Meet Honors Institute Speaker Crystal Chissell

Project Drawdown is a research and communication organization offering 100+ solutions to reverse global warming. It also produced the best-selling environmental book of 2017, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.

As vice president of operations and engagement for Project Drawdown, Crystal Chissell promotes the adoption of a solutions-based approach within the Drawdown Coalition, a global network of partners committed to reversing global warming. She will speak in the opening session of Honors Institute 2019 at San Diego State University in California this June.

Learn more about Crystal and Project Drawdown in this brief Q&A.

Describe the work you do at Project Drawdown:
My role is two-fold. I serve as chief operations officer, working to enable our organization and team to operate effectively. I also work to explore and support partnerships with concerned citizens, activists, messengers, businesses, local governments, and others around the world who are motivated to work together to increase awareness and action on drawdown solutions.

How did you become involved with the organization?
I joined the organization in 2015 to help recruit our international team of researchers and to manage operations for the Drawdown Research Fellowship program.

When and how did your interest in environmental issues begin?
My interest in environmental issues began when I was a child spending the summers at my grandparents’ home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Regularly spending time near that body of water secured my connection with the natural world.

What are some of the key leadership lessons you’ve learned along the way?
I’ve learned that it’s essential to always maintain my integrity and act in accordance with my deeply held values. This is the way I can best contribute to others. I’ve also learned that listening is an essential skill for a good leader.

Global warming seems like such an overwhelming issue. What changes can ordinary people make to help reverse it?
Global warming is an overwhelming challenge that we face as a human family, and there are all sorts of changes that we can make. We can help each other face the changes that are happening on Earth and give each other courage. We can let go of the idea that as ordinary people we can’t make a difference. We can join with others and improve our collaboration skills because we need them now more than ever. We can educate ourselves about solutions to global warming through sources like

The more we all know about existing, effective solutions, the better we can know what is possible on a larger scale, and what to ask of our elected officials, businesses, policy makers, and land owners. The more knowledgeable we all are about systemic changes that need to happen, the better we can work together to bring about change.

How do you stay motivated to continue fighting global warming in the face of so many challenges?
The primary way I stay motivated is I don’t think in terms of fighting global warming. I don’t like to frame the work in terms of conflict because I think it is useful now to reduce conflict rather than create more. I prefer to do this work from a place of kindness and generosity.

While I acknowledge the magnitude of the challenge we are facing, I focus my intention on working toward a better world for everyone on Earth. This intention helps me draw on the inner resources I need to stay motivated. Global warming presents the opportunity to work on improving lives. People in government around the world are recognizing this. I focus my attention on supporting these opportunities.

What do you most want people to understand about global warming and/or climate change?
We already have in hand solutions that will reduce greenhouses gases in the atmosphere. What is now crucial is to discover the innovative ways we will work together as a human family to deal with this challenge that affects all of us. How can we collaborate in creative and unprecedented ways that benefit all of us, with no one left out?

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