Being the Change

Being the Change

Live Well and Spark A Climate Revolution

Book - 2017
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Perseus Publishing
Life on 1/10th the fossil fuels turns out to be awesome

Life on 1/10th the fossil fuels turns out to be awesome.

We all want to be happy. Yet as we consume ever more in a frantic bid for happiness, global warming worsens.

Alarmed by drastic changes now occurring in the Earth's climate systems, the author, a climate scientist and suburban father of two, embarked on a journey to change his life and the world. He began by bicycling, growing food, meditating, and making other simple, fulfilling changes. Ultimately, he slashed his climate impact to under a tenth of the US average and became happier in the process.

Being the Change explores the connections between our individual daily actions and our collective predicament. It merges science, spirituality, and practical action to develop a satisfying and appropriate response to global warming.

Part one exposes our interconnected predicament: overpopulation, global warming, industrial agriculture, growth-addicted economics, a sold-out political system, and a mindset of separation from nature. It also includes a readable but authoritative overview of climate science. Part two offers a response at once obvious and unprecedented: mindfully opting out of this broken system and aligning our daily lives with the biosphere.

The core message is deeply optimistic: living without fossil fuels is not only possible, it can be better.

Peter Kalmus is an atmospheric scientist at Caltech / Jet Propulsion Laboratory with a Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University. He lives in suburban Altadena, California with his wife and two children on 1/10th the fossil fuels of the average American. Peter speaks purely on his own behalf, not on behalf of NASA or Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Publisher: Gabriola Island : New Society Publishers, c2017
ISBN: 9780865718531
Branch Call Number: 333.72 KAL
Characteristics: xiii, 369 p. :,ill. ;,23 cm.


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Jan 08, 2018

The premise of this book is that our industrial society has delayed addressing the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, and the resulting global warming, to the point that it is now a crisis. What was, thirty or forty years ago, a problem with a reasonable solution is now, because of our delay in addressing it, a predicament requiring drastic measures. We no longer have the luxury of gradually changing our economy and society; we now must very quickly and radically reduce our use of fossil fuels. This will require large changes to all aspects of our lives, both individually and collectively. It will require a complete change of mindset about what it means to be human and about our relationship with the rest of the biosphere to which we belong.

The first section describes the predicament in which human civilization finds itself; the second section proposes how we can solve it.

It begins by examining the modern human mindset in the industrial world and how that has led to our separation from nature and each other. The author suggests a change in mindset: the way things are is not the way they have to be. Individual changes to daily life won’t solve global warming or stave off economic collapse but, for most of us, individual and local-scale actions are the most effective means to effect global-scale change. “They are pieces in a large puzzle. As more pieces are added, more people will get excited by the emerging picture and begin to add their own pieces.”

The remainder of the first section describes global warming, in more technical detail than is usual in many other books intended for a general audience, and describes its impact on climate, sea-level, agriculture, biodiversity, human migration and conflict. It is not necessary to understand all the details in order to benefit from the rest of the book. All we really need to know is that humans emit greenhouse gases which are causing the planet to warm and, therefore, the climate to change.

The second, longer, part is what we can do to change, individually and collectively. Here, the author describes the actions he has taken in his own life to reduce his carbon footprint to one-tenth its former level. In spite of the changes, he and his family still live a fairly normal suburban life near Los Angeles. In addition to reducing his carbon emissions, he is now much happier and much more connected to his community. He claims that these are changes made with little or no money and that they are easy enough for anyone to accomplish. This is likely true for a segment of the population but I think many of us would find such wholesale changes more than a little challenging. The suggestions do, however, give us a place to start and provide an approach, philosophy and inspiration.

The book is very well written and contains some beautiful passages. It is an excellent assessment of our current predicament, how we got here and what we need to do to get out of it. Some might find some of it, especially in the latter half, a little too “New Agey” but I would urge readers to persevere. There is much food for thought, even if you don’t accept every word. And time is running out!

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