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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  1. Welcome « MAKE WEALTH HISTORY - June 15, 2009

    […] only going to read one book on climate change, I’d recommend George Marshall’s ‘Carbon Detox‘, which is funny, wise, and deals with the psychology of it all as well as a step by step […]

  2. the yellow house « MAKE WEALTH HISTORY - July 31, 2009

    […] George Marshall’s very useful site theyellowhouse. Marshall is the author of the excellent Carbon Detox and founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network. The Yellow House is one of his side […]

  3. Books of the year, 2009 « MAKE WEALTH HISTORY - January 5, 2010

    […] Carbon Detox – Still the best book on climate change I’ve read so far, George Marshall’s book is wise and funny, as concerned with psychology as it is with science and all the more accessible for it. […]

  4. How much of your carbon footprint is government services? « Make Wealth History - September 26, 2011

    […] his book Carbon Detox, George Marshall adds a tonne to each of our accounts. The Three Tonne Club, a  project from the […]

  5. CarbonStory and complexities of online calculators | Make Wealth History - September 24, 2013

    […] a figure with confidence. As it is, I can still only really recommend George Marshall’s Carbon Detox as the best place to work out your footprint, and that’s a […]

  6. Where environmentalism and conservatism overlap | Make Wealth History - July 23, 2014

    […] Marshall, in his book Carbon Detox, gives us some clues about framing climate change for a centre-right mindset. The Climate Outreach […]

  7. Don’t even think about it, by George Marshall | Make Wealth History - February 5, 2015

    […] years ago, when I first grasped the importance of climate change, it was George Marshall’s book Carbon Detox that helped me to reduce my own CO2 emissions. I ended up buying several copies, and even adapted […]

  8. On green living as a virtue | Make Wealth History - February 24, 2015

    […] George Marshall says something similar in his book Carbon Detox: […]

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