Project Drawdown – substantiative solutions to Climate Change

In a moment of sincere disappointment and loss of hope, I was blessed to have the rare gift of speaking to an incredible human being, a golden soul that has inspired me for many years: Paul Hawken. His words, compassion, and optimism continue to resonate:

Is climate change happening to you or for you? If it is happening to you – you are a victim, you are an object, you are dis-empowered. But if you embrace it, it is your ally. We need to embrace climate change as a guide to a far better world than we know now. Avoidance of despair is an essential condition in order for humanity to creatively respond to the future we face. The public’s willingness to respond to climate change can shift, if they can see opportunity instead of dread, that a transformation can benefit them individually and collectively.

It is not game over…it is game on.

His most recent work includes being project director for the empowering Project Drawdown (a book, open-source database/digital platform, and coalition of individual and organizational change agents). Project Drawdown describes over 100 social and technological solutions that reduce and sequester carbon dioxide emissions. Projections show adoption could result in net green house gases declining on a year to year basis by 2045.

The solutions outlined in Project Drawdown, are existing, researched, and organized according to agency (individuals, communities, buildings, businesses, forests, cities, provinces/states). They include the obvious (renewable energy, LED lighting) as well as the unexpected (girls education, rotational grazing).

Everyone can contribute to the solutions needed. I challenge you to consider getting involved in Project Drawdown by joining the coalition: become a volunteer, apply to be a fellow, assist your institution in participating, give scientific advice, become a partner, or make a donation.

‘Climate change is begging us to dream’ … and dream we will.


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You may also enjoy ‘Interface: Net-Works (making waste beautiful)‘.

Inspirational Person: William Doll, Impact Investor

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William Doll is the founding partner of The Syneidesis Group, a community of investors who seek a deeper understanding of the trends (including sustainable) affecting our world. Interestingly, some of his previous work included collaborating with Emmy Award winning vérité filmmaker Slawomir Grunberg. William met his wife of 17 years, Ekaterina, while an exchange student in St. Petersburg, and has been blessed with 2 young boys.


William, as founder of The Syneidesis Group, could you explain in simple terms what Impact Investing is?

My definition of Impact Investing is any investment that produces both a financial return and does good in the world. I love the motto: ‘Do good while doing well’. The idea here is that the Capital Markets should be a vehicle for both making money and solving the major challenges facing humanity. This is also why some people call Impact Investing Solutions Based Investing. There are plenty of examples, such as: Fair Trade Coffee (which pays producers an above-market “fair trade” price provided they meet specific labor, environmental, and production standards) and Renewables (solar, wind, plus biomass and recycling waste into energy).

What inspired you to get involved in this field?

Apollo 9 astronaut Russell Schweickart once said:

When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing.

For those who haven’t been to space, I imagine that having kids instills a similar kind of epiphany. You realize that you are not the center of the universe and the rest of your life becomes devoted to caring for someone else. Today, as a father of two little boys, I can’t imagine living a life not devoted to finding solutions that address the major challenges facing humanity.

It can seem overwhelming when you start really diving into the challenges (income inequality, population growth, urbanization, sanitation, waste, etc), but there are plenty of challenges facing humanity that people are solving today: The truth is that we can not only solve these but find a way to make them profitable as well.  Philanthropy will always have a place in the world, however the largest opportunities can both solve a major challenge and produce a financial return.

It has been said that this may be a period in which there will be the ‘greatest transfer of wealth in history’. Could you explain what is special about this generation, and the potential it has for positive change?

There are actually two transfers of wealth occurring. One from the Greatest Generation {those who survived the Great Depression and fought in WW2} to the Baby Boomers (~$12 Trillion) and a second transfer from the Baby Boomers to Gen X & Gen Y (~$30 Trillion) within the next 20-30 years.

