Change Agents, Nature & Civilization

Paul Hawken and Jane Goodall at Park City

By Ashlynd Greenwood

at 2030 Net Zero summit last month

Love, says Jane Goodall, is “a very important component” of our quest to reverse climate change. “We tend to go along with our brains, and only when the head and heart are in harmony can we reach our true human potential,” Goodall told those gathered last month at Park City’s  Mountain Towns 2030 Net-Zero Summit. Speaking alongside Paul Hawken, editor of Project Drawdown, her words were often filled with hope.

The three-day gathering welcomed as many as 40 mountain community governments, NGOs and climate-oriented businesses from across the country committed to bold climate action.

“I’m often asked what difference a small town like Park City can make,” says Park City Mayor Andy Beerman. “My answer is, we can show what’s possible. We are a progressive community, we have wealth, we have close connections to the environment, and our economy depends on the snowpack. If people as motivated and capable as we are cannot act, how can we expect that of others?” Beerman envisions his city making a global impact on climate change. To that end, Park City has set the ambitious goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Clearly, there is something inspiring about what Beerman is trying to start—demonstrated by his ability to attract to his conference notable environmentalists such as Goodall and Hawken. Primatologist and anthropologist Goodall, at the age of 26, changed the way we see the natural world through her work with chimpanzees. In the 1960s, most people still saw humans as separate from and superior to the natural world. It was, and is, the kind of thinking that has gotten us where we are today, she says. Her work created a new vision for the world, one  that she and others are now channeling into climate action.

Paul Hawken has likewise been a key player at the forefront of the effort to reverse climate change. In 2017 he published Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming and created Project Drawdown, a research organi­za­tion that identifies, reviews, and analyzes the most viable solutions to climate change, and shares these findings with the world.

Hawken spoke about the biosphere of Earth as a self-regulating system. The fine-tune adjustments the Earth makes to create a balance are what make this place the only known planet in the solar system with an ability for life. But, he says, humans are mistakenly acting as though they can live outside of this cycle. Hawken’s goal is to adjust the way we regulate ourselves to live in harmony with Earth. Using his book’s 100 solutions, Hawken’s goal is to determine if humans can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within 30 years. Hawken asked his audience, “What would it take to do that? Do we have the techniques, technologies, and the tools at hand to practice these solutions? Can we do it? Is it economical? Can we afford to do it? Can we afford not to do it?”

In closing, Goodall offered this message for all youth. “Nobody can do everything. The problems we are surrounded with today are huge and can be overwhelming. Although, there may be one part of it that is very interesting to you. Something you feel you really care about. Maybe it’s protecting a certain plant species or animal. Maybe it’s collecting trash. Anything. Focus on that, roll up your sleeves, and take action. Then that will take you into a community of people who want to make a difference.”

This article was originally published on October 30, 2019.