Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fit to print?

For a while that title had 'REPLY!!!' added to it. It didn't just refer to this: Are carbon diet books worth the paper they're printed on?

It's a new plan to try and address my rather woeful backlog archive system.

You see, over Xmas I did read a ton of stuff and saved the links meaning to get around to either replying and/or posting them up. But then my computer crashed and all those good intentions and worthy topics got lost as they were lurking in some task bar and not really saved as such.

Hence this is a way, in theory, to tackle something that does seem worthy of comment, not just here but there, too. And when I do, that REPLY!!! do-dad will get deleted and all... will be as it should. Hopefully.

Watch this space, I will be back.

Meantime, feel free to pitch in on either!

And, now, I have:

Good question. And some thoughtful answers already

I run a free website,, predominantly promoting second use, so I am rather sensitive to a) trying one's best to offer solutions whilst not becoming part of the problem, and b) not trying to make too quick a buck out of anything 'green'.

So the points you make are well taken and hard to refute.

Partly through personal purchase and partly through being on some kind of (very welcome) PR list I do get sent quite a few of such tomes, and hence have had the chance to contrast, compare and, when there's time, re:view.

Being simplistic, looking at the stack on my table that I have assembled to try and offer some sensible thoughts on your question, a few basic categories are suggested:

1) Books that tell you stuff
2) Books that show you stuff
3) Books that show and tell you stuff
4) All the above, written from the point of view of what the person has done, other people have done or that 'you', the reader can do.
5) All the above... etc, only more telling you what you should do. I prefer the previous one.
6) Books that make you think. These often have elements from the preceding choices in the mix.

I'm sure there's a bunch more, but at the end of the day really it all boils down to information and/or entertainment.

In the spirit of positivity I don't propose to name any I think bad (it's pretty subjective), but there are some that stand out, at least to me, for their contributions to understanding, changing perceptions, altering behaviours or just being a plain nifty read.

Now, I'm not one to deny anyone the chance at making a buck, and they can often be quite useful, but books of lists don't really do it for me. I have tried popping them in the loo for a 5 minute bit of daily research, but really they are mostly quite boring. And almost inevitably outdated as soon as they are printed. Plus in the internet era I really cannot imagine what I couldn't find just as easily, and for free, online. Like here! A recent exception is Paul Waddington's 'Shades of Green' by virtue of accepting that there are such shades, and it's best to engage on the basis that a volunteer is worth 10 pressed wo/men.

For thought-provoking worthiness, I can look at two and say that they were 'good reads' to get your head around what ‘we’re’ facing, if being pretty darn depressing.

One is Richard Girling's 'Rubbish', and the other (without sucking up too much) is Leo Hickman's 'The Final Call'. The latter exposes the dilemma of anyone who cares about the environment and choosing to work for its betterment, still somehow having to deal with saying (or reporting, and in a cautionary way) one thing and patently doing pretty much what the reader is being told they shouldn’t.

All I know is that, for my forthcoming review (I have promised the publisher for months), there are about 50 bits of paper poking out at points that interested me, told me stuff I didn't know or got my dander up.

As to who else might feel the same, other than committed converts I don't know. It’s a stretch to think many climate 'optimists' would opt to buy it to be persuaded... unless a subsequent review can convince a few it's worth the effort... and cost. Hence the value of what you have invited here.

One thing I do look for is solutions, and preferably ones that as an average person one can engage with. And do so because they are fun, cheap, practical... and work. So why not?

There are more than a few 'how to's' I don't really like because they come across a tad too hair shirt and/or nanny state or finger-wagging. Or are less than useful in pushing certain agendas on a one-sided basis. Two I felt did achieve a nice balance, and were all the more powerful by being via personal experiences, were Penney Pozyer’s companion to her TV series and Janey Lee Grace’s ‘Imperfectly Natural Woman’. Library point noted, though I think having ‘em to hand can’t hurt and they are certainly more worthy on the shelf than many others I have!

And there are others in this vein, but often as you turn one massive (if made from recycled material) page after the next, with three words and one picture, you do get to wondering how much is for show and how much is to really make a genuine difference ‘doing’.

Thank you for the opportunity to ponder these things. Because I have been asked if I might be interested in producing a book of my own in my little area of planetary saving, and the dilemmas above have to date given me pause.

But there's no doubting that, done in the right way for the right reasons, what is in a book can find its way to many useful places and do good when it gets there. And there's the not insignificant factor of the more than useful revenue it can send the way of the authors to help them in their next, hopefully equally knowledge base-enhancing quest. Research does take time and consume funds, so in the spirit of sharing the odd reward can be appreciated. And what better than in the form of driving one up the best-seller lists?

From my limited investigations, in the great scheme of things so long as one is using the appropriate materials and the most effective logistics, such things can surely at least be cut some slack by being better than most and often better than nothing when it comes to finding and setting new readers on what one can only hope to be more inspirational paths.

Hard to measure the enviROI on it all, but if done for the right reasons and written well, they can surely only be forces for the planet’s future good. And often folk don’t have the time or inclination to trawl around, so can be great summaries for those keen to get going.

And, if one thinks about it, the stack of rainforest that is one’s copy of the Sunday paper, or the scores of ‘green’ magazines, pretty much add up to a nice chunk in the doorstep recycling bin eventually. At least by being nicely packaged these books can lurk and maybe promote the odd guest to have a quick peruse and act on what they’ve been inspired by.

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