I added this book, The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, to my to-read list after seeing it mentioned in Goodreads’ top-rated newcomer list end of last year. I finally got around to reading it. I am concerned about the environment and wanted to understand the current situation. What can we do to prevent a future calamity of unprecedented scale that would be near impossible to control? I was excited when I started reading and grew more thrilled when I discovered that the authors had helped shape the Paris Climate Agreement, compelling countries to begin taking proactive actions to save humanity. I was disappointed when the book turned out to be any other book on climate change and activism.
The book starts by presenting two contrasting worlds of the future. First, a dystopia rife with grief and anarchy. Flash floods, wildfires, and blizzards are commonplace. The very urban cities built to protect us from the environment have now become a heat death trap for its denizens. This apocalypse is what awaits us if the rampant pumping of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere is not stopped.
In contrast to this is the utopia. A near-perfect world where wildlife thrives and the air is fresh. Living in a city is no different from living in a secluded village. There is much greenery, and people live longer. Medical expenses are down, and all energy comes from renewable sources resulting in zero electrical bills. This Eden is within our grasp but fleeting away every second of inaction.
The sections discussing the future and the implications of our current actions, or lack of it, were the most stirring. The book emphasizes the importance of climate change and bringing out green policies multiple times. Driving into you the critical importance of understanding climate change and how it affects everyone. I felt the book did well by not downplaying its negative effect on the economy and jobs dependent on the fossil fuel industry. What intrigued me was learning how pension funds can be linked to the fossil fuel industry. I believed that a pension is just the income you could have earned when you were younger, and the government takes it away from you so that you don’t carelessly spend it all now and suffer in the future when you can no longer earn. Pension funds are sometimes invested into the fossil fuel industry was new information to me. The most important message in the book, I felt, is that, it is not too late. We are playing a difficult game but we can win.
Even though the book tries to explore implications for climate change policies, I felt it was addressing the citizens of developed countries more. It failed to take into account that there are countless people who don’t even know if they will get enough food the next day. People, living their life in the present. Not because of their choice but their reality. Thirty years is not even imaginable! Last year during Covid Lockdowns in India, millions of people were brought to the street and stranded away from family. They didn’t have enough to feed themselves nor take shelter. The governments of developing nations are not strong enough to support so many people on welfare programs. I believe climate should be our top priority, but each country has a different role to play. In light of this, I was expecting the book to talk about the initiatives and policies rolled out by some crucial countries to battle climate change under the Paris Agreement. Moreso, when the authors are critical players in said agreement.
The book ends with providing the same advice slapped on every climate change book and article. Ironically the book itself does not follow one of them: dematerialize. I was not expecting a book published in 2020 about climate change to have paperback and hardcover editions. I understand the joy of hardcopies and enjoy physical books more (however, I have been reading primarily digital for the past 2-3 years). I find it hypocritical when the person giving advice doesn’t follow it themselves. This reduces conviction to act in a climate-friendly way. The lack of belief is exacerbated by the fact that our role models, movie stars, sports stars, musicians, and people in power are the ones who don’t follow most of the guidelines even when they champion them.
When Mahatma Gandhi started the Khadi movement, he wasn’t wearing foreign-made clothes himself but expecting everyone else to wear khadi. He was actively participating in it. It didn’t matter if there was one person following him or millions. This is the reason he inspired so many people to support him. It was admirable when Greta Thunberg journey to the USA using a ship instead of an airplane to reduce carbon emissions. To battle climate change, are not only good policies necessary but also a good role model. The role model doesn’t have to be a single person, it can be a group or a movement or even a country, but it needs to proficient in not only what’s happening with the climate but also the economic and social implications of it. They would be treading a narrow precipice with non-believers of climate change and political oppositions waiting to pounce on any misstep. Ideally, such a person will be a common man and not a billionaire. Someone people can relate to deeply—someone like Greta.
I have been unnecessarily critical of this book. If this book’s goal was to spread awareness about climate change. It does its job. But, I find it hard that someone who never believed in climate change will change after reading it. The book lacks details that would be expected when the authors are at the forefront of this battle.
Nevertheless, the book is a quick read and will make you ponder about climate change. If people can at least think about how their actions are affecting the climate regardless of how they act, they would have taken their first step. We have been ignorant for too long.