This is not a light, jolly through the joys of sustainable living - don't think 'This Morning series'.
Rather this is a detailed look at the pros and cons of how we live, have lived & could live our lives. Everything is broken into the facts and figures for example how much energy and resources are used to make a dishwasher, dishwasher tablets, vs washing up liquid, sinks, & bowls, vs soap flakes etc then the energy used to actually perform the task at hand (washing up in this case) to decide what is more 'sustainable' this goes right down to the food we eat to give us energy to do the task & what we ould grow in how much space to provide the food...
If you've ever watched a 'this morning' style section and wondered, if, really, when you worked it all out...but couldn't be bothered to work it out for yourself, then this is the book for you.
Everything is referenced and it's truly fascinating and highly detailed. it's a book that I'll take tips from it now - I'm all up for a wormery - and go back later to get more info most likely when I see something else that brings me back to wondering...sadly I wont follow all of the most sustainable ideas right away (I do feel bad about that) but I think over the next few years I'll build up to many of them.
I highly recommend this book for any environmentalist or would be and for those on 'the other side' too.
It's possible that this book might inspire people to think a bit more about the consequences of their actions and steps they can take to live more sustainably. However I suspect the endless statistics, tables and often preachy and neagtive tone may have the exact opposite effect for some people, and lead them to draw the conclusion that nothing can be done anyway, that all the things that make life pleasant are unsustainable,and they might as well just give up now.
My other half has a PhD in mathematics, and after reading the introduction to this book, he abandoned it and declared that he was unconvinced that the authors had any realy understanding of statistics. Alas, I pressed on with the entire thing. I cannot judge the accuracy of the statistics or the authors' use of them, but I can say that as a layperson the preopnderance of figures and equations scattered liberally throughout the text does not just interrupt the flow but is actively off-putting.I nearly gave up before the end of the first chapter and was only able to read on by devising a strategy of skimming the numbers, looking only at the botttom line (when I could find it, which was in itself often difficult).
But unfortunately that is not the only problem with this book. Many of the conclusions drawn from these endless calculations are entirely unsurprising - it is more sustainable to walk, cycle,or take public transport than to drive without passengers (surprise!), or that it is bad to endlessly replace things just because they have gone out of style or a better version is now available (surprise! again). I also found the tone was often preachy (particularly in a section at the end where the authors go off on a rant about how everyone who can afford to have some particular piece of kit installed - I think it might be solar panels but cannot find the book just now to check - and doesn't is totally irresponsible) but also revealed many of the authors' own biases. We are told to give up holidays, pets, many leisure activities, shopping, etc - ao many things that add pleasure do life - whilst meanwhile the authors talk about having a cat, travelling abroad for conferences (did they walk to Japan?), buying a new home, and their collections. I think it is meant to come across as warm and friendly but in combination with the rest of the book too often just seems hypocritical.
For me the worst bit was in the list of practical hints at the end of the chapter on rituals (covering weddings, funerals, etc) where one of the tips is actually to not divorce a partner until you have found a new one (thus to save on the environmental cost of running two households). Are we really meant to take this seriously?
I agree entirely with the other reviewers who said this book is presented as an accessible, interesting way to learn about sustainability but is in fact as dry and difficult as an academic paper. Ultimately I have concluded that the concept of the book, whilst noble, was just too ambitious for these authors.
This is a really unusual book. From the cover it looks like it will be an unchallenging read, telling us how the world is doomed and that a bit of recycling, driving less and holidaying at home instead of abroad will save us all. It's not that at all - it's actually full of researched material, the sort of thing that you have to present when submitting assignments on degree courses, lots of tables, comparisons, etc, but somehow without becoming overly dry. It's a fairly hefty tome, but worth reading.
The basic premise is that if you divide the useable surface area of the Earth by the number of people on the Earth you work out how much useable land is available to support you personally, to feed you, to water you, to provide you with shelter, to provide you with all those consumer items you want, to provide your transport, your entertainment, even your dog's food. That's the premise and the calculations etc relate back to that. It becomes repetitive, but it's a message worth hammering into people. I suspect, though, that the consumers with the largest footprint are not necessarily the people who will read this book. More likely is that people who have already reduced their footprint will be the type of people who read this. They might then reduce their footprint a bit more, but it's the wider population who need to get the message.
