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Book reviews - reviews of selected recent publications in our field of interest

randallby Ro Randall and Andy Brown

Published by Surefoot Effect

Review by Sally Weintrobe

As Naomi Klein rightly says in her back cover endorsement, “this lovely handbook covers it all”.

It helps one to understand what’s at stake with climate change, reduce one’s personal carbon emissions and find ways to talk with people about a

subject still seen as taboo.

The book, beautifully written in a clear style, explains sometimes complex issues simply, but not over simply. For example: ‘Could ‘fracking’ for natural gas in the UK reduce our emissions and provide energy security? Natural gas has lower carbon emissions than coal but it is still a fossil fuel. We need to move quickly to genuinely low-carbon sources of fuel. Fracking for gas will divert investment from the renewables that need to be developed. The fact that the gas is produced in the UK is unlikely to make it cheaper or provide security as it will be sold on the international market’.

It explores all aspects of one’s carbon footprint, introducing each at a manageable pace. For example, the chapter on travel and transport takes the reader through: what’s the problem with transport and travel; how did we get here; status, belonging and security; international families; need, freedom and choice; options for low-carbon travel; technical solutions; policy changes; reduction; one tonne travel; imagining the future; four altered lives; making changes now; practical steps; getting stuck; underestimating the difficulties; what about at work; ideas to try; and rules of thumb.

Personal carbon emissions are broken down into: energy at home and at work; travel and transport; food and water; consumption and waste, with a chapter on each topic. The introduction gives a general overview of the problem of climate change ending with a useful section on ‘frequently asked questions’, while the two final chapters are on talking about climate change with friends, family and colleagues and moving on. Both authors have considerable experience in helping people reduce their carbon emissions through their work in Carbon Conversations Workshops, and this experience shows.

The book enables us to calculate our total individual carbon impact, see how we compare with others in our country and other countries, and understand where we need to be for a viable future. Its genius is to give factual information in an easily digestible form. For instance, there are tables giving lifestyles changes, with boxes to tick ‘I’m already doing this’, ‘I would consider this’ or ‘This would be really hard’, and carbon star ratings for each action. The tables can help one identify places to start to make carbon reductions. I have two home freezers, one in the basement that I hardly use. On seeing that a freezer has a 3-star rating, I emptied it and switched it off. I knew this freezer was wasting energy, but reading the book made this more immediate and real, and put it in a context that helped me think about it.

The section on how to talk about climate change is psychologically sophisticated in its understanding of what can make conversations stall and why. It raises issues like projecting one’s own unprocessed anxiety and guilt into others by knobbling them as though one was the Ancient Mariner; how demoralizing it can be to encounter social resistance to talking about the subject from one’s nearest and dearest, and also the importance of recognizing when other hidden personal agendas get in the way of a carbon conversation.

Deciding to take climate change seriously in one’s personal, social and political life is like setting out on a journey, one that, as Randall and Brown point out, will take time and involve setbacks. This book offers support on the journey. It helps identify the sorts of feelings one is likely to have about making changes to one’s life, and it doesn’t fudge social, political or personal difficulties that ensue. In Time for Tomorrow? helps us keep climate change at the forefront of our minds which, is where it needs to be. I think it is essential reading.

Sally Weintrobe
Member of the Climate Psychology Alliance
Editor and contributor: Engaging with Climate Change (2013) Routledge: London.