Friday, June 12, 2009

The Geography of Hope - Chris Turner

" Under our current economic system, you can never have enough and you can never have too much. In fact, our entire economy is predicated on continued, endless growth. Yet we live in a finite world, with finite resources and a limited amount of space to dump our wastes. Bit of a problem there." David Suzukip 283

For years now we've been assaulted by the media shouting from the rooftops about global warming and dark predictions for the future. While "if it bleeds it leads" may still apply to journalism, no one welcomes the paralyzing terror that news organizations seem hellbent on shoving down our throats. It seemed as if all we could do was gird our loins and hope for the best until I came upon this book from MiniBookExpo In it, author Chris Turner explains what various countries and companies around the world are doing to create environmentally friendly and sustainable communities. For example, Singapore is working on a zero-emission automobile project and currently suffers from a grid-lock free city. The island of Samso, near Denmark has reduced their CO2 emissions to less than zero. And did you know that the Reichstag in Berlin generates its own power from vegetable oil?

This is the first book I've read that doesn't spell doom and gloom for our future. Turner focuses on the positive, on the leaps we've made in sustainable technology. He also makes it sound surprisingly easy to switch over to a more sustainable lifestyle. The book is helpfully divided into sections that each address areas of concern. From power to transport to housing, Turner draws upon examples from various countries and explains how they're adapting to the needs of their people and the changing world around them.

The leaps and bounds in technology though, sound like something out of Star Trek. A high-performance glass made by French company Saint-Gobain, is designed to allow 75 percent of available light in but only 25 percent of the heat and is ideally suited for Southern India's climate where it's being put to good use. As well currently ten percent of the roofs in Germany are covered in vegetation. They keep the buildings cool in the heat and warm in the cold, produce oxygen and provide great green space for workers to use for relaxation.

One danger that books on heavy subjects often suffer from is a dry style and complicated language but this book is surprisingly readable, most likely because Turner is a journalist. The writing also reads more like fiction at times, pulling the reader along. "The grey sky faded fast into black. In fits and starts, the lights of the village came on, gold and orange and the strobing blue of a TV or two against the encroaching dark. I felt ecstatic in the warm embrace of it all."

My only complaint was the swearing peppered throughout the book. I can understand the need to get angry at our current state of affairs but it diminishes the message and academic candor of the book.

If you're concerned about what we're doing to meet the challenges ahead of us then I would highly recommend this book. Turner provides a myriad of examples that give me hope for what we can accomplish.



Brenton said...

I loved this book. It definitely inspired me to look at how I can make a difference, but then I felt a little deflated, because I'm not the one making the decisions at the corporate level to switch to low emissions, or to reclaim waste, or anything like that. Still, a great book to read if you're interested in how business and communities could act if they want to. The technology is here now, we just have to decide to use it.

theduckthief said...

I agree that it's tough to see how one can make a difference when they don't make the decisions but there's actually a lot you can do.

You can write your local political representative, plant a garden in your backyard, set up rain barrels to save on water, join a local environmental group, buy local, don't buy harmful products, even write those companies to tell them you're not buying their products, you could even run for office if you were so inclined.

Brenton said...

Other than running for office, I've pretty much ticked off that list. It's the big things I want to see happen, though, like setting up energy reclamation systems in manufacturing and such. The councilors in Vancouver are very accessible, wonder what they would have to say about the book.