Even Al Gore avoided some of the subjects covered in this book (e.g. comparing the footprint of eating meat against the footprint of eating vegetables, comparing rice with locally produced, seasonal vegetables etc). Those are subjects that the wider population needs to understand, but these are subjects that some people seem to find difficult to even contemplate. It will take a brave politician to announce a programme to encourage people to reduce their meat intake, or to keep a hamster instead of a dog, or even better, to make friends with their neighbours instead of keeping a pet for company. It will happen one day, but I can't see anybody in our current government announcing that programme.
Similarly, I cannot imagine any current politician pointing at Cuba and telling people that everybody will have to survive on the amount of food available on the Cuban ration system, in the post-Soviet era. Whilst travelling some years ago, I experienced the Cuban ration system first hand - it was a shock and something I remember vividly.
So, this book contains a huge amount of useful information and I have found reading it fascinating. I'd recommend it to anybody already interested in sustainability / permaculture etc. However, with the amount of tables and data present in the book, I suspect that this book will not suit everybody.
Since we live on a planet with finite resources, we could do with uncovering what sustainability really means to the world in general and our own home in particular. In theory, this is what the authors of this book Robert and Brenda Vale set out to do.
Sandwiched between an introduction and a conclusion are seven detailed chapters titled - Food, Transport, Buildings, Stuff "we" have at home, Time to Spare, Work and Rites of Passage. No one disputes that our resources are finite. Hence, the Vales are asking two principal questions. First of all, how can we continue to grow on a finite planet? Secondly, when will we have enough?
What follows is a cacophony of figures and a perceptively detailed analysis of how we live, should or could live. Sources of figures quoted range from animal owners to car brochures, from NASA to closet loonies of all descriptions, from government statistics to private surveys. The veracity of research and referencing should not be doubted but the tone in which it is presented is open to questioning.
The mind sees (or in this case reads) what it chooses to see based on our backgrounds, prejudices and opinions on such a touchy subject. I find this book's narrative fluctuates between worrying facts and exaggerated nonsense. It makes a bold claim of making you "see your life and your place in the world in a completely new light. Challenging the orthodoxies that underpin our entire economic system, this is one subversive read."
Subversive it surely is, but coherent it's most certainly not! It is one thing to advocate sustainability (and rightly so) but another to make it relevant enough to impact change. This book succeeds in the former but fails in the latter. If I follow tips to make my living sustainable, what can I do to stop the next man totally ignoring it?
If everyone in UK drives green fuel efficient vehicles, what can stop someone in the American mid-west from driving a 20 years old banger? Growing vegetables is a good idea. One real problem is not everyone has space to grow them, even if the will and finding time to do so is there.
In Sweden recycling is a religion, as much as garbage pits and unregulated chopping of trees to manufacture paper are in some Asian nations. Will they listen if the Swedes popped round exonerating the virtues of recycling telling them that their actions were bringing an environmental apocalypse nearer? I doubt it.
The fundamental economics of it all has complicated, still complicates and will complicate things now and forever. Since the authors grudgingly acknowledge this, the book is patronising at worst and informative at best with an alarmist streak sprinkled on for good measure. While this guide aimed at teaching us sustainable living is a noble thought and should be life-changing; it will not be.
Rather its remit will not extend beyond coffee table conversations or sudden bursts of guilt driven recycling based on the premise that saving the world starts at home whilst knowing full well that the lot next door may not share the enthusiasm. Feel like a cynic committing some sort of a blasphemy by writing what I have here - but someone had to! So it's befitting that dubious honour falls to this economics writer.
A tedious, dry read which wants to reduce the entire concept of sustainability to the nuts and bolts of carbon production/reduction which is a long way from the core principles. Sustainability is far more muddied and grey than this black and white list-book seems to suggest. For the first few dips, it's intermittently fascinating but eventually very repetitive! It reads more like a doctoral thesis than a book intended for mass/popular consumption, it's certainly not what the cover blurb would suggest which is a nuts and bolts, how-to guide to everyday sustainability.
As a reference book, I would think it could be a useful carbon-figures guide for academics. As a general-reader guide, I found it annoying and lacking.
