An Ikigai for Climate

An Ikigai for climate solutions

(Originally published : 9 Feb 2021)

Ikigai is commonly known these days as the intersection of your purpose in life with your work in the world. It’s often referenced as a Japanese concept.

“…it is said that everyone has an ikigai – their particular intersection of passion, talent, and potential to benefit others. It is only a matter of finding it.”

Psychology Today – The Philosophy of Ikigai

An Ikigai diagram is often presented as a tool for exploring connections between:

  • What you love
  • What you are good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can get paid for

According to Japanologist Nick Kemp this is actually a Purpose Diagram – and it’s anything BUT Japanese. And to him, Ikigai is more than a Venn Diagram – it’s a process for living.

“Ikigai is not just a career related framework of doing something that you love, that you are good at, that the world needs for which you can be paid for. Ikigai is your journey to self actualization, one that twists and turns, and is filled with small joys and major life challenges.”

Nicholas Kemp, Ikigai Tribe

(Nick explained this deeper interpretation of ikigai, and how it can be applied to unlock joy and satisfaction in one’s life here.)

Regardless of which concept you go with, what’s does the idea of ikigai have to do with global warming?

Climate solutions, career (or business) development and personal purpose

One of the dis-empowering aspects of acting on climate change (or any of the many planetary boundaries we’re challenging) is that it can seem like:

  • Really, really, REALLY big and overwhelming.
  • As individual people or organisations, we have little direct power or impact.
  • The responsibility for solutions lies primarily big government and big business.
  • Our best contribution is to struggle and suffer as we attempt to limit “excessive consumerism”.
  • Action on climate has to be something that costs a lot and doesn’t return anything.

And that’s an incomplete picture…. (though one that the status quo would love you to be overpowered by).

Drawdown is achievable NOW

Humans being human, it took until 2014 (!?!?!?!?!?!) for someone to actually research the answer to the question:

Can we reverse global warming just using the commercial, scalable solutions we already have? Can we use what we have to draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in time to stabilise our climate?

Project Drawdown

The answer was basically “Yes, if we take a whole-of-economy view (and pull our fingers out)”.

What?” The Drawdown team modelled and ranked the commercial, scaling solutions with peer-reviewed data to support them. Their initial modelling found over 80 solutions across the full spectrum of economic activity – from education and health to transport and industry. Their 2022 modelling covers 93 evidence-based commercial solutions.

“When?” depends on how quickly we act and how accurately we focus.

“In Scenario One, we’re pretty aggressive about it. And in Scenario Two, we’re wildly aggressive about it. We find we can stop climate change around the mid 2040s at the earliest. And maybe by the late 2050s, early 260s at the latest.”

Dr Jonathan Foley, Drawdown 101

Drawdown also found something else that the status quo would love you NOT to know about investing in climate solutions:

“We’ve got to pony up a little bit of money – about $20 to $30 trillion. If we do this, and we do it over about two to three decades, we actually make between 90 and $150 trillion back. This is incredible, because we’re going to save a lot of money, we’ll make new revenues. And in fact, this is probably the biggest business opportunity in human history.

Dr Jonathan Foley, Chief Executive of Project Drawdown Drawdown 101

And it gets even better:

“These solutions are no regrets solutions!… We would want to do them if there wasn’t a climate scientist alive and we were clueless as to what causes extreme weather. Still we would want to do these! They have so many benefits in terms of jobs, prosperity, our children, clean water, clean air…. it goes on and on and on.”

Paul Hawken, founder of Project Drawdown Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

Does this mean I’m off the hook?

Not really. Because the primary challenge is – and has always been – innovating human systems when powerful status quo players are actively campaigning to keep what they’ve got.

And anyway, why sit on the sidelines when there’s good to be done pretty much everywhere? There’s a whole spectrum of innovation to be done as we transform our civilization, our economy and our relationships to each other and the places we live.

So what’s there to do?

The great thinkers of our times century have told us what to do:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Buckminster Fuller

So to be an effective, high-impact climate solutionist you need to understand the limits of the existing models and the best ways into the exciting new models replacing them. (For example: Circular Economy, Biomimicry and Systems Thinking.)

