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Title: How to Live a Low-Carbon Life
Author(s): Chris Goodall
Date of Publication: 2007 Publisher: Earthscan
Pages:ix + 319 ISBN: 978 1 84407 426 6
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Sen Secondary







Content: 1 – The extraordinary cheapness of fossil fuels; 2 - The scope for government action; 3 - The inadequacy of alternative means of reducing emissions; 4 - No one else is doing much, so you'd better do something yourself; 5 - How our lives generate emissions and what we can do about it; 6 - Home heating; 7 - Water heating and cooling; 8 - Lighting; 9 - Household appliances; 10 - Car travel; 11 - Public transport; 12 - Air travel; 13 - Food; 14 - Other indirect sources of greenhouse gas emissions; 15 - Domestic use of renewable energy; 16 - Cancelling out emissions; 17 - Conclusions.

Review: The debate seems to be moving on. There must be enough climate change books out there to have created a difference in global temperature just through publishing! Whilst this is a vital and on-going debate there's a need to see what individuals can do. Such a trend harkens back to many environmental debates (think Carson, Club of Rome etc.) where a great deal of research is followed by a call for local action. Here is one text in the "new wave" of action-related themes.

The basic premise is quite simple: do something (and you actually can!). We start with an introduction which describes the dimensions of action needed. Given that this is from 12.5 to 3 tonnes (as calculated for the UK) per person this seems like a lot. However, as the body of the text shows, small savings add up. From this point the book can be divided into two. The first three chapters examine the current state of play in terms of energy production and control. The basic message is that fossil fuels are too cheap because they are not properly valued. This is not the same as saying the price needs to rise but that our valuation of this precious commodity is askew: we need to price according to longer-term goals. It could be argued that political control could help although, as chapter two points out, it seems to have failed so far. In balance it must be said that the issues described are considerable and not something a simple government committee can fix. Chapter three continues with this theme by noting that manufacturers can't do too much either. So, subtract these and you're left with the ordinary person - our focus for the rest of the book. From here, Goodall takes one element at a time and shows how we can reduce energy consumption with very little cost and loss of lifestyle. As such, this is a gentle way to get action - the harder way is business-as-usual and a catastrophic change in lifestyle later (probably borne by our children). Chapter four rallies the troops to prepare for action by showing the scope of action. Chapter five illuminates the issue of what we actually produce and what our society, in our name, does (here's where the per capita bit comes in - we don't actually have to produce every bit that is claimed against us). The next 8 chapters describe the changes which can be made now. For those who have been following the field for several years there is little that is completely new but the value here is that there are careful calculations and considerations of each course of action. It is this that makes the difference - action is backed up with thoughtful calculations and ideas. Chapter 15 turns to the other side - production. If consumption can be cut then the same effect can be done by making more (although of course, heat is still heat so globally there's little difference). Ideally, do both. Although this is a short chapter it does critically highlight options - it's not as easy as cutting down and costs are far greater. Finally, there's a round-up of ideas and a brief addendum discussing changes in the time since the manuscript was send off.

This is an excellent text. The details are clear, the writing is good and it speaks of the sensible and practical without the traditional hair shirt being seen. It will appeal to students on a range of levels from the clarity of writing (always good to see, and rarer than we'd like) to the idea of calculations (think multi-disciplinary) and the overall idea of actually getting up and doing something. This is one of the best books on its topic that has been published for some time. Get a copy (and make sure your library does). Better still- do something!





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