reforestation practices.

The truly good news is, as explained on their website and in a newly released book, the list of Project Drawdown strategies has been worked and reworked, mathematically speaking, and the numbers don’t lie. The project’s solutions are divided into a series of categories that offer engagement at individual, group, organizational, state, regional, national and international levels.

I am always grateful when someone comes along who rekindles the spark of hope within me. As Emily Dickenson reminded us:

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”

In addition to the website and book by the same name, Project Drawdown invites e-mail communication for anyone with questions of suggestions at As we work together to tackle climate change,  be sure to sign up for Oregon Environmental Council’s Grassroots Action and Information Network to be alerted to timely ways you can speak up and act to protect our climate.

David and Diana

David with his granddaughter, Diana

— David Michael Smith, Lead Trainer, SAGE
As a former broadcast journalist and professional writer, much of David’s career has been devoted to working with non-profits, both at home and overseas. He sailed with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to chronicle efforts to save whales from illegal hunting. He worked with Medical Teams International in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake and in Uganda to serve refugees from a nearby civil war. He has also co-produced several videos to feature non-profit organizations, including Oregon Health and Science University, Knight Cancer Institute, and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. As a biographer, he has worked with individuals, families and businesses who have entrusted him with the stories of their lives. The result is 12 published books. Despite a varied and enriching professional career, it is raising his daughter, and now helping raise his granddaughter, that he considers to be his greatest living legacy.

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1 Reply to "Paul Hawken's Project Drawdown: Mathematics Springs Eternal"

  • Michael Foster
    May 20, 2016 (6:46 pm)

    Children can’t wait! -that’s what the judge said.
    They need help designing and enacting agro-forest carbon policy for Washington state.