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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Planes and cars, not tuk-tuks, 26 Oct. 2010
This review is from: A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks: My unlikely adventure creating an eco farm in Sri Lanka (Paperback)
I bought this book because when I flipped through it in the bookshop, I found a mention of Kerala's forest gardens and the huge positive impact they have on life in an economically `underdeveloped' area of India.

It's the story of a British journalist who transports his young family to Sri Lanka in the hope of building a sustainable life away from the chaos he believes industrialized nations will suffer when climate change and peak oil take hold.

The book is divided into three sections. The first part is about Rory's quest to find the perfect place to live. It follows him and his family as they live in Wales and fly around the world trying to settle on their new home. At the same time Rory is trying to get a new environmental charity (The Web of Hope) up and running. Rory's main desire to leave the UK seems to stem from his belief that life here is over-regulated and people can't live the way they want to. That, and the weather.

The second part of the book is about their new life in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately for them, the family arrived in Sri Lanka shortly before the tsunami hit - and so life there didn't turn out quite as they expected. They did a lot of relief work whilst simultaneously trying to renovate a house and get their organic eco-village off the ground.

And the final section is a section of notes on sustainable living - health, transport, food, that kind of thing.

I was very disappointed by the book. For one thing, a lot of it isn't about life in Sri Lanka and you have to read through a lot of Rory's life before he gets there. The prologue talks about the tsunami - so the book starts mired in chaos and destruction. And the organic farm that becomes an eco-village is not the star of the book (Rory is) and so we learn precious little about it, or forest gardens in general. The mention of forest gardens in Kerala that I spotted is at the end of the book, and it's just about the only one.

And for a man who dislikes over-regulation, Rory has a lot to say about the trials of life in Sri Lanka. There's the chaotic traffic system and resulting pollution that means he has to buy an air-conditioned car to keep his kids safe. There's the legal system that doesn't protect victims and is slow and overly bureaucratic. And there's the food distribution system that means frozen chickens are allowed to defrost in the sun, prawns are harvested from polluted waters and it's impossible to buy organic vegetables or be sure that your food is safe.

For anyone trying to reduce their carbon footprint, Rory's globetrotting will be a constant annoyance throughout the book. The inconsistencies between his environmental stance and his real-world actions are normal - we could all do better - but his hopeful musings that a lifetime of tree-planting has offset his flights is just wishful thinking.

The upshot of all this is that if you like travel books, and stories of the trials and tribulations of starting life in another country, then you may enjoy this one. If you're looking for an inspiring yarn about organic farms, forest gardens and eco-villages, then look elsewhere.
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