9 Key Takeaways from Climate Leaders

by | October 25, 2019

Last Fall I went to the Drawdown Learn conference in NY which was fantastic. I got to hear from many brilliant leaders.

Climate leaders speaking at Drawdown Learn conference

I also met a bunch of folks while presenting at the EXPO – lots of fun!

As I’ve said before, the science terrifies me. But meeting and being surrounded by so many wonderful people actively working on solutions fills me with hope.

Community, action, and taking care of yourself are truly the antidote to climate despair.

I’m going to give you some of the key insights/language I picked up over that weekend. I had to earn this one – camped in 33°F (0.5°C) weather to make it happen…so I hope you really appreciate these haha.

But first, a reminder…

What is Drawdown again?

Drawdown is the moment in time when we start taking out more greenhouse gas emissions than we put into the atmosphere.

Crowdsourcing Sustainability’s goal is basically the same as Drawdown’s. We want to help reach this moment in time as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible.

3 ways to help us get there:

  1. Reduce and stop emissions.
  2. Protect, enhance, and augment nature’s carbon sinks.
  3. Advance equality, health, and education.

The top 100 solutions to global warming identified by Project Drawdown are virtually all win-win-wins:

✔ Good for us.

✔ Good for the economy.

✔ Good for the future.

Key Takeaways

Land use and food production deserve way more attention.

We typically think about energy as the biggest issue. But 12 of the top 20 drawdown solutions are about how we use the land and produce food. (Chad Frischmann)

Be a guide for people – a partner.

When talking about climate change with others, our role is really to be a guide, a partner. Listen to what others have to say and ensure they feel understood and informed.

“When our mind learns new information – and in that moment experiences anxiety, fear, anger, or shame – that new information may not be effectively integrated.” – Dr. Marshall Alcorn

In other words, people’s brains often shut down on climate if we’re not careful about how we talk about it.

When talking climate, do your best to not be the:

    • “Righter” who claims superiority with the moral high ground.
    • “Cheerleader” who assumes they’re talking to the apathetic.
    • “Educator” who assumes others know nothing and drops terrifying facts.

(^^Pretty sure I’ve been guilty of all of these at one point or another.)

Instead, be their partner. Be a human. Listen more than you talk. Share how you feel about what’s going on. Understand everyone has their own integrity, worldview, and right to come to their own views on the matter. Just help guide as best you can. (Renee Lertzman)

Meet people where they are.

Understand that many people have more immediate issues to deal with (e.g. putting food on the table, raising kids, health issues, working multiple jobs, etc.) and don’t have the time to worry about the climate crisis.

But even if someone doesn’t think it applies to them or they don’t have time for it, they may be encountering it in a different way.

Many people encounter this as a health or economic problem. (E.g. air pollution causing asthma or cancer, extreme weather affecting their homes or livelihood.)

In some people’s minds, the climate crisis is this thing on the side. In reality, it’s the context in which everything else happens.

Connect the dots for people to what matters to them here and now. (Rhiana Gunn-Wright)

Sit with your feelings. They can be useful. We feel the way we do about the climate crisis for a reason.

“Don’t be afraid of your heart breaking open. The heart that breaks open can hold the whole universe. It’s that big.”

“Pain is useful. Don’t be afraid of it. If you’re afraid of it, you won’t know where it comes from. It comes from love. And love is what is going to pull us through.” – Joanna Macy

Our institutions are broken. We designed them. It’s our job to fix them.

“We don’t serve the institutions. They serve us.

If they don’t’ serve us, change them.

If they’re handicapping our ability to stop an extinction event, we have to fix it.” – Rhiana Gunn-Wright

It’s time to invest aggressively.

Only 0.2% of philanthropy goes to fighting climate change in the US.

(0.2%? Seriously?!? Newsflash to everyone giving money to anything: Everything you care about is threatened by global warming. That is true no matter what you care about. First thing’s first people. The order of operations matters here.)

And many with big pockets are holding onto their pool of money…now is not the time to just spend 5% of what you have stocked up.

We need to spend now.

Now is the time to move. (Rhiana Gunn-Wright)

We need a better education system. We’re failing our youth.

Most students aren’t learning about climate change.

We’re not only failing them by stealing their childhoods/forcing them to step up and lead out of necessity, but also failing them because a world affected by climate change is the future world they’ll have to navigate through. Most places aren’t preparing them. And I’d hazard a guess that those that do touch upon the subject, don’t go nearly deep enough.

The youth are doing incredible work to lead the climate movement. Let go of the belief that children always need to listen to adults. We need to listen to what they are telling us. Now.

Idea: Education through empowerment. Have students recognize their power – treat them as a partner.

(Youth leaders + Sherri Mitchell)

Where are my teachers at?!

Check out the new Drawdown Learn program to join a network of fellow teachers bringing these climate solutions into the classroom (share this with any teachers you know!)*

There are 4 levels of climate action

  1. Individual action.
  2. Spread action among family and friends – do it together where possible.
  3. Action at the community and institutional level.
  4. Systemic change in the economy and policy.


We typically focus on levels 1 and 4. But 2 and 3 may be the most powerful. Especially 3.

Start doing what you can to make your town, school, or company sustainable. This is achievable and influences hundreds or thousands of people. It also helps pave the way for other institutions to follow suit. (Will Grant)

We must replace our destructive story with a regenerative, life-sustaining story.

We are trapped in our own myths that the way things are is normal. That this is the way things are supposed to be.

Profits being placed over people and planet is not how things are supposed to be.

Believing we are apart from nature, rather than a part of it – it’s simply false.

We need to re-learn how to live harmoniously with nature.

I say re-learn because this knowledge still exists with Indigenous people around the world. Humans had been living harmoniously with nature for thousands of years. It’s only recently we turned our backs on our relationship with nature.

As with so many of the climate solutions, this is one that is good for people and an opportunity to right some wrongs.

It’s an opportunity to give Indigenous people a seat at the table – to follow their lead as they are the experts with deep knowledge in this domain. There are many historical and present-day wrongs that need to be righted when it comes to how Indigenous people have been treated. This is an opportunity to start having those conversations, facing those harsh truths, and working together to restore a harmonious relationship with nature.

It’s an opportunity to move forward together in a way that sustains life.

“The idea that Indigenous are thought of as primitive and that those destroying the planet are civilized is madness.”

(Sherri Mitchell)

This is hard stuff. We’re all in it together. And we all have sacred instructions to follow – each of us can contribute in our own way.




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