Tuesday 23 August 2011

The book I'd most like to leave on the bench for others to read... it's a difficult choice.

I'm inclined towards Mark Lynas' Six Degrees, but the picture it paints of our likely future is so terrifyingly bleak. If someone new to thinking about climate change were to start with that book, would they become engaged with the movement to reduce CO2 emissions? Or would they decide that nothing could be done and buy something shiny to make themselves feel better?

Then maybe I could leave How Bad are Bananas? Mike Berners-Lee's tremendous in-depth examination of (almost) everything we do, eat and buy to discover how carbon-heavy it is. But I wonder if it might not be the right book to leave on the bench, because it misses out that first step of why it matters how much carbon is emitted in the process of growing a banana, or air freighting a strawberry.

So, in the end, I plumped for The Atlas of Climate Change, by Kirstin Dow and Thomas Downing. It is a wonderful, visual exploration of so many aspects of climate change.

The reason I'd like to leave it on the bench is that it equips the reader with so many facts. Anyone reading this book can make a sensible response to questions like 'but why does it matter if I fly on holiday?' or 'but there's no real evidence it's happening, is there?'. They could also glean enough information to form an opinion about the right response to 'but what about China?'.

I'm looking forward to the next edition of this book coming out, as the edition I've read came out in 2006. The next edition was supposed to come out this March, but has been put back to October. I've pre-ordered a copy. I'm really interested to see how the figures have changed in 5 years, what new trends are apparent and if there are any positives at all.

I shan't be leaving a copy of this book on any benches, because I don't own a copy. But there are plenty of copies in the library, and every book you borrow from the library supports their continued future. Not that I'm biased in any way.

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