Earth Day Series - Part 3: Big Ideas and Education

By: Malavika Venugopal in collaboration with The CommUnity Post

In this article I have summarized the key takeaways from the third day of webinars held by “We Don’t Have Time”, broadcasting from Stockholm and Washington [1]. The first article (Part 1) in the series covered the topic of ‘climate finance’, pushing for more conversations and transparency regarding clean banks and sustainable investments. It highlighted the efforts of organisations such as ‘2 degree investing initiative’ and ‘banking on climate change’ that are creating a banking-preamble focussing on increasing clean and sustainable investments. Part 2 of the series shed light on the circular economy model and why it is cheaper to be circular in the long term. Business models of a few circular model based startups were presented, which showed that innovative products can be both affordable and sustainable. The current article (Day 3) focusses on big ideas, education and health. While not directly related to energy and sustainability, conversations over the day proved the interconnection between education, health and sustainability. This article highlights this nexus and makes a push for an integrated growth that does not leave anyone behind. 

Topic 3: Big Ideas & Education

The Day 3 webinar began with a keynote speech from Crystal Chassel of “Project Drawdown”. Project Drawdown is a nonprofit organization that helps the world reach “Drawdown”. Drawdown is achieved when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. Without systematic implementation of solutions, drawdown will never happen. Health and education are very important aspects when it comes to achieving drawdown. Reproductive healthcare, family planning and educating girls are relevant to controlling population growth and in turn, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Voluntary contraception has been studied for a long time, but it has never been studied in relation to its impact on climate change. 

How can education and reproductive health impact the planet? The calculations by Project Drawdown focus on the projected consumption: higher the number of people on the planet, higher the consumption. While comparing greenhouse gas emissions of a family, 85.4 gigaton of emissions can be saved, by taking family planning into consideration. The difference in childbirth between an educated and an uneducated woman is on average, 4 to 5 children [2]. Although population is expected to grow most in developing countries, slowing population growth can have large impacts on our fight against climate change. The climate problem cannot be solved if women and girls are not provided with equal opportunities. Communication, awareness, advocacy and political will are of utmost importance to bring about this change. 
The next keynote speaker Nigel Topping, a high-level climate champion, spoke about the interconnection between health and economy. Health is dependent on nature and that relationship is currently in jeopardy. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown us how interconnected we are with one another. If one country does not lock its borders, the disease continues to spread. We are only as safe as the most vulnerable people in the world. Hence, without collaboration and combined effort, we will never succeed. 


Nigel suggests an economic transformation must take place, which puts nature at the heart of the economy. Low to non-existent interest rates combined with sustainable finance can make the biggest push towards transforming our society into a sustainable society. Industries publicly committing to net zero carbon emissions shows bravery, as they can be held liable, in case any goal-impending actions come forward. 

The next speaker, Johan Falk, project manager at Exponential Roadmap, marked the importance of big ideas in the technology industry [3]. He boldly stated that the technology industry will highly determine whether we live in a future where the average temperature is 0.0 - 1.5 degree higher than today, or surpass beyond that. Economic growth without limits is dangerous, which is why we have to capitalize on the opportunities offered by existing solutions. Johan urges the direction of research to move from developing newer solutions to scaling of existing solutions. If we can scale and industrialize the existing solutions, we can easily half our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Renewable energy was considered unscalable at one time, and we managed to make that statement false. If we can scale renewable energies, we can scale all our existing solutions, but this will require a major push from the government, likely including subsidies for some technology. Exponential Roadmap’s 1.5-degree playbook acts as a framework for large businesses to align with the 1.5-degree climate ambition. By focusing on 4 pillars: self-emissions, value chain emissions, strategy, and policy influence, businesses can be at the frontline for the push required to transform today’s industrial sector. 

Johan Rockstrom ended the third day of the webinar by highlighting the lessons we could learn from the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic was not a black swan: the warnings were there, we just ignored them until things went out of hand. Instead of whining about the situation, we must learn from it- this is an obligation. High impact events such as hurricanes, floods, draughts and health crises will be more and more common in the next few years and decades. Hence, the health crisis is highly linked with the sustainability crisis. If we do not improve at a faster pace in all sectors, we will never win. 

What is needed to change the status quo of global warming is for all sectors to come together and work together towards a circular and sustainable economy. To quote an example, most Armageddon movies have a common feature: people from different countries, sectors and scientists come together to fight the one common enemy. That is exactly what is required today, to make the world a more sustainable and safer haven for every creature inhabiting this beautiful blue planet. 


[1] We don't have time, 2020. Earth Day Seminars. [Online] Available at: [Accessed April 2020].

[2] Project Drawdown, 2020. Health and Education. [Online] Available at: [Accessed April 2020].

[3 Exponential Roadmap Initiative, 2019. 1.5°C Business Playbook Eco-System. [Online] Available at: [Accessed April 2020].

Published on: 2.10.2020

Continue reading:

Earth Day Series- Part 4 Food & Agriculture

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