By Amanda Ravenhill: “Drawdown” starts at Presidio Graduate School
Written by Shawna Cain (C15)
Alumna Profile Series: Amanda Joy Ravenhill, C10, MBA San Francisco
“If success or failure of the planet and of human beings depended on how I am and what I do…How would I be? What would I do?”
Presidians answer this question with bold and courageous action. Amanda Joy Ravenhill’s sense of urgency towards reversing climate change stems from her experience working with a fair-trade artisan project in Bolivia. As the women arduously crafted goods to sell to support their families, devastating “hundred year” climate events struck every year. Amanda realized that no matter how many bags she could export and sell, it would not address the larger threat to this community and the world, and she intended to do something about it.
Searching for a holistic approach to solving these pressing global challenges, Amanda enrolled in Presidio Graduate School to learn the “language of the world business, accounting, finance, and leadership.” She was drawn to the integrated curriculum and systems thinking lens for cultivating global change. It was while she was a student at PGS that she learned about Buckminster Fuller and his progressive philosophy for comprehensive anticipatory design science where specializations in fields of technology, ecology, and humanitarian values are blended to create truly holistic solutions. Her connection with Buckminster Fuller has been a game-changer for Amanda, and she would find his influence again after graduation when she would become Executive Director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute.
It was also at PGS that Amanda met the author and activist Paul Hawken and they began envisioning a collaboration with PGS students. “We wanted to build the movement and push the field of sustainable business along,” says Amanda. At this time, Amanda had graduated from PGS and was teaching the Principles of Sustainable Management course, and Paul had an idea to write a book addressing the million-dollar question, “What’s the plan in reversing the global warming crisis?” Incredible innovation was happening in energy, urban planning, and farming, but information was siloed. “Green Peace had this part of the plan and International Energy Agency has this part of the plan, and some of the soil conservation and sequestration people had some part of the plan, but there was no comprehensive plan. No one had added it all up," says Amanda. As Amanda was teaching students to analyze complex issues with a systems-thinking lens, examining how individual components interact and link to other components, it seemed there was no systems-thinking guide to climate change solutions.
Paul had an idea for a comprehensive guide which detailed all of the existing solutions with central data points illustrating the impact on greenhouse gas emissions, projected cost estimates, and scope of the strategy. The culmination of research from Amanda, Paul, and numerous 2009 PGS students led to the birth of New York Times Bestseller “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming,” published in April 2017.
The formative research for Drawdown was done by two different classes at Presidio. “It was a lot of blood sweat and tears for many years. It took some grit to get it to the place where it is today. But it was so worth it.”
What Amanda is most proud of with project Drawdown was in hiring the Director of Research, Chad Frishman, who organized a fellowship program and created Drawdown’s model. Chad continues to work with over 60 senior fellows from over 25 countries around the world who are subject matter experts. These include scientists, fellows, researchers, economists, financial analysts, activists and other experts. They continue to update the models so that leaders in policy and business can extrapolate and apply them into real strategies for reversing global warming.
Since her work with Drawdown, Amanda continues catalyzing systemic solutions as Executive Director of Buckminster Fuller Institute. Inspired by “Bucky,” also known as the grandfather of the modern ecology and techno-utopian movement, the institute awards grants to cutting-edge thinkers who propose systemic solutions and which address complex global problems.
One such winner was a project called Green Wave Ocean Farming, a zero input ocean farm which produces kelp and shellfish. The underwater farm cleans the local ecosystem, sequestering carbon at five (5) times more than land sequestration. It also supports local fisherman, and produces kelp which can then be used for fuel, fertilizer, and feed for livestock, reducing methane in cows up to 90%! This one intervention which provides multiple solutions is just the is just the kind of project Buckminster Fuller Institute supports with funding and incubation support for a vision of a shared future. As Amanda says, “We can all profit together... [We can] Move from win/lose game to the win-win game.”
“Presidio Graduate School’s a launchpad to whatever you want to do in the world - the bolder the better.”
Amanda accredits PGS to building her foundation for these leadership roles. She believes the integrated holistic programming builds bold and courageous leaders equipped to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges, “PGS is a launchpad to whatever you want to do in the world - the bolder the better.” It has also connected her to an incredible network of change agents, including her husband Ryan Kushner, also a Presidian. “Talent attracts talent, and it’s created a culture of leaders.”
When asked what advice she would give to someone considering the program, Amanda said, “We all need to step up and step into our most powerful selves that we possibly can. At least for me, and dozens, if not hundreds, of others I know, PGS makes you your best self so you can create the best possible future. If you dare to step into this, and actually try to save the world, which we can actually do, no joke, then go to Presidio Graduate School!”
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