As we see massive changes rocking our planet, James Bruges takes us step by step through how we got here. In what is surely going to be considered the layman’s environmental reference book on the state of the planet, Bruges breaks the subject matter of The Big Earth Book down into four main sections: The Elements, Money, Power and Life, explaining and illustrating in easy to understand chunks how we got to be where we are today. Bruges documents the “exploitation of the weak by the strong” in our society and draws attention to “thinkers who define profound changes”. He considers real change essential, the sort of change that is considered impractical by realists, for us to save our planet and continue as a species.
Bruges explains how the earth’s atmosphere works, and how we’ve gone into an Anthropocene Age, where human activity is impacting significantly on the ecosphere to the extent that the planet is warming far faster than scientists expected. He also points out that the success that we had back in the 80’s of healing the hole in the ozone layer could be replicated with the fight against global warming if society will stand together to avert this major disaster.
The book goes on to look at climate denial and how governments aren’t acting on scientific research, as well as a brief history of climate change, including how good intentions like Rio and Kyoto just haven’t gone far enough. Bruges summarises the solutions that have been put forward to cut emissions and discusses their pros and cons. What really stands out for me here is the point made that while governments are trying to cut carbon emissions, they are still mining coal, gas and oil in ever increasing quantities. Bruges points out that it’s easier to “limit the supply of fossil fuels that to control demand for them”, an approach that has not yet been adopted anywhere. We will only survive in this changing world by changing our expectations of how we live.
So what are our options going forward? Bruges details how planting trees to usuage our guilty consciences and carbon offsetting is just making the problem worse, how natural gas isn’t the solution having only a 40 year future until that’s all gone, how hydrogen technology is still very uncertain, how biofuels have the potential for creating famine and how oil and nuclear energy are both limited fossil fuels. In light of this, it seems renewables are the only way to go?
Bruges looks at how as our natural world is impacted by climate change, drinking water is disappearing, forests are disappearing and glaciers are retreating. And in the world of man, the economy still maintains priority over environment. He makes an interesting point here that the charging of interest is destroying the planet’s ability to support life, with additional interesting points about religion and usury/green and how the modern banking system creates money out of nothing.
Bruges puts forward the case for a global eco-currency with the aim of eradicating poverty, adding “… could anyone have seriously imagined, or wanted, the world we have created today? It is a world in which just 220 people own more that the joint income of half the world’s population.” And all the while huge numbers of people live with crime, desperation and the threat of starvation. It’s interesting to note that Bhutan, a country where the inhabitants live very simple lives, is the world’s happiest country, while in places where money, religion and power are considered priorities, our lives become complicated and we become increasingly insular.
Reading this book from cover to cover will change the way you view mankind, our lifestyle, and how we treat this planet and our fellow man.
We’re giving away 3 copies of The Big Earth Book by James Bruges to EcoStreet readers. If you’d like a copy, please leave a comment below telling us why you’d like it. On the 1st December 2008, we’ll choose our favourite 3 reasons and send the book to those readers.