Reading Diary: Cooler smarter: Practical steps for low carbon living by The Union of Concerned Scientists

You know the old saying about the weather -- everybody complains but nobody does anything about it! Well, the same can be said about climate change -- everybody complains but nobody does anything about it. And that's partly because of political gridlock, denial and inaction at the highest levels across numerous jurisdictions around the world. But it's also because most of us really don't have a clear idea what we can do about it.

In other words, what actions can we as individuals take to fight climate change?

I think we all have a sense that if we could aggregate millions and billions of individual actions across a wide spectrum, the sum of all those individual parts could be far more effective than our laggard governments.

If only we had a clear-headed, practical and sensible guide to what individual actions would make a difference!

And guess what, we do.

It's the Union of Concerned Scientists new book, Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living. This is a clear-headed list of what people can do to reduce their carbon footprint. First of all, the authors (and it's a consortium of authors under the banner of TUoCS) get the big picture right -- do what you have to do to reduce your carbon footprint but don't get obsessed and neurotic about it.

And they are excellent on the little picture, with most of the chapters tackling particular aspects of our lives and how we could each change our lifestyle to reduce our emissions: transportation most importantly, particularly our obsession with automobiles and low-density living. Then our home heating and electricity use, diet and consumer consumption habits all come under scrutiny. Finally, focusing on a US audience, they go into some practical ways that people can advocate for strategies for reducing emissions both within their social networks and across broader communities. Advocating with the government is also touched upon.

Lest we think the authors are not committed to the cause, one of the appendices lists each of their individual efforts to reduce their carbon footprints.

Who would I recommend this book to? Just about everyone. Rarely does any individual popular science book rank as a genuinely significant and compelling addition to a library's collection, but this is one of them. Pretty well every academic or public library should get this book for their collection. Even middle school and high school libraries should have it. In fact, since it's the youth of today that will suffer the most from the effects of climate change, they might find the case for individual action in this book pretty compelling -- and maybe convince their parents to try some of the strategies.

For each of us individually, we owe it to ourselves and our planet to read this book and think deeply about what we can do. So if you buy and read the paper book, please consider passing it along to someone else so it can be reused -- in the best sense but a profound multiplier effect.

This book would also make an interesting choice for a one book, one campus/library/city program.

Union of Concerned Scientists, Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living. Washington: Island Press, 2012. 321pp. ISBN-13: 978-1610911924

(Print copy supplied by publisher. And about to be passed along.)

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