You also need to understand the global, high-impact, no-regrets solutions we already have:

“We can reach Drawdown by mid-century if we scale the climate solutions already in hand… there is no reason… to wait on innovation. Now is better than new… If we pursue climate solutions with purpose and determination… we could reach Drawdown as early as the mid-2040s…” (emphasis added)

Project Drawdown 2020 Review

Our thought leaders remind us that the places for action are many and varied (and often not big government):

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

And with a whole economy to realign, there’s an opportunity smorgasbord out there – so you can align your efforts with what gives you energy and inspiration.

“If I tell you what you should do – you should RUN! Do what lights you up! Do what turns you on!”

Paul Hawken

Project Regeneration’s Action Nexus is full of lists for individuals, communities, regions and SMEs – so you don’t have to be a climate scientist or an industrialist to take action today.

“Climate change may leave people feeling as if they have to make a choice between “saving the planet” and their own happiness, well-being and prosperity. Not at all.

Regeneration is not only about bringing the world back to life; it is about bringing each one of us back to life. It has meaning and scope; it expresses faith and kindness; it involves imagination and creativity.

It restores forests, lands, farms and oceans. It transforms cities, builds green affordable housing, reverses soil erosion, rejuvenates degraded lands, and power rural communities.

It is inclusive, engaging, and generous. And everyone can do it.”


How can you become a climate leukocyte?

Leukocyte: White blood cell, also called …. white corpuscle: a cellular component of the blood that … is capable of motility, and defends the body against infection and disease… (emphasis added)

Encyclopedia Britannica

We’re in the process of a whole-of-economy transition – creating new relationships with each other and with the ecosystems that deliver our food, water, air and weather.

(It’s a transition that may or may not succeed. Not all caterpillars successfully live to become butterflies.)

However, the more active leucocytes a body has, the better its chances.

Re-imagining YOU

And so this is feedback and it’s feedback to inspire us to reimagine what it means to be a human being…. at this point in time in civilization. And to reimagine what it means to be an architect, an engineer, a student, a farmer, a forester, a wife, a child. To be all the things that we are.

Paul Hawken, Drawdown Lecture at UQ

Part of that transition is developing a new relationship with our selves – with our work, our values and our purpose.

An Ikigai for Climate

These reflections from Nick Kemp could help you start exploring where you might access energy and authenticity:

  • Life satisfaction – in the practice of your craft, hobbies or interests that support your values.
  • Harmony and connection – where your values align with your roles and relationships.
  • Purpose and gratitude – when you are hopeful of the future and present in your roles and relationships.
  • Creativity and transformational experiences – by expressing your creative self and in seeking new experiences.

Learn about regeneration solutions

Fundamentally, our challenge is to develop economies that regenerate the ecosystems and communities they operate within (and cannot exist without).

So it’s also important to learn about the growing set of regenerative solutions already being scaled – solutions like Project Regeneration, Doughnut Economics, Circular Economy, Biomimicry and more .

Understanding these solutions could help you navigate towards finding “your thing” – the thing that lights you up, turns you on and gives you small joys and great challenges.

“Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world. ”


With a sure foundation in self-knowledge and the innovation lever of regenerative design, you’re in a more powerful position to “be the change”.

Focus on systems behaviour – not just symptoms

Always remember that the problems we face are caused by our systems – systems that were never designed to preserve and restore communities or ecosystems.

So the solutions we need involve systems-level enhancements. So we don’t just need more renewable energy – we need a smarter grid and more storage along with demand-reducing solutions like insulation and water efficiency.

So when you explore the systems that you’re part of – your local economy, your industry, your supply chain, your community – then you’re more likely to find the truly powerful and often surprising leverage points they hold.

Think local first

What’s happening in your area, your industry, your work, your community? Where are there resources, needs, opportunities and systems that smarter design thinking and unexplored solutions could fill?

Individuals acting to meet local needs using local resources and creating local jobs are creating awesome solutions, whether it’s an Insulation Revolution in Western Australia or a Totally Renewable township in Yackandandah.

The name of the game is regeneration

We don’t just need to “slow” or “stop” global warming, we need to reverse it – starting today.

That means that we need to regenerate our ecosystems and restore their function as powerful, active carbon sinks. To do this we also need to regenerate the communities that inhabit them so they can repair and restore them.

Regeneration puts life at the heart of every decision – so why not explore what it offers for your next career decision?

We know how to do these things today….

AND they offer a space rich in innovation and opportunity…

If you want to know more about the principles and practices of Regenerative Business, Innovation Delivery and Thriving, then check out my individual Regenerative Thinking in Action program or get in touch today.

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