50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Katharine Wilkinson

Conversations around climate change typically revolve around reducing or eliminating the use of fossil fuels – a big idea requiring massive changes to the globe’s energy infrastructure.

While there’s no doubt that switching to renewable sources of energy is critical to stabilizing temperatures, it’s also not an area where philanthropy, especially small and medium-sized funders, is able to make much of an impact.

But what about bike paths? Or educating girls in developing countries? Or preserving coastal wetlands?

All of these ideas, and many others that are regularly the focus of philanthropic investment, are tools to help address climate change. They’re all among the 100 solutions put forward by Project Drawdown, a climate change mitigation project that shines a light on the many ways humanity can reduce its carbon footprint.

Katharine Wilkinson, vice president of communications and engagement at Project Drawdown, will highlight some of these strategies, and how foundations can help promote them, at this year’s Annual Meeting.

In a recent interview with the website Massive Science, Wilkinson said her journey to environmental advocacy began in the Southeast when she was just a teenager.

“I lived in the woods in Western North Carolina for four months with 25 other high school students at an amazing place called the Outdoor Academy,” she said. “And that was really a sort of politicizing experience for me -- a kind of purpose clarifying experience -- and I started doing various kinds of student activism, and that carried forward into college.”

Wilkinson served as a senior writer for Project Drawdown’s bestselling book, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, which details all 100 solutions and their carbon savings. She’s also the sole author of Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change.

Religion has a role to play in the environmental movement, just as it has in so many others, Wilkinson argues.

“There’s been such an important role in so many social movements of religious voices, writers, and artists — the voices that really speak to the human heart and the human spirit,” she said. “I don’t think that we will arrive at the kind of metamorphosis that is necessary without having some of that of internal transformation as well.”

Project Drawdown puts an emphasis on promoting solutions even as others issue dire warnings of what will happen if humanity does not address the climate change threat. Wilkinson said this approach aligns with her own values.

“The thing that’s so hard about climate change is that we have to hold so much uncertainty about this huge spectrum of potential outcomes: a trajectory that we’re currently on that that looks really dark, and trajectories that we could be creating with the solutions we already have,” she said. “Part of the work is to be able to hold all of that. But for me, even if it’s a really high bar, with odds that feel long some days, I find it really helpful to have a sense of where we want to go, and not just what we want to avoid.”

Katharine Wilkinson will present at the Annual Meeting on Thursday, November 14, at 2:30pm. For more information on her session, “How Empowering Women & Girls Can Help Stop Global Warming (and Other Surprising Climate Solutions)”, visit our Annual Meeting website.



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