Our Choice by Al Gore Book Review

Al Gore’s latest book is Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. Picking it up, it immediately struck me that is was like a school text book, but with more color pictures. It looked incredibly inviting flicking through, diagrams, explanations, graphs and maps, I couldn’t wait to read it.

Our Choice by Al Gore

First though, the front cover has kind of a gimmicky fold out globe. One that shows on one side how the earth looks now, and on the other an artists rendering of when global warming has wreaked havoc. Complete with multiple cyclones. It’s an interesting touch, but does little besides entice someone to pick up the book.

Broken down into large sections, with smaller chapters, the book goes through sources of energy, living systems, how we use that energy, the obstacles that stand in our way, and how to move quickly to overcome the challenges.

It often reads like a “How It Works” book, with great “exploded” diagrams on subject such as how alternative sources of energy work, how soil stores carbon, to where the energy in gasoline goes.

The video below shows Al talking about his inspiration for the book, and how we have all the knowledge and tools to solve the problem.

I’m still reading the book, it doesn’t have to read in order even, and is a fascinating round-up of the current solutions to the climate crisis, and couple with some stunning photographs and interesting graphical explanations, it’d also make a great gift.

Available for around $15.99 from Amazon.

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10 Ways To Change The World In Your 20s Book Review

Ten Ways to Change the World in Your Twenties by Libuse Binder is yet another green tips books. What is different about this one? It’s targeted to people in their 20s (as you can tell by the title), and provides ideas, resources and proven strategies to help those twentysomethings take action and make a change.

10 Ways To Change The World In Your 20s

It may only be ten ways, but at over 300 pages there is certainly a lot of detail. The ways are general, but with specific examples and suggestions, I found it packed full of “ways”. The 20s thing is part gimmick and part practical, there are many ways that are easier when you’re younger, but it certainly applies to people of any age who are willing for inspiration on how to make a difference.

I also liked that is wasn’t preachy, and you can open the book almost anywhere and find something useful you can do almost immediately. There’s a icon ratings guide (lie several other green books) to rate each activity in terms of time, cost and lifestyle impact, and there is even an index to summarize them if you want to looks for some easy ones quickly.

I enjoyed reading about the ideas, and particulary the easy ways to travel lightly and cheaply. If you don’t already have a green book full of ideas, or you’re looking for something with fresh ideas and practical steps to achieving them, then this book is a great resource.

You can find out more about the book on Ten Ways and buy from Amazon.

Jane Goodall – Hope For Animals and Their World Review

Jane Goodall – Hope For Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued Form The Brink was a very different book form many I’ve read lately. It’s full of hope and stories of success not only for animals but plants and the rest of the natural world.

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Available from Amazon, currently only in hardcover, the book is not only written by Jane but Thane Maynard and Gail Hudson. With a fiction novel this is normally a warning sign, however in this case I barely noticed. Full of color photos and black and white photos unusually integrated into the text, it covers success stories of species revival and continuing efforts to revive and preserve some species.

From well known stories like the Panda and Peregrine Falcon, to the American Burying Beetle the stories are equally interesting and inspiring. The Asian vultures of India have decreased from 87 million birds to 27 breeding pairs a couple of years ago, causing knock on affects due to animal carcasses not being eaten and pathogens spreading more easily. I won’t spoil the cause, but yes, it was us…

It really is an interesting read, the efforts that have been gone to and are still ongoing are often staggering. There is a section at the back that tells you how you can take action for each of the species mentioned. Great read, available from Amazon.

Bill Streever – Cold Book Review

Cold – Adventures in The World’s Frozen Places is a book that looks cold. But that’s OK, it was 100°F today so I don’t mind.

Living in Anchorage, Alaska, Bill knows what it’s like to be cold. Split into 12 monthly chapters – July to June for some reason, the book is a nice change, rather than global warming it talks about the places that are still cold, and how this effects the people and animals there, and across the world.

There are plenty of historical references setting the scene in context and I enjoyed the nature parts the most, learning things on almost every page. I thought all Polar bears hibernated (nope, just the females), some frogs can freeze and still return to life, and a full-grown musk ox can shed five pounds of underfur per year.

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I’ve never made it to Alaska, or the Arctic, but this books makes you want to go, it’s almost a travel guide in one respect. There are slow parts, and parts where I would have liked more information (though there’s a great notes section in the back for further reading), but no more than any other book I’ve read.

Definitely worth a read.

The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget Eco Product Review

The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget is the follow up to the 2007 book The Lazy Environmentalist. While I didn’t review the first one, I did write about it while interviewing the author Josh Dorfman and thought it a very good resource.

