Be kindly unto the scientists, for they may just save our skin—and make us happier and wealthier in the bargain.
Environmentalist and entrepreneur Hawken (Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming, 2007, etc.), best known as a purveyor of gardening implements and as an exemplar of hippie capitalism, brings good news: not only is the world worth saving, but we can correct some of the worst effects of global warming. “Nothing new needs to be invented,” he writes by way of introduction. “The solutions are in place and in action.” The book that ensues is a searching, accessible, though decidedly wonky tour of those solutions. Some of them are self-evident, such as the replacement of fossil fuel energy with renewable means, including wind power (“ongoing cost reduction will soon make wind energy the least expensive source of installed electricity capacity, perhaps within a decade”). Controversially, in the energy mix, which includes such heady things as cogeneration and mirror-concentrated solar power, Hawken and contributors see possibilities for nuclear power, though they caution that existing regulations and prevailing technologies make nuclear a slow-to-market solution. Some of the planks in this broad platform are less obvious but fascinating, such as the authors’ observation that “girls’ education…has a dramatic bearing on global warming”; the logic is that educated girls have more control over their reproductive lives and are thus instrumental in curbing population overgrowth. The book is interspersed with essays by ecologically minded thinkers such as Pope Francis, Michael Pollan, and Andrea Wulf, but they tend to be less meaty than the technical pieces. Trees may be “social beings,” as Peter Wohlleben writes in a brief think piece, but that doesn’t have much to do with the climate change–ameliorating virtues of building with them.
An optimistic program for getting out of our current mess, well deserving of the broadest possible readership.