Book review: Big World, Small Planet


It seems that I found my Sustainability Must Read of the Year just by asking a librarian at the Seattle Central Public Library. Published last September before the Paris Agreements this book combines the latest climate and sustainability science with great photos.

The authors, to the book’s official website, Johan Rockström is one of the world’s leading international scientists on global sustainability. Mattias Klum is one of the world’s leading photographers and filmmakers.

The book starts with the basics about the environment and the climate. This is very well done, with a brilliant explanation of how tipping points work and how system thinking can be applied there. After all, Earth is just one big system. I believe that people who have never read about such topics will find an excellent primer.

The book then delves on our global boundaries. These are very comprehensive as they entail Climate change, novel entities, stratospheric ozone pollution, atmospheric aerosol loading, ocean acidification, phosphorus and nitrogen (eutrophication), freshwater consumption, land-use change (deforestation), loss of ecological functions and extinction rate.

Climate change has been the main focus of this blog since its beginning almost ten years ago. I believe it ties directly to ozone pollution, ocean acidification and land-use change. These in turn touch ecological functions and extinction rate. So by tackling one issue, we could hit five more…

The last part of the book – chapters five to nine – offers a comprehensive world tour of solutions being applied to solve these problems, with examples that I had not read about before. Sustainable agriculture solutions are also featured as working with Nature – and not against it – is primordial if we are to get back to or stay within our boundaries.

The book also outlines five major policy measures that need to be implemented, including a global carbon tax, going beyond GDP to measure our economies and so on. All this will sound very familiar to Pinchot / Presidio students and alums.

To conclude, I believe that by combining great photos – the first one being Earthrise – up to date Science and great examples that truly empower the reader, this 200-page book is a must read for any family. It should be in the reading list of every sustainability minded person, and for that matter, in our schools.  I read it in a weekend.

Grade: 9/10. If only it had featured even more solutions. But I guess the authors wanted to stay within 200 pages.

Image credits: the book’s official website.

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