I was going to write a book on eco-living because most of them are so goddamn awful they make me want to scream. Well, that idea has now been dropped after reading George Marshall's Carbon Detox because it does everything I wanted to do and a whole lot more...
In extremely short, witty chapters, Marshall demolishes the standard message on climate change - "we're all doomed unless you switch off your 'phone charger and reuse your plastic bags" - showing just how preposterous this is. Big problems require big solutions and we should see that as exciting, fun and ultimately fulfilling.
The first few parts of the book take you on an elegant skip through the science and, importantly, the psychology, of climate change and its solutions. Marshall's skill as a communicator is extraordinary - he gets all the important points across with a light touch. The psychology part is particularly welcome - urging us to confront our internal deniers and make action work for us.
The practical part of the book is a simple carbon calculator and a serious of chapters on how to "drop a tonne" in different elements of your own lifestyle. He nails the issues that most commentators get wrong, eg the more you spend, the bigger your impact, and makes suggestions counter to the tree-hugger ideal: spend your money on employing people to improve your life, an expensive suit is more eco-friendly than a cheap suit and there's nothing wrong with the occasional carbon splurge if you've tackled the big habitual impacts. As he keeps repeating, "the only thing that matters is the carbon bottom line."
The final section is for those who want to "thrive" in this arena - make a career out of being low carbon and he uses a number of case studies.
There are a couple of points I would debate (eg he rates green electricity tariffs as zero carbon) and there are a number of typos, but I have no major criticisms. It should also be noted that, while this book is aimed at the individual, his approach to 'messaging' ("not another bloody polar bear") and engagement will be of great interest to professionals and activists who are spreading the word through public/staff awareness.
Verdict: Buy it, read it, read it again, buy it for your friends.
Labels: book review, carbon detox, climate change, george marshall