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Title: The Economical Environmentalist
Author(s): Prashant Vaze
Date of Publication: 2009 Publisher: Earthscan
Pages:xviii + 350 ISBN: 978 1 84407 808 0
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Senior Secondary







Content: 1 – Introduction; 2 - The economic and environmental challenges; 3 - From field to fork: reducing he environmental impacts of eating; 4 - Getting from A to B: reducing emissions from travel; 5 - Keeping your home warm; 6 - Our firends electric; 7 - Waste not, want not; 8 - Travel and leisure; 9 - Carbon offsetting, communities and social change.

Review: Is there a point at which the amount of paper used in publishing global warming books actually increases temperature? The vast number that appear annually usually go over the same ground with only a few variations. True, we are seeing a change in ideas. The straight science texts are now sharing places with those of a more practical orientation. Initially, this contained books dealing with mitigation and then adaptation but now the focus is on reduction. In many ways this is in keeping with the main trends of groups like the IPCC where it was once thought that the process could be reversed and now the idea is trying to adapt and reduce the impact as far as possible. Amongst the welter of texts, this one takes a very practical viewpoint - how to make a personal contribution to using less "carbon".

Sub-titled 'my attempt to live a low-carbon life and what it cost', the author seeks to describe the changes needed to reduce his (and his family's) environmental impact which is what is usually inferred when discussing 'carbon reduction'. The basic premise of the book is quite straightforward - the author will try to research and document his personal attempts to reduce emissions in the course of one year. He sets a target and then examines how far he can go and how practical it is to reach that target. The book's introduction sets out this personal challenge and the reasons behind it (both personal and environmental). Chapter two expands upon the background to this quest. It describes the economic climate (i.e. the recent drop in the global economy - 'the global financial crisis'), the planet's climate (the patterns of global warming) and some of the new players on the block who cannot be ignored - India and China. From this point on, the text describes the various parts of the author's life that are being scrutinised. The first one is food. Chapter three describes UK food consumption and then looks at its greenhouse gas production. This is followed by the author's own changes and what impact such changes made to both his life and to emissions reduction. Chapter four looks at his travel patterns and what can be done to reduce impact. It's worth noting here, although it is seen elsewhere, that there is a very pragmatic approach being taken. Changes must be positive and they must also be sustainable in the long term. This is as much a lifestyle choice as well as a carbon one. The reader is made well aware that change is most likely to succeed if it has a big benefit for a little cost. The hair-shirt approach is out because it won't last but a few changes, often with associated health benefits (walk don't ride) will. Chapter five is an exploration of one of the main energy wasters, the home. After looking again at the national situation, we are shown how a typical London home can be cost-effectively retro-fitted to reduce energy use. The debates over wall insulation and double glazing are typical. The range of possibilities is carefully reduced until a decent compromise has been worked out. Chapter six takes the same approach to electricity consumption which is a major source of carbon emissions but for which not everybody has a ready substitute. Chapter seven continues the theme by looking at the waste cycle and how it can be reduced. What's interesting here as elsewhere is that there are savings with virtually no cost - recycling is an obvious, easy option but so is re-using rather than consuming and replacing. Leisure is the next subject. The author's air travel is a major drawback but at least the same honest approach is taken and the explanation (family business) is plausible - the reader can empathise as we've all had similar situations that can't be avoided. A final chapter summarises what happened, comments and provides us with a final balance sheet.

One of the personal issues with global warming is that I've been dealing with it for 35 years and those coming fresh to it often assume everyone else is too. Thus, for me, it's hard to find a new angle and, I must admit, it's the expectation I used when planning this review. Slowly but surely I was persuaded otherwise. The down to earth writing - light but still serious - was a delight to read and the journey seems all too familiar. The text is loaded with data (all easily referenced which is a big bonus) which make it easy to follow the argument. Chapters have a good common thread of UK situation, personal change and summary at the end which makes it an easy read. From a general reader viewpoint it is a very good book. However, putting on an educational perspective it becomes a great book. There's so much in it with so many practical ideas that any educator could come at this aspect of environmental education from any subject. Students woulsd easily be hooked on this book because they can all try to follow the same ideas the author did. Overall, this is a surprise of a text, one of the best I've reviewed this year and certainly a definite must-buy for the institution and personal library.





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