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Time's Up! by Keith Farnish

Polly Cook

12th March, 2009

Conveniently crafted into four manageable sections, this book attempts to cover everything and anything that climate change has, and will, destroy - and presents some radical solutions

At some point or another, the majority of us have sat down with friends and put the world to rights. Whether that is during some fiery and intense debate about politics, the environment or feeding the less-industrialised world, there are times when we try to put an answer together for everything.

Usually when things get a bit too heated, the conversation moves swiftly on to something a little lighter – shopping perhaps. The previous conversation gets lost – and we forget to act on the ingenious and avant-garde solutions we invented to save the world.

Farnish’s book presents a slightly more informed way of doing, well, exactly this. You sit down with him (and a glass of wine) and after reading endless chapters on what is going wrong with the world and why, he then presents radical solutions.

Farnish is an environmental writer, a philosopher and an activist – all patent in this rather personal account of climate change. Books like this have been done before, following the same old, uninspiring and self righteous format of ‘how to be more like me’, and Farnish does at times risk crossing the line – he labels himself as ‘economically non viable’ having left behind the 9 to 5 life for self-sufficiency. However, the book is enjoyable because it explores and explains the nitty-gritty elements of climate change, bits that most of us have never come across.

Conveniently crafted into four manageable sections, Farnish attempts to cover everything and anything that climate change has, and will, destroy. Part one explores things like how a growing population is making unsustainable demands on the planet and how killing the rainforest isn’t exactly helping matters.

All of this we have heard before, but Farnish touches on new, remarkably scary, material. He says our warming planet will provide a breeding haven for bacteria. “A mere 1˚C increase can therefore increase the division rate of bacteria by around 20%.” Farnish explains how TB is now dormant in the west, but will wreak havoc if the globe continues to warm at the rate it is. The same goes for typhoid fever and, terrifyingly, the bubonic plague. If we continue to alter the environment, we will, without doubt, suffer the consequences.

For the most part, Farnish’s charming and unassuming manner helps him cope with the sheer enormity of this content and to introduce complex and countless statistics whilst avoiding leading us to apathetic despair. At times though, the first person narrative does have a tendency to veer off into humorous but somewhat off-topic biographical chit-chat.

In the final section Farnish reiterates the point that recycling, buying from charity shops and eating organic is not nearly enough.

Unless we are self-sufficient (like him) Farnish says eating meat is environmentally unsustainable. Realistically, we can’t all drop our urban lives to herd sheep and grow vegetables, either is it viable (or, perhaps, even desirable) to expect an entire population to turn vegetarian. On the other hand, maybe this is Farnish’s point: there is nothing new to add; the solution is change - drastic and difficult change.

What Farnish does very well in this book is to present the reader with a little more than the obvious. It goes beyond recycling and bicycling, and he goes a step further in the way he explains climate change. His solutions may not be revolutionary, but maybe they don’t need to be. Farnish gives us the knowledge, the inspiration and the empowerment to pull together and start this fight, even if we can’t all be like him - we can and we have do something.

Time's up! An uncivilized solution to a global crisis  by Keith Farnish  (Green Books, £9.95)


 

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