Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Global Warming Survival Kit by Brian Clegg

At the start of The Global Warming Survival Kit, Brian Clegg describes how off-duty aircraft employees case out the fire escapes in new hotels. I usually just note the plan on the back of the door; but a better thing to do is to actively trace out the route noting the direction, how many doors along, and how exactly you might get out of a strange building that is dark and maybe smoke-filled, and you are groggy with sleep. This idea of preparedness is the main principle of this book. As it says on the back: 'make no mistake, climate change is upon us' and this book is a guide how to cope.

The first section is a clearly written summary of what is covered in 'Six Degrees' (how climate change is likely to impact on the earth in the next century or so). The second section leaps straight into the dark: dealing with power cuts, and includes something I'd never thought about before - how to get out of a strange building like an office that is suddenly plunged into darkness. Since power cuts are likely to be a more important feature of life on a warmer planet, Brian Clegg advocates making adjustments for the long term now. For instance he suggests a good investment would be a pedal powered generator that charges up a battery. This could then be used to light in the evening.

The third section deals with the basic essentials for life, and keeping cool when there is drought and soaring temperatures around you. When things get hot he advises less talking and less eating since both of these lead to loss of water. The section on food is entertaining. He advocates foraging and recommends how to prepare meals of worms and snails. But foraging like this is an emergency measure. For complete self-subsistence an average family requires at least five acres of land with two people farming it as a full-time job.

Since there are likely to be extremes in weather as the world heats, there is a section on this too, including advice on house purchase (location and structure) and how to cope with natural emergencies such as being caught in wildfire. He points out that reality is often very different from the lore of the movies. For instance in a wildfire it may be safer to stay inside a car rather than run for it, as fuel tanks of cars are less likely to explode than is commonly represented.

After attack from the weather comes attack from animals and humans. The advice there is to keep as low a profile as possible. Weapons should be avoided since they can so easily be used against you, and the best policy if a building is under attack to try to escape as inconspicuously and as safely as possible - from the ground floor rather than making any death-defying leaps from one building to the next. They are likely to be unsuccessful.

The final chapter is unexpected, but equally interesting. This is on the psychological effects of stress incurred by climate change. Brian Clegg, who is an expert on creativity advotaes the following: build up self-esteem, foster a spirit of optimism, exercise, establish a ritual, and list the anchors that you can depend upon when everything is changing around you. In a powerless world the art of story telling and various other forms of art and creativity will become more important than ever to our psychological well-being, and reassuringly, a library of print books is likely to come into its own.

Complete with essential checklists at the end of each section, and sturdy water-resistant covers, this book seems to be a great little resource for the possible years ahead, and one I intend to keep handy.


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