In addition to the general take-away that embracing personal power is the first step to changing the world, attendees left ignited by one idea in particular: Educating women and girls is the sixth most effective way to reverse global warming. When combined with improved family planning, it ranks as the No. 1 solution in Hawken's climate epic, Drawdown, a list of 100 proven ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the environment. That's because giving girls access to a proper education means that they'll have a better understanding of the problems that our planet faces, and shape their lives accordingly. This, combined with better access to contraceptives, can lead to fewer and healthier children and thus cut down on humanity's global carbon footprint.
"One of the most surprising things I learned is that the No. 6 solution to solving global warming is educating girls, and how inspiring is that?" SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan recounts. "It gives us something tangible to focus on: not only the direct impact around family planning but also another macro opportunity to solve in advancing the agenda of global gender equality." Famous foodies Kelly Leveque, and Julie Piatt agree, naming that take-away as equal parts surprising and mobilizing. "I love supporting women and girls to live authentic lives and do what they love. With two young girls of my own, this was very meaningful for me," Piatt says. "I was shocked to hear that the education, independence, and empowerment of women was the No. 1 way to have a positive effect on climate change," Leveque echoes.
Hawken's other take-aways also resonated with the crowd, including the fact that eight of the top 20 climate solutions relate to the food we eat. "The conversation about climate change from Paul was incredible and inspiring; I can see the synergies in what we share at Nutrition Stripped can also help our environment—plant-rich foods, reducing food waste, providing education, etc.," says nutritionist McKel Hill. Beyond wellness, Hawken's remarks on how other countries are taking action against climate change also had people talking. "[I was interested to learn] that building with wood can help reverse global climate change," says aromatherapist Leigh Winters. "Wood doesn't burn; it chars. What a difference building with wood will make considering that 50,000 skyscrapers are being built in China over the next 30 years." It's no wonder that Paul Hawken took home mbg's Lifetime Achievement Award this year.
We speak for everyone when we say thank you, Paul, for reminding us that human beings hold the capacity to save the planet, and providing a framework to help us do so.
Missed Hawken's big speech? You can still check out the whole thing! And learn more about the man behind Drawdown here.