August Reading Wrapup

All the books I read in August were borrowed from the library, and all were on environmental themes from how to reduce the amount of pollution (especially plastic) we produce and consume less to nature and conservation.

How to Save the World for Free by Natalie Fee

This is a short but practical guide on what individuals can do to reduce their harmful impact on the planet, which starts off by describing a fairly bleak picture of our current situation with polluted oceans and rivers, air and soil, rapidly rising temperatures, melting glaciers and mass extinctions. However, after setting the scene, Natalie Fee provides a really inspiring, informative and thought-provoking book that provides a much needed antidote to the doom and gloom news about the environment, reminding readers that as consumers, campaigners and voters we have the power to influence politics and corporations, but she also recognises the importance of collaboration and signsposts to other campaigns and grass roots movements to get involved with. I’m no environmental angel and I really appreciated that there’s no guilt-tripping or shaming here, and no expectation that the reader needs to adopt every single suggestion to make a difference. I was pleased that I’m already doing some of the things she suggests, but there are plenty of other suggestions that I hadn’t considered, and I found this a quick, practical read that left me feeling motivated and inspired.

The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac

This is quite a different book from others that I’ve read on climate change and environmentalism, and if I’m honest I found it a bit disappointing as it focuses on the mindset of stubborn optimism that will be required if we want to prevent the worst case scenario and create a greener world. The writers argue that we need to overcome our sense of helplessness, but I found this book a bit vague and idealistic as most of the practical suggestions such as flying and driving less, eating less meat and diary, switching to renewable energy tariffs and planting trees are already well known, and this still overestimates the individual’s carbon footprint when we also need governments, businesses and fossil fuel companies to reduce their emissions and move away from fossil fuels to greener technology and solutions.

A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button

A Life Less Throwaway is another practical guide about reducing our consumption by learning to resist manipulative marketing ploys but also learning to take care of items we already own instead of accepting planned obsolescence, upgrades and seasonal trends as the norm and campaigning for more durable products. I really enjoyed the first half of the book that covers the history of advertising, when and why disposable products became normalised, and it’s a surprisingly fun read with lots of exercises to help the reader identify their own style and values to develop a bit of immunity to advertising. The second half fell into more familiar territory covering minimalism, decluttering, make do and mend, as well as a few recommendations for products made with durability in mind. A Life Less Throwaway is another informative and practical guide on how to tackle over-consumption and reduce waste that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

A gripping children’s story and the second book that’s been shortlisted for the Wainwright’s Children’s Prize that I’ve read this year (the other was October, October reviewed here) about a young girl called Julia who moves from her home in Cornwall to a lighthouse in Shetland with her scientist parents for a summer. While Julia’s dad attempts to automate the lighthouse, Julia’s quirky mum becomes increasingly obsessed with finding a Greenland shark that could provide a cure for Alzheimers and dementia, and Julia is left to entertain herself. Julia and the Shark is such a poignant story about a child navigating new friendships and bullying, nature and conservation, mental health and learning that her parents are neither perfect nor infallible.

The Summer We Turned Green by William Sutcliffe

After some of the heavier books I’d read this month, The Summer We Turned Green turned out to be a comparitively light hearted, amusing and hopeful read about a seemingly ordinary British family that find themselves on the frontlines of a climate protest when the opposite side of their street is marked for demolition to expand an airport. I really loved the family dynamics at the heart of this story, but also the optimistic message about NIMBYs and climate protesters overcoming their prejudices, uniting towards a shared purpose and creating a little community together.

Children of the Anthropocene by Bella Lack

In Children of the Anthropocene, youth activist Bella Lack attempts to give a voice to young people’s experience of pollution and climate change across the world. It is at times uncomfortable to read about the plastic pollution poisoning oceans, rivers, landscapes, birds, fish and animals, but this manages to strike a balance by highlighting young people across the world all participating in different forms of activism and conservation from cleaning beaches and planting trees to challenging governments in courts. I found this so inspiring and thought-provoking and really informative as it covers such a wide range of topics from reducing consumption, slow travel, how educating women can reduce climate change, rewilding, ecocide and ecological blindness, and intersectional environmentalism. I loved the manifesto with practical tips at the end of each chapter and really appreciated how broad Lack’s definition of activism is.

Have a lovely week. X

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6 thoughts on “August Reading Wrapup

  1. Thoughtful post reviewing some interesting books. A lot now has to be done by governments and businesses. When I was little people saved for things. Hire purchase or as it’s known now, Buy now Pay later was despised . And because people saved and waited you expected things to last and to be able to get spare parts and repair them. Now everyone wants the latest model lest they are laughed at and so they can be the envy of their friends. And of course we have to stop our addiction to shopping! At the moment I keep reading articles which announce they can help you save energy only to discover they have nothing new to say, and I end up feeling cross with them.

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    1. Agree with all of this, I know so many people in debt or relying on their overdrafts every month because they are living beyond their means, buying bigger houses, new cars, phones and clothes, holidays and eating out. I sometimes feel very out of step with my peers, most of my money goes on books and the garden. πŸ˜…
      I also get irritated when I read articles about saving money because it’s usually fairly obvious when the writer has never experienced any real hardship and can afford to cut back on a few treats and luxuries without really struggling.

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  2. I do feel like I should and could be doing more, when it comes to the environment. Wil is shopping for a new car, he’s no intention of going electric, as there are so few charging points. I do walk everywhere as I work locally, which I guess is my contribution. But only because I never passed my driving test. 😌

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    1. The emissions from China and the USA dwarf anything an individual could do to reduce their carbon footprint. I’m no saint but I feel better making sustainable choices where I can (renewable energy plan, switching to ethical Bank and phone network, buying loose, organic fruit and veg) but an electric car and replacing the gas central heating with a heatpump are still out of our budget at the moment. Sometimes I think not doing something is just as important though, so every time you walk somewhere you’re not putting any CO2 in the atmosphere, and everytime I take my reusable coffee cup I’m preventing a bit of plastic from ending up in landfill, or worse, the sea. It all counts. X

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