International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Review
To Eat The Dog?
The real guide to sustainable living by Robert and Brenda Vale,
Thames and Hudson, 2009, 384 pp.,
TO EAT THE DOG? by New Zealand authors makes one unassailable point
on its opening pages: If everyone on Earth shared equally the lifestyle
enjoyed in North America, then five planet Earths would be needed.
Obviously, an unattainable proposition.
In an online interview
(@ Celsias), Robert Vale asserted "there are many "wussy"
sustainability books" around and he and Ms. Vale wanted to write
one that backed up justification of sustainability choices with real
numbers, not the intuitive beliefs of sloganeers. That is, the Vales
wanted a book that showed people how to "do the maths" and
make informed sustainability choices
Chapter after chapter, the Vales set forth defensible, well-researched
data for choices on such topics as food, transport, shelter, and recreation.
Why prefer linoleum to shag carpeting? The Vales give mathematical dimension
to that choice.
The scope of their sustainability survey is amazing. Even the oddball
idea I had of buying a bamboo frame bicycle from a local bike builder
here in Portland, Oregon surfaces in the data presentation. A wooden
bicycle is "green," but in sustainability terms, more the
proverbial gilding on the lily. According to the Vales, the real priority
is to ride a bike, not drive a gas guzzler.
Other amazing conclusions are that a Boeing 747 (full) has more energy
efficiency per passenger-kilometer that a bicyclist (slow or fast pedalling,
who eats bread for fuel, but must shower after the ride). Or that a
city bus burning diesel lags in efficiency behind the solo driver of
a 1.6-liter car!
As for the jokey title of TIME TO EAT THE DOG?, the authors didn't set
out to offend pet owners. But by "doing the maths" on the
sustainability footprint of a pet choice, they want to point out that
"extra children"--those births above zero population growth--cost
and need more than even a large pet. A sneaky, but effective way to
make the case against runaway population growth.
Admittedly, a book heavy with table after table of data comparisons
might on first glance seem a slow slog. Fortunately, the Vales write
well and offer occasional humorous asides. Moreover, the book's graphic
design and page layout is exceedingly attractive and makes the "data
consumption" easier. Think of this as reference tome on sustainability
choice the reader might take on a chapter at a time and savor.
This Thames & Hudson edition deserves wider circulation beyond the
UK, Europe, and Oceania and hopefully will soon make its way to the
© Charlie Dickinson September 2009
Where Sex Meets Addiction
by Susan Cheever,
This latest memoir DESIRE is yet another addition to the literature
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