Penn State Conference Engages Students, Teachers, Tech Experts in Climate Solutions
(This guest blogpost is by CivicStory board member Thomas Loughlin, President of Archimedes Lever LLC.)
A three-day conference entitled "Research to Action: the Science of Drawdown" was held at Penn State University in State College, PA, from September 15 to 18, 2019. ("Drawdown" refers to the point in time when the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere peaks, and begins to decline.) Approximately 500 attendees represented a variety of science and research areas, nonprofit fields, and philanthropy, and all seemed eager to learn about and engage in myriad strategies to reverse global warming.
As a nonprofit executive interested in the intersection of technology and sustainability, attending the event was a joy. I was surrounded by people who were fascinated by the technical, societal, and agricultural innovations currently being enacted around the world. The wide-ranging approaches to slowing, stopping, and eventually reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) are astonishing in their variety - from small-hold agricultural methods that replenish soil and increase the carbon-capturing impacts of trees, to efficient building materials and design, wave energy and new renewable energy sources, aqua-culture, and more.
The "Research to Action" conference was designed to lay the groundwork for "Drawdown 2.0" -- described by Drawdown Executive Director Jonathon Foley as an implementation phase that enables the project to be both a "go-to" organization and an online platform for climate solutions & engagement. Concurrent breakout sessions dove deeply into the more than one hundred strategies that comprise the Drawdown "solution set," and general sessions were devoted to increasing public awareness, and considering how people can coordinate efforts and mobilize effectively.
Two sessions that I found most intriguing focused on the story telling: Texas-based journalist Katherine Heigh-Ho discussed the communication challenges of conveying the severity of the environmental crisis through daily news, and covering climate issues in a political environment. A presentation on “Case Studies from Around the World” included Primecoalition.org - a financial model for raising the capital required for launching climate solutions. Both workshops focused on engaging the community in further developing the solution set. It will take a broad coalition of talent to bring these solutions on-line.
A poster presentation session and display showed some surprisingly creative ways of representing scientific research and technical solutions through graphic art and design.
"Research to Action: the Science of Drawdown" provided an important step in moving from increased public awareness of climate change, to empowering people to take constructive action. Judging from the energy and intense engagement in the conference content, I'll expect to see more such opportunities to focus on solutions to global warming, and increase the capability of citizens, institutions, and communities to develop coherent strategies for effecting change.
Addressing our complex global crisis is not easy. Working with a talented and committed community on real solutions that are under way and can be scaled immediately seems a good way to go.