I picked up Just Cool It! last week because I wanted some more printed research to inform my decision making. It’s easy to turn to the internet for information (I say this fully aware that I contribute to the numerous voices online), but published works are usually more credible than a layperson on the internet. I was drawn to this book because it offers tips that can be used on the individual level as well as a look into the political, , ecological, and economic factors involved in climate change on a macro and micro level.
One of the points Suzuki and Hanington make throughout the book that I really appreciated was the notion that we cannot allow the enormity of the task of moving away from fossil fuels prevent us from trying to act. The government invested in getting a man on the moon because there was a sense of urgency. We didn’t know that it could be done. We didn’t even know what the benefits of inventing new technologies would be (other than seeming more advanced than the USSR), but we did it and as a result we have gained new technologies like home computers, GPS, and cell phones that are integral to daily life today. Sure, for now it is still easier to find fossil fuels and use them, but we could discover new technologies that will not only provide us with a clean energy in addition to other tools that could make our lives better. Why wait until we are out of fuel and time?
Suzuki and Hanington offer a variety of solutions on the individual level including carpooling to work, biking, reducing consumption, and eating less meat. As a person that doesn’t own a car, I’m already pretty sustainable in that regard. I could, however, get more involved on a local level in advocating for improved public transit options and bike lanes in Tacoma. Tacoma is not a city that people bus in my choice, it is done because you have to. If more cities could become like New York or London, we would have less need for cars — especially for short distances.
Just Cool It was published in 2017 and is already outdated with regards to the Paris Climate Accord, at least in the U.S. The authors are critical of the accord for not going far enough to make changes, though it is impressive that countries were able to come to any agreement at all. The book was written after the election of Trump, but not before he announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the accord. As a global leader, the U.S. should be taking this opportunity to create change. We are amongst the highest polluters, despite having a small population relative to India and China. As an industrialized nation that has benefitted from practices that destroy the earth, we need to do our part to bring about change so that the onus of responsibility doesn’t fall to countries that are still in the process of modernizing their economies. This, of course, brings up a very important question, is it possible to be truly green in a capitalist system? Capitalism demands that we consume. Things are made so we can buy them and our worth is defined by the amount of stuff we are able to buy. I cannot wrap my head around any system other than capitalism, which of course is a byproduct of living in any system. Instead of being a revolutionary trying to make a new economic system, I am trying to find ways to consume more ethically and challenge the notion that we have to buy new things all the time to be happy or be of value.
My biggest critique of Just Cool It is the fact that it walks a fine line between a clearly biased book that is trying to inform and audience and self-serving propaganda. David Suzuki is the founder of The David Suzuki Foundation, which supported the publication of this book and the book makes many references to the work of the foundation. Obviously, experts in a field may find themselves referencing their own work if they are at the forefront of that area. I do however think it can be a conflict of interest to write a book that will direct an audience to your nonprofit (presumably to solicit donations) while using that same nonprofit as proof of your work. The book does reference enough outside sources that it isn’t credible, if anything parts just felt tacky.
Overall, I would recommend that anyone that wants to be an expert in environmental issues does research beyond watching “An Inconvenient Truth” and reading blogs (but please do still read this one). If you live in the Tacoma area, I’d be happy to lend this book out to any friends that may want to learn more. I will be reading more books about environmentalism soon (and am happy to take recommendations) so look out for more reviews in the future.