State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? by The Worldwatch Institute (2013)

Genre: Nonfiction
Interest Level: Adult
State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?I find myself plagued by questions about my relationship to the environment – I recycle, walk instead of driving for groceries, and take transit to work, opting for electric trolleys over diesel buses when I can. We limit “stuff” – an easier issue for us than most as we are in an itty-bitty condo! But I take flights to see my parents, I take driving holidays in a camper van, and I like hot showers. We try to eat local, but I do adore oranges in winter. I lean toward vegetarian meals, but my spouse does most of the cooking, so we eat meat. What gets me is how ineffectual it feels at times. I turn out the lights as much as possible, but Russia sends off a missile test that uses more fuel than I can possibly “save” in my lifetime. So the title of this book drew me – is it still possible to live sustainably? Is it too late? Edited by Linda Starke, the book is a compilation of articles by a number of contributors who are experts and researchers in topics ranging from planetary boundaries (the limits Earth can take) to ocean fisheries, from economics to technology. Articles are organized in three chapters: The Sustainability Metric, Getting to True Sustainability, and Open In Case of Emergency. Each article is about 10 to 12 pages long, so it’s best viewed as an overview. (It struck me this would be an excellent text for an introductory class on sustainability.) I read the introduction and a few of the articles (there are about 35), and found it accessible, interesting reading, and ultimately still hopeful if we are collectively willing to think beyond our own immediate gain. I enjoyed exploring some questions I hadn’t considered – is there a role for religious missionary work in building worldwide sustainability practices? (Yes.) What can learn from Cuba’s forced economic decline? That was particularly interesting to me, as I’ve long felt we need to redefine “progress” and “growth” if we are going to create a sustainability-driven economy. What I did learn is that our individual efforts are not ineffective – they are needed to create the popular support for more sweeping political and economic changes. It’s time for corporations to step up (and many are doing so) and for us to support our political leaders who push for uncomfortable changes – carbon taxes, road tolls, increased density, and maybe even population limits.
The copy I had was an e-version, thanks to NetGalley. Images came through nicely, but the graphs and charts did not render correctly. The endnotes are extensive (about 50 pages), and the index is comprehensive and useful for exploring topics across various chapters.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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