Earthrise depicts a distant earth as it rises over the moon’s surface, a small blue marble absorbed by the expansive darkness of space. The famous image is often credited with giving rise to the environmental movement. The same image is the one that begins Al Gore’s famous presentation in his environmental documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. And this very presentation is the one that I had the pleasure of witnessing at the recent Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps Training.
Gathering more than 2,000 climate professionals and students, the conference covered issues of climate equity, drawdown solutions, environmental trends in the Southeast, communication strategies, and—above all—how to solve the current climate crisis.
Weaving my way through the crowds at the conference center, I was taken back by the astonishing number of people who had gathered, all passionate about tackling climate change and all from sectors that rarely gather in the same room. Backgrounds ranged from art to business to policy to research to faith to education to health. Home countries ranged from Colombia to Australia to South Africa to Canada. Yet people gathered from all over to focus on one common issue.
The front stage was uplifted with a green glow as the spotlight centered on an image of the earth surrounded by a simple green circle. And there on stage stood Al Gore.
Over the course of the three day conference, Gore welcomed panelists and experts from the region to discuss different solutions to common environmental problems, and offered stories and insights from his own experiences as a long time environmentalist. The conference placed an increasing emphasis on mobilizing support through youth in efforts, such as the Sunrise Movement and Green New Deal, and making environmental justice and equity a centerpiece of climate work.
So if Gore were to solve the problem, what strategies would he focus on? According to the former vice president, the prioritized solutions should be:
- Accelerate decarbonization of the economy with a focus on transportation and energy, via a price on carbon and through regulatory mandates.
- Make changes in land use through forestry and agriculture. Topsoil holds three times the carbon that vegetation does. Focus on topsoil sequestration.
- Revitalize and reinvigorate the democracy so priorities of the people align with policy.
Organizations such as Project Drawdown also made a guest appearance, sharing their approach to creating a comprehensive plan to solve climate change. On the list includes solutions that are commonly available, economically viable and scientifically valid, such as:
- Refrigerant Management: With a warming capacity 1,000 times more than carbon, moving beyond HFCs is crucial.
- Silvopasture: Integrating forest and grazing into livestock and tree management
- Food Waste: With one third of the food produced in the world not being consumed and 40% of that in the U.S., shifting a focus to composting and better portion sizing would dramatically reduce emissions.
- Built Environment: Addressing both operational and embodied carbon through elements of insulation, lighting, heat pumps and green infrastructure
- Women and Girls: With women and girls composing 90 percent of those injured in natural disasters, there is a complex nexus of gender and climate. Educating girls and increasing choice and agency leads to reproductive health, family planning and female empowerment.
To share the words of Katharine Wilkinson of Project Drawdown, “it is a magnificent thing to be alive in a moment that matters this much.”
According to the December survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 77 percent of U.S. registered voters support the continued participation in the Paris Climate Agreement. Yet each month, fewer than one in five Americans hear someone they know talk about climate change. We must remember that communication is just as important a solution as renewables, alternative transportation or nature-based solutions. That small blue marble that is so worth protecting relies on it.