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Massimo Rivenci

Good Book Club: The Future We Choose

27 March, 2020

In a temporary escape from the current news, this week’s book club choice is a welcome reminder that, just because we are facing down a massive challenge at the moment, other challenges still need to be addressed.  

It’s 2050. Depending on the actions we take now, we and future generations are either scraping an existence in a hot, barren, disaster-ridden planet where entire countries are underwater, or we are learning to live with the consequences of climate change, whilst seeing significant and sustained improvements in biodiversity and air quality, coupled with new and improved ways of living together. The choice seems straightforward, but the path to a future where temperature rises are limited to 1.5 degrees by 2050 often seems anything but simple.

A new book from the former UN Secretary for Climate Change Cristiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, who was a senior strategist for the Paris Climate Agreement, argues that we are able to stave-off the worst effects of climate change and manage the long-term effects, if we accept that we must act now. We have written before about the fact that we have the tools we need – there are no magic and, as of yet, undiscovered innovations without which we cannot survive. But making use of the tools we have can seem overwhelming, particularly as individuals making choices about our day to day lives.

This book is a call to arms, that moves quickly from the apocalyptic scenario to a much more pragmatic vision of how we (and by ‘we’ they mean ‘all of us, every day’) can create the change that is needed. There’s a recognition that the world has, and will, change beyond recognition as a result of human activity, but a strong vein of optimism and faith in human nature that runs through the narrative, as we are urged to come to terms with these changes but not lose sight of what is still possible. The authors focus on the need to shift our behaviour away from competing for scarce resources, to collaboration and sharing, and place considerable emphasis on the cultural and behavioural, as well as the practical – from engaging with elected representatives and challenging fake science, to planting trees (the right trees, in the right places) and appreciating nature and spending time in it.

For the experienced climate activist, there is little here that is new. For anyone else, from sceptics to those with their heads in the sand, to those who just feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead, this is a compelling, engaging and, ultimately, inspiring read.

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