There is no doubt that the Impact investing movement is being driven in large part by Generation X and Y. I was just at the Nexus Youth Summit in DC and it is an awesome sight to behold the influence, drive, and passion of the “under 40” crowd. What makes this group special: the shear amount of capital this group has and will inherit is unprecedented, and the fact that these investors simply expect more from their capital. It is no longer satisfactory for an investment to simply generate a financial return, these generations also expect social and environmental returns (triple bottom line).

Can you explain the shift you are seeing due to forward-thinking companies, who recognize the changing investor landscape?

More and more companies are realizing the economic benefit to corporate sustainability, which is the brother of impact investing. Companies that are implementing a true corporate sustainability program – Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) – strategy may have a long term advantage over those that do not (such as increase in market share, greater energy efficiency, and higher profits).

The knock on effect is that their supplier companies are adopting these policies also including transparency and strong governance. There is less corruption, fewer places to hide underpaid employees – which results in fairer pay – and a generally happier society. The businesses that get this model right will satisfy the demands of both traditional and impact shareholders. Beyond that, the long term benefits of this trend point to global economic growth, a strong middle class, and more innovation.

How can people, from accredited investors to everyday citizens, get involved in investing their resources not only for return but also for social good?

The channels for retail investors to get involved in the impact space are not yet well established. In 2006, The internet giant eBay acquired a small startup called MicroPlace, and really opened the door on the emerging market of small-scale lending. The idea was to enable the average investor to lend small amounts ($50 to $100) to enterprises in the developing world at a 1 to 4 percent return. In January 2014 eBay closed the operation citing a lack of wide-scale adoption. However, this bold step on eBay’s part has set a precedent for what undoubtedly will come. There will be ways for average investors to make moderate returns while doing good.

Until then, the next best idea is to choose an investment management company dedicated to Impact Investing. Cornerstone Capital Inc. is a pioneer in this field under the leadership of Wall Street veteran Erika Karp. Her mission is to create the world’s first genetically sustainable globally integrated financial services company. In short, if you want your investments to do good in the world, investing into socially minded funds is the best option. If the minimum investment threshold is too high, you can invest in  individual companies on the stock market that are part of the solution.


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{Interested in other Q&A’s with Inspirational People? Check them out here}

Winter 2014: Musical Inspiration

Every season, I share an artistic expressions that have inspired me. This month I’d like to share some music that has resonated, and I hope it speaks to you as well.

I would love to hear what music has inspired you over the past season, in the comments below!


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My New Years Resolution (2015): To Be Happy

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I was watching a home video of an interview with my Nanny. She was being asked a host of questions, including what she most wanted for her children – and without hesitation, she said confidently and with a great deal of love…

To be happy.

The pursuit of happiness at times gets a bad rap for being fake, selfish, or an ultimately futile goal. However, what could be more important than creating an atmosphere of positivity and balance in your own life, regardless of circumstances? How can you truly support others, or have the ability to make change in the world if you are not at peace yourself?

This past year my Telfer MBA team did a data analysis project on the Happy Planet Index (incredibly, US ranks in the lowest category of HPI, Canada is middle of the pack, while Mexico is  one of the highest). We compared HPI to a large number of factors – including life expectancy rates, war deaths, alcohol consumption, etc – with little correlation.  We came to the surprising conclusion that happiness is not heavily dependent on what is happening to and around you.

So what do happy people do differently than the rest of us? I plan to go on a mission to figure this out – and will be periodically updating you on my findings. I will pursue it, like I do any other goal, with tangible actions. I plan to try 3 different happiness tactics every quarter of 2015, and I invite you to join me! The tactics for January to March are as follows:

  • Find 5 things you are grateful for everyday – This could be a morning reflection you whisper to yourself while rolling out of bed, or a journal entry  on the good things that you remember from the day. The way you choose to recognize the 5 things is completely up to you, but the key thing is that it happens daily.
  • Remove one negative thing from your life – Create some breathing space by letting go of something that is currently toxic. This could be an activity you no longer enjoy, an energy sucking relationship, or a self-destructive habit.
  • Start meditating – I meditate every once in a while, but I want to make this an unshakable part of my daily routine. This can take as little as 5 minutes a day, so it is manageable for even the most packed schedule.

