The possibility to reverse global warming

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RAN works to protect lands such as the Leuser Ecosystem in the Bangkung district of Sumatra, Indonesia.
Paul Hilton for RAN

With each passing day, global warming seems more like a death sentence for the Earth. Rainforests are shrinking, carbon emissions are rising and many corporations are consistently putting profits before people. Even theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking recently gave humanity 100 years to find a new planet. There’s a certain Day After Tomorrow vibe around the topic, running down the doomsday clock with each new pipeline constructed.

But environmental agencies around the world are diligently working to curb global warming and infuse the future with some hope. On May 30 at the Dairy Arts Center, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) hosts Reversing Global Warming: It’s Possible! featuring RAN Executive Director Lindsey Allen and Project Drawdown Director Paul Hawken.

RAN has spent the past three decades fighting to preserve the rainforest, protect the climate and uphold human rights all over the world. It’s challenged companies through direct action and influenced many to change their practices. The organization has taken on large financial institutions and corporations like Home Depot, Pepsico and Citibank. It even went after the Disney Corporation when it was causing major forest destruction to make its paper products.

“It took us getting Mickey and Minnie Mouse handcuffed in front of their business office and chained to their gate to get [the Disney Corporation’s] attention,” says Christopher Herrera, director of communications for RAN. “But once we got their attention, they started working with us and we helped them develop a policy. We helped them become a leader in stopping deforestation.”

Joining RAN at the Dairy event is Project Drawdown, an organization working to shed light on the various actions rallying against climate change. Director Paul Hawken recently released a book detailing these practices called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. The book, which is a New York Times bestseller, covers 100 different solutions that have all been researched and analyzed and are working toward one of the ultimate goals of Project Drawdown: reversing the buildup of atmospheric carbon within 30 years.

The list of viable actions includes composting, educating women and girls, farmland irrigation, forest protection, green roofs, bio plastic and more.

“What we’re trying to do here is say, hey, let’s create this collection of things that are happening, that the world is already doing, and put this together and model it and really assess it, and show the world what it looks like when you knit that tapestry together,” says Chad Frischmann, research director with Project Drawdown.

Moreover, by assembling the list of all the various solutions, it helps to put a positive spin on the conversation about environmentalism.

“The organization’s goal is to transform how we think about global warming and climate change,” Frishmann says. “The discourse has been so dominated by fear, apathy and confusion of the science. We want to transform that into one of optimism, opportunity and potential to really make change. … The possibility that we’re presenting is not pie in the sky. It’s actually something that people can latch onto and feel really empowered at their level of decision making.”

Herrera of RAN also sees hope for the future, citing last year’s Paris Climate Agreement as a groundbreaking step forward as nations from around the world gathered, committing to cap global warming levels. While the United State’s current administration is threatening to pull its support, Herrera knows RAN will keep up the fight.

“As an organization with a tagline of, ‘Challenge corporate power,’ [RAN is] now in a position that we haven’t really been in the past,” he says. “The president of the U.S. is an embodiment of corporate power overreaching the rights of individuals and the protection of the planet. So it is a bigger challenge than we’ve faced before. … But the fact that we’ve been challenging corporate power for 30 years also positions us fairly uniquely. … We’re going to continue going forward and trying to pull back this overreach of profits over people and try to put the priorities where they should be.”

And with the troves of protesters who have flooded the streets in the past few months, Herrera says there’s enough power for change.

“The one thing that we know is that people power is the one that can challenge money and political power,” he says. “When people are organized and when people are pointed in the right direction and coming together for what they believe in, that has changed history repeatedly.”

By focusing on real world solutions and tackling the issue of global warming one action at a time, we stand a chance at proving Stephen Hawking wrong. 

On the Bill: Reversing Global Warming: It’s Possible! 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, The Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-641-7165.

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