Publisher: Macmillan Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 1 4039 4578 0
Pages: xiii + 203 Format: Hardcover

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Contents:

1 - The power of one; 2 - Going places; 3 - Home start; 4 - Flying strawberries; 5 - In my backyard; 6 - Money matters; 7 - A green inheritance; 8 - Lights out.

 

Review:

There have been so many texts published on global warming that it's becoming hard to keep up with even the public book output let alone the journal flow. What's been lacking, however, is the book that brings it closer to home, that asks what can be done by the individual at a very local scale. The aim of this text is to put forward the ideas on global warming into a family context and show exactly what each individual is doing.

 

Meet the Carbones - the 'family' at the centre of the text. The opening chapter introduces us to their lifestyle and although this is very much a middle America nuclear family there are elements that all of us can relate to. The chapter starts with an outline of their day (and by implication, their climate impact) with very little that would seem remarkable to the average person. The end of the chapter brings in the idea of global warming not as science but the evidence supporting its existence and its growth. So, we have a family living in times of global change - that much is given. From that point the reader is taken through various elements of the family's consumption to see how and where changes are possible. Chapter two looks at the transport situation. The SUV might give way to a less fuel-thirsty vehicle or even to public transport where this exists. The wartime idea of 'is your journey really necessary?' is also appropriate with corporate global meetings coming under attack. Chapter three moves on to examine the impact of the home. Heating, lighting and all manner of appliances come in for scrutiny for their energy consumption as does our desire to replace working equipment with newer versions. As with transport the object is to get us thinking about simple ways we can make a difference without subtracting from our lifestyle (although whether that might actually be a good idea is moot, but not part of this text). Chapter four turns to food. The idea developed here is that we can reduce our climate impact of food by choosing local as opposed to imported produce and that we might consider using less meat (because animals produce large quantities of methane and plant -equivalents don't). At the end, the chapter also considers wider consumption areas e.g. Christmas as part of the global gas burden. Chapter five examines the issues surrounding the back garden. The range covered is far wider than in other chapters because of the more diverse nature of the area in terms of lifestyle. Firstly, there's the issue of climate change on plants. Apart from losing some species we may well, according to recent predictions, see more extreme events rather than a general warming which would mean greater damage overall. Secondly, there's waste disposal and the options to compost and recycle more and dump less. Finally, there's the pest issue. Warmer and wetter might also mean more pests and with pest development comes resistance so pesticides may not be the answer. Chapter six outlines the financial implications of global warming and the cost that will be bourn by future generations. The final two chapters look toward the future and what can be done. Chapter seven argues for a greater awareness of the implications of global warming whilst chapter eight gives a brief run-through of the ways in which consumption can be changed to reduce climate impact.

This is a very interesting text on a number of levels. As a simple case of how the individual matters it is a good primer. Well written and with simple examples the majority of readers could at least identify with, it puts forward something that is believable. The ways around global impacts are well thought out and would involve very little change in the lifestyle of the family. It's a great way to get students to think about their global impact and as such the text is highly recommended. At a deeper level, the text assumes business-as-usual with one form of consumption politely giving way to another form of consumption. That significant change might be forced upon the family is not discussed nor are the real economic impacts of the family actually cutting back on consumption (be careful what you wish for ...). In this sense the book is non-threatening. However, we may not be given the luxury of an ordered response elsewhere and that's the problem. That said, it's still more important to get the student to think along the lines than it is to try too much and fail completely.

 

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