Make happiness a priority this next year with me, and improve not only your own life, but those close to you as well. Keep me updated on your experiences below!


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Everything is connected – our bodies, our world.

This absolutely powerful TED talk by Eve Ensler, touched me in a way I cannot explain. She shares her heart wrenching insights into the connection between our awareness of and compassion for our bodies and the body of our world.

Cancer exploded the wall of my disconnection. I suddenly understood that the crisis in my body was the crisis in the world – and it wasn’t happening later, it was happening now. Suddenly my cancer was the cancer that was everywhere: the cancer of cruelty, the cancer of greed, the cancer that gets inside people who live downstream from chemical plants (and they are usually poor), the cancer inside the coal miners lungs, the cancer of stress for not achieving enough, the cancer of buried trauma, the cancer in caged chickens and polluted fish, the cancer in women’s uterus from being raped, the cancer that is everywhere from our carelessness.

In his new and visionary book, New Self, New World, the writer Philip Shepherd says, “If you are divided from your body, you are also divided from the body of the world. Which then appears to be other than you or separate from you, rather than the living continuum to which you belong.”

Before cancer, the world was something ‘other’. It was as if I was living in a stagnant pool, and cancer dynamited the boulder that separated me from the larger sea. Now I am swimming in it. Now I lay down in the grass and I rub my body in it, and I love the mud on my legs and feet. Now I take a daily pilgrimage to visit a particular weeping willow, and I hunger for the green fields in the bush, and when it rains, hard rain, I scream and run in circles. I know that everything is connected.

 

I hope her pure passion resonates with you – like it did with me.

What struck you about her talk? Please share below!


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Inspirational Person: Peter Paul

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I wanted to begin to interview different people who inspire me, and share their light with you as well.

Peter Paul was born in New Brunswick to a close-knit family of four, with parents who were both kind and wise. He grew up in Ontario, but spent summers in the maritimes connecting to the rural and coastal landscapes. After school, he linked his interest in geography to mapping work which continued for the next thirty years. He met his wife, Betty, on a canoe trip in the 1980’s, and had two children (I was fortunate enough to be one of them). 


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Q1. Peter, it’s impossible for others not to notice your indomitably positive spirit and generosity. Are these a reflection of an inner choice?

For most people, the way we see ourselves is different from the way others see us. There are several people in our family and our group of friends whose positive spirit and generosity have served as models for me. This has also been true of some strangers in my life – people whose names I will never know, and whom I will likely never meet again, but whose actions I will always remember and appreciate.

Q2. You seem to prioritize getting out in nature, such as taking long walks on a daily basis or biking to work. What impact has nature had on your life? 

Nature has provided a way for me to step back from the details of everyday life, and to appreciate the beauty and rhythm of life which has ‘stood the test of time’. On the grounds of the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, there is a beautiful red oak tree which was planted in 1911, and which I would see on my bike trip to work each day. Sometimes when day-to-day problems would seem overwhelming, I would look at this oak tree which had faithfully continued its yearly cycle of life (new spring buds, summer leaf growth, acorns, falling leaves in the autumn) for one hundred years, in spite of the day-to-day upheavals in my own life, or the latest world news.

Q3. When you reflect back on your life, what is the first memory that comes to mind when you think about your proudest moment?

When I was in Grade 5, we had an hour and a half for lunch – time to walk home for a meal with Mom, and still get back to school for a game of pick-up softball. At that time, a boy attended our school who was a particularly gifted athlete – as a softball pitcher, he threw with speed and accuracy beyond his years. None of us could hit his pitches. After a series of strikes as the batter, I decided to swing before I thought I should – to see if I could anticipate the location of the pitch. It worked.

Q4. What would you tell a younger version of yourself, if you had the chance?

Remember that school is only one way to learn about the world.

Q5. Finally, with all of your experiences and knowledge, do you think there is hope for the world to solve the current social and environmental crises that it is currently facing? Do we have the power to change the world for the better?

