Book review : Regeneration by Paul Hawken

It’s increasingly difficult not to be overwhelmed by the multiple crises Humankind is currently facing. Among these, climate change is becoming more dire every month and global biodiversity is collapsing right in front of our eyes.

But what if we could turn these tides around ? What if things were radically better on a global scale by mid-century ? This might be some crazy utopia, or it might just be the future we all collectively build.

Back to 2017, I had loved listening to famous environmentalist Paul Hawken present his book Drawdown. It details 80 (+ 20) ways to slash global greenhouse gases emissions and achieve emissions levels that can be absorbed by Nature. Eventually, CO2 levels in the atmosphere would return to 350 ppm. This volume has become one of my favorites among the many I have read on climate and sustainability issues since I started back to 2004 (check the list there).

Regeneration is the sequel and it brings myriads of concrete solutions to implement in every aspects of our lives. As the title suggests, it’s focused on how we can reverse the destruction of Nature that has been wrought by Mankind for the past centuries, and that has accelerated exponentially since the end of WWII.

Bringing back Nature from the brink of collapse can be done by implementing regenerative solutions to our land and oceans. Life on Earth is ancient and more powerful that we can imagine. It can bounce back if given the opportunity. Examples of this abound : rewilding, sylvopasture, agroforestry, composting…

For this to happen, we all need to learn to live both in sufficiency and in harmony with Nature, something I alluded to in my article last week. To start, we collectively need to end the utter waste (of energy, food, clothes, space in our cities, fertile soil in our countryside) that have been front and center of our societies for the past few decades. Nothing can be achieved without this paradigm shift.

While nations and companies are pledging to be “Net Zero by 2050” at the current COP in Egypt without providing any direct, concrete and intermediate steps, this book actually shows how we could achieve drawdown and regenerate Life on our planet. This needs everyone and will benefit everyone (or almost, I am not sure billionaires and plutocrats would benefit from Regeneration and a world without fossil fuels).

In a sense, our predicament is pushing us back to old, sometimes even forgotten, ways. Indigenous tribes and communities have been good stewards of our Earth for centuries and their wisdom needs to be listened to and acted upon. Testimonies from leaders and doers show how this is done and be replicated.

Similarly, the world of our grand-parents – or for younger generations, our great-grand parents – holds many a solution : going to work by bike, vacationing by train, eating much less meat, waste not, want not”, “make it last, make it do”

This doesn’t mean I should write my articles on a Remington 1947 typewriter either. No, current technologies and future inventions will be needed and welcomed. Solar and wind are already replacing coal and fossil gas for electricity generation. Super efficient geothermal heat pumps should heat our homes, not inefficient boilers. Bio-based materials (like hemp, straw or cellulose wadding insulation) should help our buildings stay cool in the increasingly hot summers all the while storing carbon…

Replete with pictures, the book is divided into several parts to make it easier to navigate the dozens of solutions and topics. From oceans to forests, and from wilding and land to the city, buildings and energy, all subjects are tackled with data, facts, figures and people-centric approaches.

While the book focuses primarily on the climate crisis, applying at scale the solutions mentioned there would also solve poverty, obesity, biodiversity collapse, air and water pollutions and so on. This book really encapsulates systems thinking and wicked problems in its approach.

The last part of the book, Action + Connection, helps readers embed all these facts, figures and ideas into one’s life and spread the word. There one can find myriads of ways to put the book’s ideas into direct, concrete actions.

To conclude, this book joins my list of favorite books on sustainability and climate. I believe it is a must-read for every family and community. After reading it, eco-anxiety has left place to something more uplifting: with so many possiblities and solutions to implement, which ones should we personally strive to implement ? Please read it if you are feeling down. Then, start acting on the myriad of solutions mentioned.

Additional resources : You may want to watch this TED Talk which presents Project Drawdown. 17 minutes very well spent.

¨Photo credits : Regeneration cover and photo by Mario La Pergola on Unsplash.

Edouard

Edouard is a sustainability and energy professional committed to bringing our societies to a carbon neutral future. He has been writing on related topics on this very blog since 2007.

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