"Hope Jahren is an award-winning geobiologist, a brilliant writer, and one of the seven billion people with whom we share this earth. The Story of More is her impassioned open letter to humanity as we stand at the crossroads of survival and extinction. Jahren celebrates the long history of our enterprising spirit--which has tamed wild crops, cured diseases, and sent us to the moon--but also shows how that spirit has created excesses that are quickly warming our planet to dangerous levels. In short, highly readable chapters, she takes us through the science behind the key inventions--from electric power to large-scale farming and automobiles--that, even as they help us, release untenable amounts of carbon dioxide. She explains the current and projected consequences of greenhouse gases--from superstorms to rising sea levels--and the science-based tools that could help us fight back. At once an explainer on the mechanisms of warming and a capsule history of human development, The Story of More illuminates the link between our consumption habits and our endangered earth. It is the essential pocket primer on climate change that will leave an indelible impact on everyone who reads it"--
Lately I keep hearing the "it doesn't matter what I do, the vast majority of environmental impact comes from industry" excuse for doing nothing. Well that is certainly true that industry has the largest share of the blame, but industry is serving you - your choices change industry behavior. A gallon of gas moves the average commercial plane about 400 feet. Yes, that shocked me too. So if people cut down on air travel the airlines and Boeing/Airbus will start to spend on planes that do a better job, just as the oil embargo of the 70s made car companies work on mpg (which they abandoned because when gas prices went down American decided they needed Yukons more than they needed a planet for their grandchildren. The two things that really struck me were the impact of air travel, and the clear and unbending limitations on wind and solar and the cosmic joke of ethanol and biodiesel. (I knew about ethanol, you don't live in North Dakota without getting a pretty clear understanding of what ethanol is, and how much cropland it requires to get a gallon of the stuff and also the impact on air and water of manufacturing what is essentially moonshine for cars.)
Anyway, my point is this is a pleasure to read, and it is broken down in an uncondescending way so that I the reader truly understood this complicated matter, immediate and future impacts included, and also what we can do to help, though Jahren is clear it might be too late already. This is not fear mongering, it is honest and helpful and lovely.
Succinct, well organized, and with a powerful narrative that is engrossing and accessible, The Story of More crunches down what I have read in numerous books into 224 pages.
Author Hope Jahren, author of the best-selling memoir Lab Girl, based the book on her climate change classes.
"All of this has convinced me that it's time to bring global change out of my classroom and into this book," Jahren writes in the introduction. "So if you'll listen, I'll tell you what happened to my world, to your world--to our world. It changed."
She starts at the very beginning--the fact that humans are on this earth and that our population is continually growing. Following a logical narrative, Jahren covers how we get our food and our growing energy use and the changes we have wrought on earth.
Along the way she points out that we have enough of everything but it is not shared equitably. Millions live without enough food, clean water and other things some of us take for granted. And millions of us spend money on things we don't need, wasting the clean water and energy available.
Scientists have been aware for nearly my entire lifetime that our dependence on fossil fuels was a problem. We have seen the environmental damage caused by human activity, including factory farms and our dependence on gasoline fueled cars and air travel. We know that the sea level is rising and glaciers and the polar ice caps are melting.
Jahren concludes with actions we can all take.
First, we must determine our personal values. Learn what you can about what you value. Are your personal activities in line with those values? What about your personal investments--are they in line with your values? How we spend our money and how we invest our money should reflect what we believe. Share your values with institutions to pressure change.
Americans can make a huge impact. Every step we take to limit our energy use and reduce our consumption makes an impact. We can't give up. We can do with less.
Do not be seduced by lazy nihilism.~ from The Story of More by Hope Jahren
I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Minnesota and her later home in Iowa have changed dramatically over her lifetime. The increased amount of corn per acre is stunning, but pales before the amount of fertilizer and pesticides used to get those better yields. She says we have pushed plants to produce as much as they physically can, and where we go for more is unfathomable. Not that we make good use of it. About 20% is simply burned up in biofuels, and most of it goes to feed domesticated animals for meat. The amount actually consumed as food comes dead last. She backs it up with figures, both global and American, that demonstrate the really poor connection between then and now. (She lists them all again at the end, because frankly, it's all very hard to believe one at a time.)
Americans eat 15% more food today. It shows. They throw out 40% of the food they buy, enough to feed all the undernourished in the rest of the world. By 2004, Americans were consuming a pound and a half of sugar - a week. In sum, Americans, who make up 4% of the global population, consume 15% of the food, 15% of the energy and 20% of the electricity in the world. If the rest of mankind were to the rise to that level - the world could simply not work.
Already, half the fish we eat are farmed because there aren't enough left in the wild. The amount of excrement they produce is way more than the oceans can deal with. Similarly, cattle and our other domesticated animals produce 300 million tons of feces a year, far in excess of the amount humans produce as a result of eating them. It's not a beneficial tradeoff. To make that manure, those animals consume a billion tons of grain, in order to give consumers (just) 100 million pounds of meat. This math leads nowhere good, and Jahren soon switches from dispassionate scientist to frustration:
"The amount of fruits and vegetables that is wasted each year exceeds the annual food supply of fruit and vegetables for the whole continent of Africa. We live in an age when we can order a pair of tennis shoes from a warehouse on the other side of the planet and have them shipped to a single address in less than 24 hours; don't tell me that a global food distribution is impossible."
All this overconsumption seems to have done Americans no good. They are no happier now that they work more, eat more, drive more, fly more and consume more. Quite the opposite, according to the figures. She says we need to consume less and share more. But neither of those are American values any more, and she has no stats for trends in sharing - just aspirations. More is a one way street, an addiction and a plague on the planet. Americans have yet to notice.
Meanwhile, there are (still) a billion people with no access to electricity.
Her 19 chapters cover the gamut from plastics to cars to species extinctions, passing through global warming and greenhouse gases. She has unkind words for both deniers and alarmists; neither is doing any good. She is all about reducing consumption, and concludes with how each individual American can reduce consumption and actually make a difference. "If we want to take action, we should get started while it still matters what we do."
In this very readable book the author takes us through the last fifty years, using facts and figures, to show us how we got from there to here. Extreme weather patterns, polluted and and water, polar ice caps melting and the extinction of many species, population growth are all discussed among other subjects. The use of fossil fuel alone has tripled, 25 percent of animal species will have become extinct by 2050, and we waste 40 percent of our food, enough to feed the entire world.
Like the title portrays, we and the top nations just simply want more. Giving up something seems not to be in our nature, but it needs to be and quickly. At books end she gives us easy ways to start, little actions that if more people adopt them could make a small difference. Of course bigger actions by our governments, our scientists and wealthy corporations and individuals are needed. This book should be a must read.