I believe that there is hope for the world, because each one of us has the ability to contribute to the solutions – if only we decide in our own minds to do it. The force of people working together towards something worthwhile, towards a goal for the common good, will be unstoppable once it gains momentum.

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Fall 2014: Visual Inspiration

I’d like to start sharing photos that I have taken each season. I hope some may resonate with you.

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If you enjoy these photos, feel free to follow me on Instagram, or let me know below. I would love to see photos that have inspired you – please share links to them in the comments!

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Global Chorus: Daily meditations about hope and the planet

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Next year, I hope to start everyday with a bit of hope – with insights and perspectives to keep pushing towards solutions. To spend some time to let ideas marinate, to observe, to taste and feel the fullness of thought leaders perspectives on relevant issues about our world. I want to listen – really listen.  I want to go outside, touch the ground, experience the breeze, smell nature. I want to feel her within me, I want to hear her speak to me. I want to re-energize.

I am humbled to be part of project that will help others to do just that.

Global Chorus a groundbreaking collection of over 365 perspectives on our environmental future. As a global roundtable for our times, in the format of a daily reader, this book is a trove of insight, guidance, passion and wisdom that has poured in from all over the Earth. Its message is enormously inspiring, and ominous in its warnings. And yet, united in a thread of hope, its contents are capable of helping even the most faithless global citizen to believe that we have the capacity to bring about lasting positive change in our world. Places at this roundtable are occupied by writers, environmentalists, spiritual leaders, politicians, professors, doctors, athletes, business people, farmers, chefs, yogis, painters, actors, architects, musicians, TV personalities, humanitarians, adventurers, concerned youth, concerned senior citizens, civil servants, carpenters, bus drivers, activists, CEO’s, scientists, and essentially those who have something thoughtful and visionary to say about humanity’s place upon Earth. Compiled for your reading as a set of 365 pieces, Global Chorus presents to you a different person’s point of view for each day of your year.”

I had the true pleasure of being at the Ottawa book launch and signing this past week. It was incredible to meet the editor, Todd Maclean, who envisioned this book 5 years ago. It speaks to what the power of a dream, ongoing effort, and an indomitable spirit can accomplish.

Grab a copy of this #1 Amazon bestseller, and join David Suzuki, Paul Hawken, Bill McKibben, William McDonough, Michael Reynolds, Rick Fedrizzi, Will Potter, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth May, and Jane Goodall by adding your voice in this global chorus.

The contributors for the book, were asked the following questions – add your own perspective in the comments below: “Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival, as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?”

 

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Interface: Net-Works (making waste beautiful)

 

I had the honor of talking recently with Erin Meezan, the Vice President of Sustainability for Interface. Her passion for her work and the positive impact on the large breadth of people touched was truly inspiring.

Interface are leaders in the industry showing that fully integrated sustainability is not merely a theoretical idea, but can be tangibly accomplished and perpetuated within a business.  They transparently report on their ecological footprint, including progress in: Energy, Climate, Waste, and Transportation.

Looking for a way to reduce the environmental impact of nylon even further, they launched Net-Works.

“Net-Works enables local residents to collect discarded nets, which wreak havoc with the marine ecosystem, and sell them back into a global supply chain – giving those destructive, broken nets a second life as beautiful and long-lasting carpet tile. The product of an unlikely partnership, the Net-Works programme is proof that when business, conservation, and communities innovate together, we can create positive, sustainable change.”  

This initiative is not only lowering their impact, but also infusing local economies, while helping to clean up coastal environments. In the first 2 years, Net-Works has expanded to reach to 24 communities, with over 4,000 people benefiting from alternative income, and more than 35 metric tonnes of waste nets have been salvaged and turned into carpet tiles.

I can only begin to imagine how this world would change, if more companies looked for win-win solutions that not only positively impacted their bottom line – but also people and the world we live in.

Can you think of innovative win-win solutions you could apply to the work you are currently doing? Please share below!

 

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