Not just another doomsday climate change book

By Pia White
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The Handbook: Surviving and Living with Climate Change | Transit Lounge

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the face of an issue as momentous as climate change. No matter how committed we are in recycling or taking shorter showers, the environmental impact we have as individuals and households may seem insignificant in the face of governments and industries that refuse to take meaningful and timely action.

The Handbook is “not another book about climate change science or politics”. This message, printed on the book’s backcover, is a well-substantiated claim. While authors Jane Rawson and James Whitmore include many interesting references to climate change facts and research, their focus is squarely on individuals and how they can begin to distill the dire projections and climate change warnings into their essential impact on communities and households.

The Handbook does return some sense of control by setting out ways we can all become more self-sufficient and prepared for emergencies, as well as outlining tactics to manage feelings of fear and despair as we head into an uncertain future.

The book is broken into four sections covering reduction of vulnerability, self-sufficiency, living with loss and impacts of climate change. Each section equips the reader with some basic skills and advice on how to cope with climate change catastrophes and how to start adapting our lives to become more resilient to our best guess at what a future of unmitigated climate change could look like.

Some measures are probably best left to those already well into a transition to self-sufficient, sustainable living – such as the whole chapter on waste water and sewage – but many suggestions such us starting an urban garden or putting together an evacuation kit are manageable, prudent first steps.

“Readers will come away from the book with enough hope that they will be able to navigate whatever is coming their way by taking individual action and reaching out to their neighbours, even if they are past the point of being able to prevent climate change.”

It’s made clear that the discrete chapters addressing different topics can be used as references in an emergency; however they do also comprise a cohesive whole that can be easily read through cover-to-cover, despite the often somber content. Any guide to “surviving” is never going to be an entirely upbeat read.

Chapters on making it through bushfires and floods feature testimonies from survivors of disasters like the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires and the 2011 Queensland floods. These can be tough to read, especially when followed by reminders that such disasters are only going to increase in frequency and severity. Particularly alarming is the segment considering “is humanity doomed?”

Somehow though, Rawson and Whitmore manage to balance the apocalyptic tone by injecting the book with enough humour and faith in the power of community building. Readers will come away from the book with enough hope that they will be able to navigate whatever is coming their way by taking individual action and reaching out to their neighbours, even if they are past the point of being able to prevent climate change.

However, as our Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton so helpfully and tactfully reminded us last week, such measures are out of reach for the vast majority of the world’s population. This is most certainly not ignored by The Handbook. Amongst all the compelling information and advice contained in the pages, there are frequent reminders that many of the suggestions are just not an option for those likely to be hit hardest and earliest by the effects of climate change.

The Handbook offers a number of solutions to many possible climate change-induced scenarios. Ultimately however, the question it raises about our moral responsibility to those most at risk is its most powerful message.

The Handbook: Surviving and Living with Climate Change is now available from Transit Lounge.

 

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