I’d be the first to admit that sometimes I think the future of the world looks bleak. It’s hard to remain optimistic when the economy’s floundering and our resources are being gobbled up at an alarming rate. With protests popping up all over the globe, you can’t help but wonder what finally made people get angry and take action. We seemed to go from complacent to furious overnight. Walk past St Paul’s Cathedral and you’re likely to spot several Guy Fawkes masks hiding the faces of Occupy London protesters. The three-month-old protest is intent on creating a ‘future free from austerity, growing inequality, unemployment, tax injustice and a political elite who ignores its citizens.’ Bruce Nixon’s A Better World is Possible reflects the growing unrest and pinpoints the need for ordinary people to turn ‘anger into effective action to bring about radical change.’
A self-professed sustainability consultant, Nixon is no stranger to eco-activism. Always one to look at the big picture, his fourth book is a manifesto for the fed up and burnt out. But, Nixon’s call to arms isn’t merely a rant; he also offers solutions and, more importantly, hope. ‘We need to understand this: breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs,’ he says. ‘As the old paradigm dies, new opportunities are created.’ Though optimism is as scarce as chivalry these days, it’s nice to see someone who truly believes change for the better is possible.
So what needs a makeover according to Nixon? That would be pretty much everything. From energy to economy, his critique of the modern world runs the gamut from small adjustments to a sweeping overhaul of the entire global economic system. ‘We need a shift from an economy that consumes us to one that serves people and planet,’ he says. Packed with shocking facts and figures – Nixon quotes veteran conservationist Richard Leakey as saying that ‘50 per cent of the Earth’s species will vanish within 100 years’ – A Better World is Possible is both alarming and inspiring.
At times I found the statistics overwhelming but Nixon does a great job of breaking down his main points at the end of each section. He even encourages you to choose the chapters you wish to read, making the ‘I don’t have time to read’ excuse inexcusable. ‘Change comes about in two ways,’ he says. ‘Quantum leaps often initiated or led by extraordinary individuals; and millions of steps taken by people all over the world.’ Such small steps are as simple as shopping locally, car sharing and recycling. These efforts are needed to reduce our individual eco-footprints, which are, according to Nixon, currently at three times the global per capita target.
The book is ripe with insights that should be obvious but have been largely forgotten in a world where we spend more time following the exploits of the cast of The Only Way is Essex than the global climate crisis. Unfortunately, Nixon warns, our disengagement will be our downfall. ‘We are part of intricate, interconnected relationships between Planet Earth and all living things,’ he says. ‘For a sustainable future we need to treasure and cherish this ecological diversity of which we are a part.’
Some ideas might seem like pipe dreams, lovely as they are: supermarkets converted into market halls and the eventual end of war. Though I’m not likely to find my local Tesco transformed into a farmers’ market any time soon, Nixon’s optimism kept me reading. At times I felt inspired to launch into a battle cry and lead the masses through the streets, á la Les Misérables, although I can’t really say I’m the pitchfork toting type. Still, I finished the book feeling hopeful that some of the small efforts I make – bringing a canvas bag to the supermarket and shopping locally for instance – are not in vain. Sadly, most who read this will probably tuck it away into their briefcases, exit the Tube and go on with their daily lives. But there might be one or two who get angry and decide to do something about it. And it only takes a few.
A Better World is Possible by Bruce Nixon (£14.99, O Books) is available from Amazon
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