Creating social change,  Teaching powerdown

Grassroots solutions to global warming

topdown grassrootsClimateSolvr is a program that connects you with grassroots climate solutions. It helps you discover what you can do about global warming in your own life. And it helps you transform those new, lower-carbon practices into habits – your new pattern of approaching the world. ClimateSolvr helps you connect with the joy and satisfaction of a life well-lived.

Top-down climate solutions

Top-down solutions are where the government or big organizations make changes and tell all the rest of us what to do. Some people think that’s the way to tackle global warming. They’re waiting for the government to pass laws and treaties that guide society to cut carbon emissions.

I agree that we do need laws and treaties. But think about this: if the government sets a law tomorrow that caps carbon emissions, what that means is we need to change our lifestyles.

Oh. So with grassroots changes, we’re just getting a head start on where we’re all headed anyway. We’re changing our lifestyles, even before they pass the laws.

What’s more, governments follow their constituents. As large numbers of voters begin understanding low-carbon habits, and insisting upon lower-carbon policy directions, it will make it much easier get laws passed.

Meanwhile, we can’t wait for theose laws and treaties. The physical reality of global warming says we’ve gotta get going, creating real decreases in emissions, starting immediately.

ClimateSolvr helps you bring lower-carbon habits into your life. It helps you reduce your carbon emissions starting today.

In addition to political action

Right now, there are plenty of worthy organizations that are working on political action, laws and treaties. Lifestyle change is a parallel and similarly necessary campaign.

Even while we work to get laws passed, we still need to be evolving our lifestyles, shifting our definition of what is a normal way to operate in this world. We can’t wait until laws are in place to start reducing our carbon emissions – we need to start now.

ClimateSolvr helps you step into “what comes next” as far as societal direction. It helps you be a change-maker.  Not necessarily a get-out-on-the-streets-and-shout activist, but certainly one of the leaders at the forefront of de-carbonizing our lives.

Corporate change

Here in the U.S., the influence of gigantic corporations upon our society is huge. In a way, it’s another form of top-down influence, telling us what to do. Sure, it would be grand if we could wave a magic wand and make the mega-corporations change direction. But realistically, it doesn’t work that way.

Corporations do change, however. They change – even make very big changes – when their markets change.

And what are markets? Great pools of consumers. Wait – that’s us! So if we create market change, we’ll change the corporate direction.

We create market change by making widespread change in consumer preferences, changing consumer habits, changing consumer perspective. Put it all together and that’s culture change.

Ultimately, that’s what ClimateSolvr is all about: creating culture change, one easy step at a time.

Grassroots culture change

Culture change is much more than greening a few surface things in our lives. Culture change runs deep. It means shifting not just the outer trappings of our lives, but also some things deep within.

For example, repairing our broken relationship with the natural world. Connecting with deep satisfaction with who we are. Shifting our basic understanding of how humanity fits into the ecosystems of the planet.

That sounds really big. (okay it is.) But it’s already well underway. Our little organization in Los Angeles is only one of many, many organizations around the world which are quietly, steadily pointing the way forward.

They’re beckonning: “This way! This way to a cleaner, brighter, healthier, happier, wiser future! This way, to get to a survivable planetary environment. This way, to get to a more peaceful human family. This way, to a life well-lived.”

ClimateSolvr helps you touch that new future, and bring a piece of its wisdom home to your heart.


The tips within ClimateSolvr aren’t things I made up. They’re pulled from many different disciplines, and they touch on many different realms of everyday life. I like to say they “walk the petals of the Permaculture Flower.”

The tips are fairly specific (as in: here’s what to do, this is why it’s important, and this is how to get started). But threaded through it all, there are three big concepts:

  • Dematerialization
  • Powerdown
  • Permaculture


The ideas of “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” have been around for decades. But to me, the term dematerialization is something different. Yes, it means reducing the vast amount of Stuff in our lives. But it’s much more than decluttering or the Reduce part of the jingle.

To me, dematerialization also means unhooking from materialism – the psychological aspects of Stuff. Becoming able to let go, and feeling richer for doing so.

Dematerialization isn’t “less,” it’s also focusing on what we’re building up, deep inside our hearts – feelings that are more important, that we value and treasure.


In order to make a serious dent in the progress of global warming, humanity needs to do much more than shifting to a few electric cars, solar panels, and wind turbines. Powerdown, a term popularized by Richard Heinberg, describes what we need to do: decrease our energy consumption in everything, across the board.

Right now we take energy for granted. We keep coming up with more and more ways to use energy (did you know they even sell toothbrushes with a little timer gadget in them to track how long you’re brushing?)

But to slow global warming, we’ve got to head in the other direction.

