books climate change

Carbon Detox, by George Marshall

carbon-detoxThis book has been around for a little while. I’d assumed it was about reducing your personal carbon emissions, and I figured I knew enough about that already. However, I’ve seen George Marshall quoted so many times now, and read so many other bits and pieces of his work that Carbon Detox crept back onto the reading list.

I’m glad it did – this is a refreshingly different book about climate change. Marshall quite correctly concludes that the science is covered elsewhere, and focuses instead on the social and psychological aspects of climate change. It’s a book about climate change in real life, and all the questions that entails – why do people not get it? How can people who do get it still fly? Why is it climate change an unacceptable dinner party conversation?

Realising that climate fatigue is a reality, and the images of polar bears and icebergs are wearing a little thin, Marshall sets out to provide “fresh ways of coming to terms with climate change… new and original metaphors, images and arguments.” There is too much doom-mongering around climate change, so Marshall aims to empower and inspire rather than scare.

Not that Carbon Detox soft-pedals the realities of what we’re facing. He calls climate change a ‘crime’, because we are stealing the well-being of our children and the poor. His comments on the ’emissions-death ratio’ are among the most hair-raising I’ve read. (I’m tempted to quote it, but it’ll sound like guilt-tripping, something this book doesn’t do)

One of the key issues for Marshall is how to get past skepticism and apathy. He analyses why we don’t take climate change seriously – it seems far away and abstract, it appears to be a future problem, nobody else is doing anything, power stations in China make my reductions obsolete, etc, and knocks each one down. In the end, the problem is one of motivation. We change because we’re told we need to do ‘our bit’ to ‘save the planet’, and that’s not good enough.

“Stop thinking about climate change as something you have to give up. Stop thinking that you, little you, are going to ‘save the planet'” says Marshall. “Your reasons for changing must be more personal. I want you to change because you decide it’s the right thing for you and because you want to do it. Do it because it is the smart 21st century thing to do. Do it because you don’t want to contribute any more to a major problem that will hurt people.”

Having persuaded the reader to change, the second half of the book tells you how. There are extensive notes on working out your emissions, and then step-by-step guidelines for how to reduce them. When I was researching the best carbon footprint calculator, Carbon Detox was recommended as the best. I left it out because it’s not online, but it is much more comprehensive without being over-complicated. It’s well worth working through – follow the advice here and you will have dramatically reduced your contribution to climate change, not just tinkered around the edges with light-bulbs and thermostats.

Like all the best books on climate change, Carbon Detox is also positive. “When you decide to detox you are not just taking a stand against climate change. You are also making a strong statement for a cleaner, healthier and fairer world.”

For that, and its practical advice and refreshing perspective, Carbon Detox is a great book. It’s also honest, personal, and very funny. Other people deal with the science or the politics in much more detail, but if you’re only going to read one book on climate change, Carbon Detox is the one you should go for.

More useful things from Mr Marshall:


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