Book Review – There is No Planet B by Mike Berners-Lee
I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years trying to improve my knowledge on climate change, climate science, the environment, sustainability and nature. I’ve read (a lot), listened to podcasts, done some online courses and subscribed to a lot of webinars. Some of these have been great, some a little to complex, some not quite what I was hoping for, but I’d like to say I’ve learned something from all of them.
I’m going to periodically write reviews on some of the books that I read, starting with a book I first purchased on Audible and then bought a physical copy because I enjoyed it so much, but also to allow me to better appreciate the facts, figures and graphs highlighted. That book is There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years by Mike Berners-Lee.
In There is No Planet B, Mike Berners-Lee addresses a range of climate change and sustainability questions from how bad are fossil fuels? What’s the carbon footprint of agriculture? How can we sort out urban transport? The book covers everything from the simplest to the most complex issues with facts and anecdotes but manages the rare feat of being fact-based without being dull. Even more impressively, Berners-Lee manages to be blunt about the threat, without coming across as a merchant of doom.
He starts by addressing how much impact one person can truly make to the problem, before discussing food including food production, use, waste and agriculture. In a timely manner the subjects of agriculture and the risk of pandemics is addressed in this section.
Next, the subject of climate, the environment and biodiversity are covered including some terrifying facts about the production and predominance of plastics are covered, before moving on to Energy which covers production, use and of course, fossil fuels.
Berners-Lee moves on to cover a range of other topics from transport and travel, including a discussion around flying for both pleasure and work, and carbon offsets. This leads to a discussion on the topic of work, growth and money with some brutal criticisms of the neo-liberal world order and economic systems.
One of the most important elements of the book is that Berners-Lee spends time confronting issues of values, truth, trust, and of doing the right thing, an element it can be too easy to understate when discussing the harsh realities of the climate crisis. The fundamental underlying value in ‘There Is No Planet B’ is that “all people have equal intrinsic value as human beings”. This is a simple statement yet one that we cannot possibly hope to address if we wish to get serious about reducing the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
My one complaint about the book is that it does not offer a lot of solutions to the problems identified. As such, calling it a “Handbook” seems like a stretch. That being said, if you want a book that covers a variety of topics, shares a lot of facts and figures in an entertaining way but also maintains a degree of optimism not always seen in other climate books, it’s worth a read.