The green fantasy is that we’ll take all the things we currently power with oil and coal, and convert them over to “renewable energy sources” and keep going the way we have been. The reality is, this is impossible. Oil gives us mind-blowingly tremendous energy density, on a scale of energy that far eclipses what renewables can ever do. Renewable infrastructures aren’t in place right now, when we need to make the conversion.

Meanwhile, the consumption level we are currently operate at here in North America is far, far beyond what one small planet can sustain (see ecological footprint).

Plus there’s what Heinberg calls “peak everything”: humanity has crossed the peak – the halfway point of planetary supply – for many things we take for granted (peak oil, peak copper, peak natural gas, peak uranium, peak arable land, peak fisheries, peak forests, peak fresh water supplies). Our voracious consumption has put us on the declining second half of planetary supplies.

For these reasons, there’s got to be a powerdown.

Powerdown means root-level change in everything we do: where we get our food, how we grow our food, our attitudes about water, how we transport ourselves, our sense of what volume of transportation is normal and appropriate.

Powerdown has far-reaching repercussions: it will change our economy, change what we teach our children about the world they are growing into, change the cultural stories we tell each other and how we applaud each other within society, it may even change our systems of government.


If we were to design a permanent human culture, a truly-sustainable presence on the planet, what might that look like? What principles could we use to design? That’s Permaculture. Founded in the 1970s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, the Permaculture movement is a living presence in communities around the world.

Holmgren formulated a set of principles, which are based upon observations about how natural systems work. These principles serve as a guide when we test to see whether a new idea is greenwashing or whether it is truly more sustainable.

Permaculture holds proactive answers to many of the dark uglies posed by powerdown. Permaculture is at the roots of the international Transition Movement (founded by Rob Hopkins and Naresh Giangrande of Totnes, England). Permaculture is a design system, but along the way it also helps us discover a new path to well-being.

The Great Turning

Ecophilosopher Joanna Macy calls what humanity is currently going through “the third great revolution in the history of mankind.” (video) That kinda puts it in perspective.

When you look at the busy mainstream world flying by, and you’re tempted to say “oh that green stuff, that’s so small!” – just look to Macy to appreciate the massive scale of what is unfolding.

But wait, you hardly ever hear about this stuff. Remember who runs the mainstream news (the same people who run the stock markets, and need to keep up appearances). So yes, the massive societal shift toward sustainability that is currently underway can seem “small” and “alternative” and “insubstantial” – the dark lords work hard to make it look that way.

But green and sustainability and powerdown and dematerialization and social justice and permaculture are so strong and vital that, despite all the efforts to keep them all tampted down and separated, they are all aligned at a very deep level and they’re burbling up through the cracks.

Cracks are developing in those mega-corporate towers; very visible cracks are developing in the American economy and American political system. And real, vibrant, green life is elbowing its way through, and saying “here we are, we’ve come to save the day!”

ClimateSolvr helps you bring all of this alive in your life.

Habit change

Old habits are funny things. They’re like ruts we get into and it’s tough to crawl out. We can have great intentions, and make some amazing strides forward. But on a lazy day or a busy day, it’s too easy to fall back to the old ways.

That’s why, when it came to creating tips about climate solutions, I realized that what we all really need is a habit-changer. We need the journey to be broken down into achievable steps, and we need repetitive reminders to stay on track. We need a naggifier (like one of those workout apps) to poke us and get us out of our ruts. But we need to make it fun, so that we do it!

In summer 2016, ClimateSolvr will be released as a smartphone app. It will use your smartphone’s reminder features to help you form habits. You’ll get to play a little game, with “green leaf” points for the things you do to reduce your carbon footprint. You’ll get to track your personal progress, as you try out new ideas, practice them a few times, and eventually bring them into your life as lasting habits.

And of course you’ll get social media connections to share it all.
The tips within ClimateSolvr may, on the face of them, seem “small.” But every single one of them contains much deeper content. The small beginning is a reminder, in the way that a Buddhist meditation bell becomes a reminder to Practice. The touchstones build, one upon the other, to create a cumulative change of perspective. That’s grassroots culture change.

The full-featured ClimateSolvr smartphone app will bring you all of that.

In the meantime

Some people in our early surveys wanted ClimateSolvr content to be available via email. At the same time, climate reports are getting all the more urgent (James Hansen now says we must attain zero net emissions within 40 years). I simply cannot sit on this content, even though I haven’t finished all the back-end work for the app.

That’s why I’m setting things up so that you can try it out now!  Between Earth Day 2016 and Thanksgiving 2016, I’ll be releasing parts of the ClimateSolvr content as a weekly email, which I’m calling “ClimateSolvr 1.0”.

You can check it out. For free. (okay, a little through gift economy would be great too!)

And, if you feel so inclined, you be a change-maker: you can give feedback, which I will take very seriously as I put the finishing touches on the app.

Learn more about ClimateSolvr