Chris Goodall “How to live a Low-Carbon Life” 1st Edition 2006

ISBN 978 1 84407 426 6. Published in 2006 by Earthscan. Written by Chris Goodall and subtitled “The Individual’s Guide to Stopping Climate Change”. Chris lives not far away from us in Oxfordshire, England and I have been in contact with him personally before I read his book. I questioned some of the simplistic advice on his web-site but, as he pointed out, the book goes into far more detail and the web site is not indicative. Hence I would like to say only nice things about Chris’s work. Indeed it is an impressive source book for us ‘low-carbon freaks’ in the United Kingdom. Without a doubt Chris is an extremely smart guy – his Harvard Business School MBA and Green Party Candidacy are testimony to this. He is firmly ‘establishment’ with his former Directorships and membership of the UK Competition Commission. With this insight he contributes an early section that is quite illuminating with its plain language description of how Globalisation and the WTO is pitched in a head-on battle with anti-Carbon measures.

The WTO believes that all trade is good and any form of ‘localisation’ is a restrictive trade practice. There is plenty of ammunition here and this is worth a book in its own right. After this the book settles into Chris’s trawl through every possible measure that individuals can take to reduce their Carbon Footprints. There are some surprising conclusions in some of his statistics and it is a real eye-opener. However, if there must be criticism it is that the statistics are a bit scatter-gun. Rarely does the book thoroughly examine the ’embedded carbon’ consumed in making such items as washing machines, solar panels or fridges. (I suspect that this is due to a lack of data – although this doesn’t stop Chris from just guessing numbers where he felt fit!) Embedded Carbon is mostly excluded from the numbers.

Some numbers are presented in an idiosyncratic fashion with apples occasionally compared to pears. He uses cost per tonne of Carbon as a baseline number to compare various measures – great idea but sometimes the cost is nothing of even negative where the measures pay for themselves. I also suggest that the reader thoroughly examines the section on Car driving with a critical eye. On the first read through it looks as if Chris suggests that you should never replace your car unless it has blown up. However this assumption works on the basis that you sell your old car to someone who never had a car before. This suggest that every car sale increases cars on the road by 100% although this contradicts the actual numbers of 1% to 2%pa Chris quotes elsewhere. Hence the individual incremental embedded Carbon of a new car is the new one minus an old one that gets scrapped out of the entire supply chain at some point. Maybe I should re-read this section because I am sure he can’t mean this! A thoroughly recommended read but be careful with all the numbers. Use as a source book of ideas.

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.

Comments are closed.