Going Green - 365 Ways To Change Our World By Simon Gear
A brainwavez.org Literary Review

South Africaby Mandy J Watson
Posted: 2 June 2009

These days we're all being encouraged to "go green" but sometimes it's a bit overwhelming knowing where to start or whether there is any point to your efforts. In Going Green - 365 Ways To Change Our World South African author Simon Gear presents bite-sized pieces of advice to help us transition to a more harmonious lifestyle.

Going GreenI must admit that when this book was announced I had a very cynical reaction regarding what I felt was a South African TV weatherman jumping on "the green bandwagon", especially since I have lived "green" my entire life, even when it was an incredibly unpopular thing to do. Recently going green seems to have become about following a lifestyle trend for many people and being a marketing strategy for companies (and I, therefore, question their motives). Thankfully, it has also become a wake-up call for some and they are now wondering what to do and where to start.

Simon Gear's advice in Going Green - 365 Ways To Change Our World is, however, presented in a conversational, unpretentious way and you don't feel as if you are being smacked over the head with the green stick. The book offers 365 "tips" divided in to six sections - Home & Garden, Family, Work & Community, Travel & Leisure, Food & Drink, and You - and for those as cynical as I am you'll be glad to know that this book isn't strictly about going green. It focusses more on providing suggestions that will result in you adjusting your overall attitude and perceptions. All sorts of topics are covered, from "tease the Eskom people you meet at parties with talk of feedback tariffs and sustainable energy" and "appreciate our World Heritage sites", which I think is very good advice, to a recommendation to recycle your old cameras. Unfortunately that specific tip only recommends donating them to technical high schools rather than also addressing how you can deal with your devices so that you aren't responsible for poisonous chemicals and metals contaminating our ecosystems. The entry "recycle your e-waste" doesn't address this either, or even reference a reputable organisation (which would be eWASA in South Africa).

There's also a lot of the obvious, such as "grow your own herbs" and "grow your own veggies", mingling with the amusingly obscure or odd, such as "ditch the phone book" (I still use mine) or "get the snip" [have a vasectomy]. There's also a little meta humour in "fight green fatigue" (or it might be unintentionally ironic, I'm not sure).

Unfortunately there's - dare I say it - potentially dangerous advice, such as "use ebanking" [sic], which doesn't include any discussion of the dangers involved or the protection you should use, or that the banks take no liability for problems, putting you at risk, and "check out your death clock", which is a reference to those online sites that are fronts for crowdsourcing (medical) information to sell to marketers. Some tips, such as "next time, buy a laptop" [instead of a desktop PC], are also likely to result in bigger waste problems in the long term. I find that with a number of the tips there isn't always balance.

A case in point: one of my least favourite entries is "go paperless but back up your data", which advocates using as little paper as possible and instead only backing up all your data (although it suggests having an off-site backup plan too, which is a good idea). Trees, if managed correctly, are a sustainable resource, whereas any kind of backup device - whether it's DVDs or external hard drives - is produced using and containing chemicals, metals, poisons, and non-renewable resources. Additionally DVDs and hard drives have a much shorter lifespan than paper, and their death contributes tons of e-waste back into our environment that is hard to manage or recycle, nevermind the risks you run in losing your data as the devices degrade and die while you keep them in storage (or perhaps crash as you are using them). None of this is discussed, which I think is irresponsible. Instead it's just presented as a bite-sized "go paperless".

Nevertheless this book is fun to flip through for ideas and there were some tips that gave me some good ideas and perspectives. There were also lots of suggestions that I have heard before and really like, such as "have dirty kids - and fewer allergies", which advocates moving away from a hypersterile environment in your home and allowing kids to be kids and get dirty in the garden, as it's important for developing their immune systems, so they won't become hyperallergic, constantly medicated adults fighting off every minor germ and tiny bit of pollen. Unfortunately, however, there's no index so if you see something interesting and want to refer back to it later or point it out to a friend you'll find yourself at times helplessly paging through trying to find that reference or a specific URL you saw in an entry.

There is one inherent irony in this book, however: each entry is presented on a new page. The book is (almost) square, which is an odd shape, and more than half the pages are a half to a third of the page blank as the entries are too short. Penguin could have printed the book two centimetres narrower, or with two entries on a page, and not used so much white space, and the company would have saved a hell of a lot of trees.

It's just a thought.

It's best to take it as it is - this book is not going to change the world but if people flip through it and see one thing that appeals to them and implement it, it can still make a difference and get us all thinking a little "greener", which, I suspect, was Simon Gear's point.

Going Green, by Simon Gear, is available locally in South Africa in good bookstores nationwide, or you can order it online through Kalahari.net, which ships internationally.

brainwavez.org Opinion
Rating: 6/10

Key Facts (Review Copy)
Title: Going Green - 365 Ways To Change Our World
Author: Simon Gear
ISBN: 978-0-143-02593-1
Publisher: Penguin Books (South Africa)
Edition: First
Year: 2009 (March 2009)
Format: Softcover/Trade Paperback
Pages: 379
Dimensions: 151x172x23mm (WxHxD)
Genres/Keywords: green, non fiction, South Africa

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