The follow-up initially looks like it’ll be just a refresh on the first book with an eye on cost. But as you work your way through the book it turns out it’s much more than that.

Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget

The book was written after Josh’s brother mentioned that while he was confused about green products and what they did (hey, he should read our product reviews!), the main barrier to him going green was the expense.

The book starts with the usual intro and contents and then a chapter on the three ‘R’s’ – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Something any green readers will be familiar with but it’s interspersed with examples, companies and case studies.

Following chapters go into fashion, transport, energy, water, home, cleaning and so on. What each chapter does is talk about the subject, offering a few examples, include a case study or two from companies which offer green services (usually a director or founder is involved) and then finish with a comprehensive list of green companies with a paragraph on each one.

There really is a wealth of information on each subject and the companies are not always obscure ones. Big names are in there such as office store Staples for example, but it focuses on its environmentally friendly green range.

And to see the big names in there is a bit of a relief as the book does tend to rely on company web addresses meaning it will be a bit difficult for those uncomfortable with using the internet to find firms offering the service they want.

What you need to understand is that while the book does focus more on cost and saving money but going green, it is for the ‘lazy environmentalist’. There’s no sense of DIY or putting a bit of effort in to be green. It’s about getting companies to do things for you which of course they won’t do for free. So there’s a balance there between being lazy and cost – I’m sure a lot of suggestions can be done for much cheaper but with much more effort.

With its wealth of shops, case studies and interviews, the book is more of a resource than something you’d read from cover to cover.

The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget is available from Amazon.co.uk for £7.19 and Amazon.com for $8.74.

Heart Of Dryness Book Review

Heart of Dryness is by James G Workman and is subtitled “How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought”

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I’ll admit I haven’t finished the book yet but I’m really enjoying it. An award winning journalist and one of Bill Clinton’s speech writers, Workman really knows how to write and bring home the relevance of the Kalahari Bushmen to our own backyard. The Colorado River dam has always interested me and hearing the river will be dry in 13 years is pretty shocking. The way water is used as a weapon by governments, the way it is rationed and provided to those who can pay the most, not those who need it the most, is equally disturbing and intriguing.

Neatly divided up into 8 parts, the book is a journey and a guide, well researched (there are 35 pages of notes at the end before you even get to the Bibliography or index) I’m looking forward to the rest of it. Anyone interested in the environment, water and/or different cultures will find this interesting reading indeed.

You can watch an interview with James below, and you can buy the book from Amazon for around $17 (hardcover).

Time’s Up! An Uncivilised Solution To A Global Crisis Eco Book Review.

Published by Green Books, Time’s Up! by Keith Farnish is an intriguing analysis of industrial civilisation which depicts a denunciation of populist consumer culture and an ideal of an environmentalist global population which ‘re-connects’ with the natural world. It is clear and well written but thorough and in no way is it a light read…

In terms of the success of the book in not only explaining the motives for change and the methods by which we could make the change, the clarity of the language is equalled by the confusion of ideas; although there are admirable concepts explained well throughout, Farnish is never able to completely get to grips with them.

Time's Up

The book is structured initially as an explanation of global warming by scale – for example, climate change would have effects on the proliferation of viruses as well as the rainforest eco-systems. This is a fresh way of looking at the issue and works well, even if I was left a little terrified. Moving on, the reader wades through the vast mire of the immorality of consumer culture, before Farnish unveils his ‘subversive’ solution to these problems as ‘Undermining’ western culture and thus saving the planet in one self-righteous swoop.

Farnish critically analyses many of the predominant issues which link our consumer lifestyles with environmental decay. The main problem with the book however is that Farnish comes across as someone who has addressed a lot of post-modern theory without thoroughly understanding it; his somewhat shameful plagiarism of Baudrillard’s Gulf War casualty statistic does not go un-noticed and his constant relation to some form of neo-Marxism is never fully explained.

Furthermore, I was left wholly dissatisfied with the conclusion of the book as Farnish talks up the ending constantly. A quote on the back by Ana Salote, Author of Tree Talk that it is, ‘the most subversive book I have ever read,’ is almost embarrassing and Farnish’s assurance that we can make a global change through undermining is insufficient.

However, Farnish’s assertion that the key lies with education shows that he does at least identify where change must be made for the good of the environment although he never fully develops this crucial idea.

In sum, the book is well written and thorough but does suffer from becoming a bit heavy in the middle as Farnish bashes western culture. Indeed, Farnish appears much more distracted with deploring modern consumerism than espousing environmental issues, which unfortunately serves to fatally undermine Farnish’s authority on the environment.

Time’s Up costs £9.95 and is available from Green Books.