Friday, January 25, 2008

Book Review: "How Many Lightbulbs...

...Does It Take To Change a Planet? 95 Ways To Save Planet Earth" is a manifesto for environmental change by Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth fame. Possibly influenced by George Monbiot's extensive use of an analogy to the Faust legend in 'Heat', Juniper apes the 95 theses nailed to a church door by Martin Luther in 1517 to come up with 95 'solutions' to the world's problems grouped into 9 sections ranging from climate change to food to transport to globalisation to environmental justice.

Despite what it says on the blurb, this book is not radical (unlike say, The Age of Consent by Monbiot). Rather it is a comprehensive summary of well understood steps on the way to true sustainability. I would argue against the term 'solutions' that Juniper uses as the steps are often the required endpoints rather than the means to achieve them.

What sets this book apart from the multitudes of others is Juniper's ability to relate global environmental issues to a scale we can all understand. He calls on his love of ornithology to illustrate particular points and draws on his personal experience of international negotiations and protests to give insights into why things are how they are. Al Gore does not come out well - his blocking tactics at Kyoto are an Inconvenient Truth of his own. By contrast, the description of a meeting with Ken Saro-Wiwa in a London tea shop to discuss Shell's activities in the Niger Delta 3 years before he ended up hanging on the end of a dictatorship's rope made his sacrifice all the more poignant without the mawkishness that Monbiot can stray into.

This is not an eco-living book, with the 'solutions' aimed at national and international governments, but it should be of great interest to those who are interested in how changing their lightbulbs to efficient models relates to the wider world.

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