How We Hoosiers Can Help Prevent Climate Breakdown

The following will be published soon in Natural Awakenings Indianapolis.

Global warming is a crisis which encompasses all other social justice concerns. Billions of people are threatened. We’re in an “all hands-on deck” moment and need everyone’s gifts and passions now. The single most important thing you can do is to educate yourself, including about solutions to transform hellish futures into positive ones. Project Drawdown is the most comprehensive plan ever created to reverse global warming, and Indiana Drawdown is a growing community of Hoosiers doing what our government is failing to do. 

As we warm the planet, we may trigger any of multiple feedback loops which could spiral the heating out of anyone’s control. The results could be massive crop failures leading to food shortages in the wealthiest countries, up to a billion “climate refugees”, vast uninhabitable land around the equator, coral reefs gone forever and many more.

We’re in such a dire situation, some communications experts recommend we abandon the term “global warming” and instead use climate breakdown, crisis, or emergency.

In fact, Pope Francis said earlier this year: “Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.”

Enter Project Drawdown. The term “drawdown” is the point at which greenhouse gas emissions stop going up and start going down. Drawdown is also the most comprehensive plan ever created to reverse this crisis. It’s a goal and a plan.

About 200 advisors, most with Ph.D.’s, compiled a list of 100 solutions and ranked them by cost and efficacy. It tells us the best ways―dollar for dollar―to either reduce emissions in the first place or to pull them out of the atmosphere which helps us invest our resources in the best places.

For example, Drawdown solution #1 is “refrigerant management”. Refrigerators contain chemicals which heat our Earth 1,000-7,000 times more than does carbon dioxide. So, we must recycle them properly. When we do, it’ll have eight times the positive impact than if everyone switched to electric vehicles.

This is so important that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the GreenChill program to help grocery stores reduce refrigerant leakage (and save money). Indiana has about 700 grocery stores; only one currently takes advantage of this program, so this is a low-hanging fruit opportunity.

We’re not investing our resources in the right places which is crucial as we don’t have much time left.

The largest group of scientists ever assembled before―the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)―says we must reduce emissions 45% by 2030.

Project Drawdown both helps us accomplish this mandate and create a better future―one our ancestors prayed for.

Most of the solutions are things we’d want anyway like reducing food waste, educating girls and renewing our soils. And many of the solutions are profitable. We just need to scale them.

So, Drawdown is a framework for thinking more effectively. It’s a roadmap for everyone―city officials, business owners, educators and active citizens. And that’s where Indiana Drawdown comes in.

Phase 1 of Drawdown was finishing the research at an international level. Success. The book even became a bestseller.

Phase 2 is bringing this framework into regions, states, and local communities. This will inspire action and improve our decisions.

There are groups doing this worldwide, from Europe and Australia to Georgia, Michigan and Illinois. Kansas City even hosted an all-day event for 120 city officials.

Indiana Drawdown takes the 100 solutions and asks, “Which ones are most relevant for us? And how can we stitch them together to reduce our emissions 45% by 2030?”

It’s a growing community of Hoosiers doing what our government is failing to do. We’ve identified 400-plus statewide entities that are already implementing Drawdown solutions. In September, the Drawdown team invited Indiana Drawdown to present at their first international conference. The wider world cares what we do in Indiana as we’re one of only 10 states that combined produces half of all emissions in the U.S.

One of the biggest insights from the conference is we must listen to and lift up indigenous voices… and we all benefit when we do. Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” We shouldn’t expect Western intellectuals to transform the same destructive economy which they helped to create and maintain. Indigenous people stewarded their land for thousands of years. It’s time for the “developed” world to be quiet and listen to them deeply.

Further, the Drawdown solutions most relevant to Indiana may be carbon farming and the built environment.

1. Carbon Farming

Indiana soil gets “sicker” each year. Farmers need to pump it full of more and more fertilizer to get the same results.

Soil degradation is a crisis of its own. A recent article in Scientific American says we have “60 harvests left.” If this is true, eventually we won’t be able to grow food. Soon, we will have no choice but to let the soil heal through regenerative agriculture.

It turns out this also has a climate benefit. As we heal the soil, the soil can pull a ton of carbon out of the atmosphere. The IPCC just came out with a report on this very topic. It says that land use is as important as renewable energy, but it doesn’t garner near the same amount of attention.

Since Indiana helps to grow the world’s food, we could become a global leader in carbon farming.

2. The Built Environment

This category of solutions is about buildings―cement, lighting, heating, air conditioning. The Pope’s climate advisor, Professor John Schellnhuber, says we can get most of the 45% reduction the IPCC says we must simply by focusing on buildings.

The biggest bang for our buck here has to do with insulating buildings and automating HVAC and lighting systems. Alternative cements are important too. Cement creates 5 to 6% of all manmade emissions. Fortunately, alternatives like hempcrete are gaining in popularity, and Indiana farmers just regained their freedom to grow industrial hemp for such products.

As for the future of Indiana Drawdown, there won’t be a future for any of us unless we all work together. Begin or continue your climate education at Explore the 400-plus statewide entities already implementing Drawdown solutions. Listen to interviews. Sign up for monthly updates. And join us at the first Indiana Drawdown conference in 2020. It will be radically democratic and participatory. We need each other to solve the greatest challenge in human history. Let’s start now.

Daniel Poynter started with his retirement savings. Before turning to climate action full-time, he was an executive coach for social entrepreneurs worldwide. He maintains this practice on the side. Learn more, including seeing fifty case studies and testimonials, at:

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