Being the Change – Book Review

What if burning less fossil fuel made you feel healthier and happier?

Reading Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution will show you that you can hugely reduce your fossil fuel use and have a good time doing it.

Being the Change by Peter Kalmus Book CoverLast November, I was browsing the Volumes of Pleasure book table at the Central Coast Bioneers conference in San Luis Obispo, CA when I spotted Being the Change by climate scientist Peter Kalmus. I read the back cover and flipped through the book.

Kalmus’ message seemed to be that you could substantially reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and still enjoy your life. I think many people are fearful of life without fossil fuels because they are worried that it will be all about struggle and deprivation. I liked the upbeat tone of the book so I bought it.

Book Review

In the first part of Being the Change, Kalmus talks about what motivated him to change his life and then provides an overview of global warming. In the second part, Kalmus describes specific changes he has made in his own life on the individual/family level and then wraps up with a review of large-scale actions that we need to take at the governmental and societal level to mitigate climate change.

Part I: Predicament

It comes as no surprise that Kalmus became interested in learning about global warming just after the birth of his first child, which made him look further into the future and beyond himself.

Like many of us, Kalmus’ life ran on burning fossil fuels and he lived enmeshed in the society that constantly urges us to buy more stuff. He decided to reduce his own fossil fuel use dramatically and in doing so perhaps encourage some other people to join him. I agree with Kalmus that small actions do matter and can lead to larger actions. I also concur that trying to make people feel fear or guilt is not a good motivator and that we cannot shop our way out of our predicament.

I think Kalmus did a good job of explaining the science and far-reaching consequences of global warming using mostly “regular people” language. However, I do understand if you find your eyes glazing over and want to skip ahead. This information is really, really important so if you can only absorb a little at a time, read ten or twenty pages and then go do something else or read ahead and then come back to this part later.

“The Earth system answers only to the laws of physics, not to the needs of humans.” —Peter Kalmus

Part II: A Mammal in the Biosphere

Over several chapters, Kalmus tells stories about starting a food garden, converting an old car to run on waste vegetable oil, biking everywhere, beekeeping, and a variety of other actions. He openly shares his successes and setbacks. I see these pages as being more about describing what is possible and encouraging you to think about what changes you can and want to make in your own life versus following his path.

Perhaps because he is a scientist, Kalmus calculated his pre-change and post-change carbon emissions or maybe he just did it for fun. He provides information for readers who want to do their own calculations.

The last few chapters describe actions requiring legislative support like putting a price on carbon, community actions such as participating in backyard produce exchanges, and love.

“When I feel unsure about whether or not I should speak out, I think of the billions of people with no voice on the matter. I think of those who are most vulnerable. I think of my children. And then the decision to speak out is easy.” —Peter Kalmus

The Bottom Line

By day, Peter Kalmus is a physicist and climate scientist working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. The rest of the time, he strives to reduce his reliance on fossil fuels and live happily with his family.

As a climate scientist Kalmus has the necessary chops and knowledge to write about what causes global warming, how it impacts Earth (and us), and what the future holds (of course, no one really knows what will happen in the future).

I am an avid reader and I have read many books about global warming, climate change, and activism. I think Being the Change provides readers with solid information and practical inspiration. One thing that sets it apart from many of the books I have read is that Kalmus focuses on the joyfulness possible in a world without fossil fuels.

I recommend reading Being the Change to anyone who is planning to continue residing on Earth or who is concerned about his or her children or future people’s ability to do so.

Featured Image at Top: Gingerbread Person with a Smile Peeking out from of a Line of Gingerbread People – Photo Credit iStock/AlasdairJames

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San Luis Obispo Science Fans March for Science

March for Science Participants in San Luis Obispo, CA on April 22, 2017
March for Science Participants Saying “Science” in San Luis Obispo, CA on April 22, 2017

Concerned citizens and science fans of all ages turned out for the March for Science in San Luis Obispo, CA on Earth Day, April 22, 2017.

Yesterday, I carried a sign that said “I Heart Science” around downtown San Luis Obispo in support of the March for Science. We were walking between a mother pushing two toddlers in a stroller and some Cal Poly students, one of which was carrying a sign proclaiming that amphibians would be the first to go.

The San Luis Obispo March for Science was a wonderful example of grassroots activism in action!

Although our march received little attention from the local media, 500 to 1,000 people materialized at Emerson Park at 10:00 a.m. carrying signs, wearing lab coats, and sporting a few brain-shaped hats. It was a beautiful site.

It is my understanding that we have Deborah Mendonca, a Templeton science teacher, and Emily Liptow, from the Cal Poly Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education to thank for spearheading the march.

San Luis Obispo Mayor, Heidi Harmon was on hand to welcome the crowd. Next, Cal Poly science professors Dr. Benjamin Ruttenberg and Dr. Stamatis Vokos talked about science in terms that everyone could understand and pointed out that anyone can be involved in science. They were followed by community activists Roberto Monge with City Repair SLO and Natalie Risner with Protect Price Canyon who shared how science is important to protecting our local communities.

After the speakers, we peacefully walked around downtown San Luis Obispo obeying traffic signals and making room for other people walking on the sidewalks. Many people driving through town honked their horns and shouted encouragement.

Like thousands of the people marching all across the country and even the world, I am an introvert, meaning a reserved, shy person, who would not normally want to draw attention. Yet, give me a sign and I magically transform into an activist.

There were some great signs carried by adults, but my favorites were the signs made by the kids, especially signs quoting The Lorax (my favorite fictional character).

Young Science Fans at March for Science in San Luis Obispo, CA on April 22, 2017
Young Science Fans at March for Science in San Luis Obispo, CA on April 22, 2017

If you could not make it yesterday, you can still get involved. Visit the March for Science website to find out what you can do to promote science-based decision making to address climate change and/or make a sign and join the Peoples Climate Movement March on Saturday, April 29, 2017.

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