Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken (book review).

Something that is pointed out at the beginning of this book, the extensively titled ‘Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming’ is that there was never a list of things that needed to be done to halt global warming. Likewise, no one has taken into account how to make it work without necessarily depriving people of their home comforts. To top that, there has been as insistence that all the words in this book are done so the layperson doesn’t have to be a scientist to understand them. Mind you, that doesn’t stop there being a lot of them and, even at the end of the book, its editor Paul Hawken points out you might just want to focus on the ones you can do something or care about.

Some of the plans do make sense. Others, I might query. The energy section is obviously one of the biggest ones. Where nuclear is concerned, there was no mention of using thorium reactors although I did like the description of all nuclear reactors do is heat water which is used to spin turbines which is the whole point of them in the first place. Nuclear is economical because it takes a lot of energy to heat water.

Wind turbines have shown some effectiveness but it’s a shame that there aren’t more tidal turbines, although is a version noted for the future towards the end of the book, or taking advantages of waterfalls energy. Taking advantage of natural phenomenon without disrupting local ecologies is always something to consider.

What did amaze me was the amount of useful recyclable material from waste burning that isn’t reused in the USA. If it’s true there, although recycling is taking over in the UK, then it also applies to other parts of the world and some serious thought needs to be done to do something about that and reuse the material. The Earth simply does not have enough material to waste like that.

The arguments over a meat and a vegetarian diet are not likely to go away. Although only cows, because of their methane output, are pointed out here, I have to draw some concern. If all farmers switched to crop growing then they would probably slaughter their livestock because it wouldn’t be productive to keep them. Animal husbandry might appear wasteful but it does make sense as well to eat meat.

Something I didn’t know was rice doesn’t need water-filled fields to grow in although practical irrigation might be more difficult to do in such areas simply because you have to put the water somewhere else and if it got contaminated cause a bigger problem.

Things like deforestation are far more difficult to stop. I think if those involved were shown to replant behind them then there would be a form of wood husbandry and not only make it self-sustaining but serve them in the future as well. As you can see, I’m thinking as I’m reading. I’m sure those of you buying this book will reach this stage of thought as well. This book does tend to steer away from how people live with such changes or offer practical usage.

The one problem with growing mini-forests on rooftops of tall buildings is seasonal changes and I saw no mention of what happens in the autumn when the leaves fall off or the winds catch them. Getting water and nutrients up to them would be problematic in making it widespread as well.

Bamboo cane and elephant grass are the fastest growing of plants and, from these articles, the most useful. There’s also a feature for the farmers amongst you about mixing perennial and annual plants to sustain carbon in the ground. Carbonising the ground comes up a lot because so much of this as a nutrient is lacking.

Seeing the amount of plastic that is created, 310 million tons per annum, it’s rather obvious there is a situation that is out of control. It’s also doesn’t give much of a solution to solving neither. If there was a way to dissolve it and it got into the wrong hands then we’d have a serious problem the other way. We just need a safer way to recycle it all.

There’s also a good argument that the arctic regions need to keep the ice cover. In earlier centuries, there are a lot of dead bodies frozen and not allowed to decay. With global warming, they will thaw and as this book points out will release a lot of methane into the air. Looking even further, it is also likely to release a lot of bacteria that we might not have any immunity for.

Just in case you think this book is all about current problems, the Drawback Project also looks at where some of our current changes are taking us. Not all of it I necessarily agree with. I mean, the reason cars took off in the first place was the amount of independence it gave people. To get more car share would mean everyone working identical hours and what do you do if you have to work late and your lift home is gone? Automated transport is all well and good but I’ve yet to see how much it will cost compared to a taxi ride.

There is some talk about the hydrogen-boron fusion reactor but having seen talk about fusion reactors since young, I’ll believe it when I see it.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t things that aren’t good although several of these need to be integrated together. Forests are seen as complete organisms where plants contribute to each other’s survival and nitrogen-fixing bacteria needs to be encouraged. Treating this as separate issues instead as one would surely save more money.

Oh, something I didn’t know is that the word ‘canvas’ is derived from the word ‘cannabis’. Then again, I didn’t know cows had a taste for seaweed.

As you can tell from my reaction to this book, there’s a lot to digest here. Even for our SF community, having some insight into what we might have in the future can be incorporated into our stories.

Objectively, farmers with an ecology bent will benefit immensely from some of the information here and if they make money then the rest will follow. Picking out which projects to back first is a lot tougher. I would hope it should be possible to combine some aims together than treat in isolation.

There is a lot to learn here and if you want to see what you can do to combat global warming then this book is worth a read and acting upon.

GF Willmetts

May 2017

(pub: Penguin. 239 page very large illustrated indexed softcover. Price: £17.99 (UK); $22.00 (US), $29.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-14-313044-4)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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