I definitely agree with the other reviewers about this book. I was hopeful when I received it, that it would be a good self-help guide to sustainable living. Unfortunately, it's not exactly a guide book but much more of a research tome. It is a very interesting read and I have learned a lot of information from it but as other reviewers have pointed out, the book is full of facts and figures and charts most of which do not make much sense to me. I particularly enjoyed the section on washing and clothing. The author pointed out that in the old days, women wore one dress everyday but just covered it with aprons so only the aprons needed washing and the dress was washed very rarely. In our modern society we almost wear disposable clothing, chopping and changing our outfits at a whim. This is something I have decided to change and try to buy less new clothing. I found some of the text quite hardgoing. It's not an easy read because each paragraph is littered with facts and figures. I found myself having to read between the lines a lot as it's very technical.
I was disappointed there was no mention of washable nappies which I feel passionately about but I think this book was not meant to be a guide to ways to reduce your carbon footprint but more of a factual source of information regarding sustainable living. It won't appeal to anyone who is looking for guidance to change their lifestyle but will be of interest to those who already have a keen interest in green issues and global warming.
Not a bad read, but for me something to dip in and out of.I found some of the facts both surprising and interesting, how ecological is it to use a dishwasher, for example, or what impact keeping our two dogs has, but overall it's a bit too dry and fact and figures heavy to sit down and read. Good if you want some facts to back up your argument on The Guardian or Daily Mail websites or for students of the subject, but not an easy read.
`Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living' is an in-depth and accessible look at sustainable living in everyday life and it is written in a way that is relevant to most households. This looks at topics as diverse as food, transport, buildings, home appliances, leisure activities, work and rites of passage (like weddings and funerals). Having read many environmental and ecological books I've found most to be quite vague, excessively alarmist, overly new age, timid to acknowledge climate change or a combination of the above. This book, however, seems to be based on sound science and whilst academic in scope it is firmly aimed at a wider audience. Some of the facts and future projections make for sobering reading and although this isn't bright and breezy, it most certainly is pertinent. There are plenty of tables, charts, figures and calculations to illustrate the various points being made, mostly from respected sources which are cited in an extensive note section at the back. In fact this is one small point that this book loses points for, the sheer amount of calculations that are included in the text break up the flow of the book and could quite have easily been added into the note section for those who want to explore them in greater depth but don`t want to trawl through them as part of the main text. Thankfully, after the glut of information offered in each chapter, each one ends with a succinct conclusion, discussion point or list of things to do. This clarifies each chapter and leaves you thinking about changes you can apply in your own life. Even if you make a few changes based on the knowledge you glean from this book then it will be of value and if you are interested in reading about sustainability then this is a pretty good place to explore first.
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on 9 February 2011
I'm someone who's game for a lifecycle analysis of environmental impact, and thinks in terms of embodied carbon, so I was a bit surprised that this book was just too dense for me to get into. It does look in great detail at the environmental impact of things we do - keeping a dog say compared to a hamster. But the detail is mind boggling. I gave up but several months later bought 'How bad are bananas' which covers similar ground - focusing on the carbon impact of everyday things we do - but gets to the point quicker about the things we can really do differently.How Bad Are Bananas?: The carbon footprint of everything
As a lot of previous reviewers have already said, this isn't quite what it's billed to be. I hoped that a "guide to sustainable living" would put me on the right path to day to day living along sustainable lines. What this is, is more of an academic textbook comparing and contrasting various options and choices and the impacts they make on the world.
This sounds very dry, but actually not as dry as some reviewers would have it. I found it quite quirky, sometimes very amusing and did find myself laughing out loud from time to time (perhaps I have a strange sense of humour though?).
I was pleased to see that working from home came out as the cleanest option, although I have to cut back on how much I actually print off instead of reading on screen. I did know that most of the "cost" of clothes is in the continual washing. Cold washing is advocated as the most sustainable option, but as far as I'm aware, this doesn't kill dust mites in bedding, etc. I question whether it really takes only 2-4 hours to make a skirt; well you could do it, but in using that timescale, you might not want to wear it afterwards! No mention was made of how little these skill are taught nowadays, or the fact that using vintage fabric is sustainable, as it doesn't use any newly manufactured material. The section on funerals is strangely fascinating, cremation is particulary wasteful in its use of resources, a woodland burial it seems is the most freindly option - on many levels I would imagine.
One section which slightly annoyed me was the one on cats - isn't catfood sold in pouches in New Zealand? Apparently not, as no mention was made of it, the comparisons being between tinned food and dried food only. I imagine the pouches are really wasteful in terms of packaging,both foil and cardboard boxes.
This book contains loads of interesting facts, but you wouldn't want to sit down and read it all at once, its more of a reference book for dipping into as and when. Fascinating, but not really accurate in its cover discription.