HEAT: How to Stop the Planet from Burning By George Monbiot, South End Press, 277 pages, $22.
Heat is a labor of love, a technically dense analysis that is simultaneously courageous, hopeful and uncompromisingly honest. George Monbiot takes on our most paralyzing challenge and shows us that we can handle it. As the author describes it, HEAT is both a manifesto and a thought experiment. He makes a compelling case that we must ratchet up our expectations and make the required changes. Now.
George Monbiot has been lauded as an influential, radical thinker. His weekly column for the Guardian is syndicated in 13 countries, and he has published best-selling books The Age of Consent and Captive State, and several investigative travel journals. He received the United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement in 1995. This newest book shows his scientific sophistication, his wit, and common sense, which make this book a compelling treatise that brings readers to a new level of thinking about what is possible and necessary.
While many scientists pore over options that funders keep within so-called politically practical ranges -- widely acknowledged as inadequate -- Monbiot tackles the issues head-on. His starting point: it will take a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 to change the trajectory of global warming. Monbiot uses his own country, England, as an example and goes about figuring out how England could achieve this goal.
Monbiot points out that what we do now in the name of environmental awareness is public relations, designed to make us feel better without calling for any real sacrifice -- or making any difference. He focuses on the obvious point, that we need governmental action and global applications to stop global warming. He compares current schemes of buying and trading excess emissions to paying for absolution of sins in the Middle Ages and proposes instead an effective and equitable method: caps on emissions based per capita and applied equally to all countries.
In a detailed analysis, Monbiot follows the trails of possible methods to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption. He is equally skeptical of sources and investigates each claim and projection, tracking down numbers, source documents, and checking the science. He teaches the reader to be wary about the speculative claims made by people with a commercial interest, the lofty projections by advocates and environmental groups, and to be especially suspect of claims by government entities charged with giving the appearance that they have adequate responses to global warming issues.
Monbiot doggedly tackles the biggest sectors and recommends a mix of solutions to achieve his scenario. His conclusions and recommendations are believable because he takes on the task as if he himself was responsible for finding the answers. How different it would be if our government policies had this stance. HEAT is a book that can educate you about systemic solutions for changing our oil guzzling lives, eradicate our current paralysis, and most importantly, fire up the advocacy demands we need to be mobilizing around. I can think of no better way to close this review than with Monbiot's own summation:
"What I hope I have demonstrated is that it is possible to save the biosphere. If it is possible, it is hard to think of a reason why it should not be attempted. It is true that this effort will disrupt our lives. But it will cause less disruption than the alternative, which is to allow manmade global warming to proceed unhindered."