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There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years (English Edition) 1st Edition, Kindle-editie
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Broken down into chapters, starting with food supplies, then energy use, transport, technology etc, this started well, and I found his writing style initially engaging, but found the tendency to give an extreme example to prove or disprove every theory just confusing rather than amusing, and it meant the salient points got lost amongst the silliness. He does at least propose goals for individuals to make a difference, such as reducing meat and dairy consumption, minimising flying, buying an ebike etc, but there is nothing new, or original.
Unfortunately for my trust in the whole book, he doesn’t even touch on the most important issue of all, population control, until well past halfway, and then only to suggest that 15 billion people could be okay as long as we all lived frugally and harmoniously. He whispers, once, that people should only have children if they really want them, and proclaims his virtue at having stopped at two, without daring to suggest that this is what everyone should do. I’m sorry but I’m with David Attenborough that it’s time for a One Child World.
He seems perfectly fine with Africa heading for 2 billion people, with no way to feed them other than the Americas shipping over their excess. Sometimes I think Thanos had the right idea, and that half the population disappearing painlessly would be the best solution, rather than the famine, displacement, war, storms, floods, fires and mudslides that are coming, due to our unsustainably enlarging population. On balance, humankind may be unsaveable, but it’s the thought that all the tigers, whales, polar bears, frogs, penguins, bees, and the rest, will be gone too, that breaks my heart.
He states that a couple choosing not to have children so they can go on skiing holidays is just as bad for the planet as those who do reproduce, but unlike all the other unintended consequences, (and there was a lot on rebound effects of various interventions) at least that couple’s harm is finite, and ends with them: other people don’t have more children because others haven’t, they have as many as they can/want for themselves, who will have more, and every generation uses more resources.
He then goes really off topic to talk about how unpleasant prisons are, and how much better the Norwegian system is, because it makes prison a nice place to be. He claims not to align with any particular political colour, but he’s basically a complete Watermelon (NB in NZ as in the UK, unlike the USA, red is the colour of the left, and this guy is to the left of Corbin and Sanders.) He’s a proponent of the Universal Basic Income (or Citizen’s Wage) despite good evidence that it’s a failure, and despite espousing democracy as the best political system, has beliefs that sound like good old fashioned communism. I do expect that your opinion of this book would be heavily influenced by your place on the political spectrum, but as a pragmatic centrist who believes effort should be rewarded this book started to really annoy me.
His belief in humanity is sweet but so unrealistic as to be laughable: that the planet will be saved by everyone being kind to one another, and willingly sharing resources across nations, when the ultimate dream of most global citizens is a massive lottery win so they can quit work and buy massive cars, houses, boats and planes. The most powerful country on the planet willingly selected a climate change denying pathological narcissist sexual predator as it’s leader, and the author still thinks people can make the right choices to save it?
At one point he states, as a fundamental principle “All people are inherently equal in their humanity. With this comes the principle that all should be allowed, encouraged and enabled to live their lives in whatever way they find meaningful, provided this is negotiated alongside the equal rights of others to do likewise.” I could not disagree more, there are lots of people who are subhuman and should not be allowed normal human rights - like those who hunt animals for “sport”, child abusers, arsonists, anti-vaxxers, I could go on... but by this stage he was so far from the topic I wondered if I’d stumbled into a different book.
It’s not all bad, there were plenty of interesting facts hidden amongst the hyperbole. Unfortunately the ARC I received was so poorly formatted that the graphics and tables were incomprehensible. I assume this will have been fixed for publication. My Kindle copy ended (thankfully) at about 70% then there are notes, references (not as many as I would’ve expected”, repeats of some earlier sections and a glossary to hammer home the main points, which was a useful wrap-up but I was over it by then.
I’m sorry to seem so negative as the intent of the book is so important. I don’t often write such ranty reviews but this one really wound me up.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
The book is available now.
Berners-Lee gives a very accurate look at the demands humanity puts on the environment and clears up several myths and misrepresentations that are now commonplace. We have all heard about deforestation for the expansion of soybeans. What we are not informed about is that the soybeans that are grown are not for human consumption but to feed livestock. Livestock are poor converters of plant protein to animal protein. Give up meat completely? No there is no need grass-fed, and free range can use land that is unproductive for farming. Alternative energy sources such as solar can easily meet our current energy demands, but our increased demand for energy will require every square mile of land to meet our requirements by 2100. Of course, efficiency and technology will improve over time, but efficiency seems to create even higher demand. People get the idea that increased efficiency means you can use it more. If my new car gets 35mpg and my old car only got 17 mpg I can use it twice as much or buy another vehicle.
Berners-Lee finds the loopholes that many people miss when talking about food production or energy use. Is nuclear power too dirty to use? Is my electric car really a coal-burning vehicle (coal is used to produce electricity that powers the vehicle)? And is it worse than an oil-powered vehicle? Is fracking safe? Is wealth disparages hurting things overall? There is No Planet B offers a thought proking and sometimes scary outlook for the future. It is not a smooth read all the way through and can easily be read by topic and skipped through. The subject matter is compartmentalized and can be easily jumped through to the issues of interest. There Is No Planet B is a well-done and realistic critique of man versus the planet.
This is a blueprint that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez should’ve borrowed from and turned to as a realistic plan for narrowing the industrial footprint. Not just what she thinks should be stopped or changed, but HOW it can be changed in simple steps and larger steps taken globally.
This is a well written book, easy to read, easy to understand, and even has a teasing sense of humor to it.