The universally successful birthday gift that can save the world

Not all of us are this savvy at gift giving. Could climate change help? Photo by rawpixel via Unsplash.

As much as I love the concept of birthdays, sometimes the sheer stress of deciding on, acquiring and decoratively packaging birthday gifts is enough to inspire a Leonardo DiCaprio style escape to a deserted island. That was until I found the ultimate birthday gift. A gift that not only proved to be immensely well-received by whoever I bestowed it upon, but a gift that so happened to have the power of saving the world too.

It’s actually a coffee table book. But a well-researched, highly aesthetic, easy-to-read one outlining the top 100 solutions known to humankind to mitigate climate change. Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken, is the “most comprehensive plan ever proposed” to save our planet, compiled by a team of scientists and mathematicians who crunched the numbers and found out which solutions could prevent the most gigatonnes of carbon from entering our atmosphere. It also happens to be very entertaining.

The last chapter is arguably the juiciest, filled with innovative technological and novel solutions currently in development. They are exciting enough that the authors opted out of the standard “Upcoming Solutions” chapter title, instead going for a more themepark-esque: “Coming Attractions”. Here are some you may find particularly fascinating.

Marine Permaculture

The late Bill Mollison, founder of permaculture, probably would not have conceived of his ecological design principles being implemented away from solid ground. Fast-forward forty years and Dr Brian Von Herzen and his team are doing just that. Picture floating kelp forests, hundreds of acres across, attracting fish and seabirds and a host of other marine life, all the while drawing down billions of tonnes of carbon.

If we help the kelp, the kelp can help us. Photo by Chris Johnson via Flickr.

The principle is relatively straightforward – a lightweight floating lattice provides an anchor for kelp and seaweeds to grow. Utilising wave energy to power pumps, nutrient-rich cold waters are pumped to the ocean surface, where they stimulate kelp growth. Economically speaking, the kelp can be harvested and sold as human or animal food. Essentially, sushi could be the next top model for cooling the climate.

Smart Highways

Over 800,000 kilometres of roadways criss-cross Australia. In city streets during peak summer, burning asphalt can melt even a sturdy pair of Docs, while stagnant exhaust fumes clog the suburbs. Yet given their prevalence, roads present a prime opportunity for environmental innovation. ‘Smart highways’ can utilise solar photovoltaic paving (see ‘The Ray‘) or noise barriers lined with solar panels, linked to local charging stations to cater for the future wave of electric cars.

Road lane markings could use bio-luminescent paints to glow at night, inspired by algae such as these. Image by viceyberreta via Flickr.

Simpler technologies such as bio-luminescent paints which glow as lane markings at night, or even installing LED road lighting, can reduce infrastructure emissions. Of course, the less reliance on roads the better, with other transportation solutions ranked highly in Drawdown’s list: bicycle infrastructure (#59), walkable cities (#54) and mass transit (#37). Get cycling.

Repopulating the Mammoth Steppe

As it turns out, the future of our planet may not rely upon wind turbines on nuclear fusion, but upon Siberian horses. As this scientific report alluded to last week, the melting of the earth’s northern latitude permafrost could release huge amounts of carbon and methane, further warming the planet in a devastating feedback loop. A proposed solution then? Repopulate the permafrost lands with the grazing herbivores which once roamed freely.

The new climate change warrior: keeping the permafrost frosty. Photo by Jan Nagalski via Flickr.

As reindeer, oxen and horses scratch away the snow to reveal the edible turf beneath, the soil is no longer insulated and remains 3 to 4°F cooler. Reintroducing hordes of animals to these landscapes could foster mass revegetation while preventing permafrost melting. In the words of the editors, it could be the “single largest solution or potential solution of the one hundred in this book”.  Welcome back Sid, Scratch and Manfred.

So… worthy of a gift?

If that little taste of climate change mitigation didn’t appeal to you, then guaranteed a handful of the other 97 ideas will. Either way, spread the word: we have a host of global and local solutions at our fingertips, we just have to choose to implement them. And who knew solving climate change could be so fun?


6 Responses to “The universally successful birthday gift that can save the world”

  1. Ashley Densham says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone! Glad that some more copies of Drawdown will be flying off the printing press

  2. arburgess says:

    You’ve definitely convinced me that I need this book. Such a well written and interesting blog!

  3. Kaya B Moore says:

    I loved the style of this post! It was an incredibly fun and light-hearted read, and now I’m dying to get the book to see what the other 97 ideas are.

  4. sgosch says:

    Coffee and climate mitigation you say? Sounds like the perfect read, whilst sipping on a hot coffee to start the day. A well-written piece and a captivating title.

  5. daisyh says:

    Very interesting, love the creativity, on my way to dymmocks to gift myself this book.

  6. Kelley Leech says:

    What an interesting read! These creative solutions never cease amaze me, goes to show that having a flair for the creative in the world of science can be a huge advantage! I’m going to have to get my hands on this book.

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