Continuing our Summer Reading series, Oscar runs us through a selection of books which will help make your day just that bit more sustainable.
With the Titanium Tutors' 'Green Machine' up and running, I figured that one of the best ways to learn about being more sustainable is through the medium of books. Bonus points if they're paper-saving eBooks. There are hundreds of excellent texts on the subject of climate change and our environment, but I want to draw your attention to these three masterpieces about sustainability - there's something for everyone here, so without further ado, onto number 1...
Who doesn't like a good meal? My favourite dish EVER is the Spanish staple, Paella. Yum. In this article compiling 10 of Britain's favourite dishes, a grand total of 8 (!) meals were meat-based, with the other two containing fish. But what if I told you that all that meat was hurting the environment? Animal farming is one of the leading sources of pollution, with a steady stream of greenhouse gases coming from fields were livestock are reared for the mass production of processed meat. Commentators have long said that we need to curb our excessive and unsustainable meat eating habits, perhaps by introducing a 'meat-free' day or two into our weeks. If you can't begin to imagine what a meal even looks like without a chicken breast or a pork sausage, a vegan cookbook like BOSH! is a great place to start!
Now, I'll admit that I don't personally own a copy of this critically acclaimed book, but I have had the chance to sample some of its recipes thanks to one of my close friends at university who kindly offered to spare me the indignity of another night of instant ramen noodles by cooking from his BOSH! book. And they are DELICIOUS. Seriously, this is a cracking cookbook with some excellent ideas and, if you're a sucker for a good play on words, it'll make you chuckle at dishes with pleasingly simple puns such as 'Rogan BOSH'. My personal highlight is their '15 minute Hoi-Sin Aubergine', an ideal choice if you're looking to get of the door quickly but don't fancy a tasteless microwave meal.
On a side note, books like this provide a welcome alternative to those who are keen to 'go green' but aren't fans of how meat substitutes like Quorn taste, or provide a useful starting point if you are considering transitioning from being a vegetarian to vegan. Regardless of which camp you fall in, I can wholeheartedly recommend BOSH! to just about anyone, and cutting down your meat consumption, even just once a week, can make a real difference to our environment. If you want to go one step further, then signing up to a veg-box scheme can be a great way to support local produce and receive fresh vegetables on a weekly basis!
Okay, I'll hold my hands up and say that this isn't necessarily the most accessible book out of my three recommendations, but it does pack an almighty punch. This one is for all the budding politicians, policy-makers and economists out there - so if that sounds like you, read on...
Published all the way back in 1973, Small is Beautiful captures the zeitgeist of a world on the brink of a new political and economic phenomenon, globalisation. Schumacher starts by posing the question of where we stand with nature. He hypothesises that humans are often in a relentless pursuit to harness nature's potential and exploit its seemingly boundless resources. The issue being, he highlights, is that taking full control of nature will only lead to it returning with vengeance in the form of ecological meltdown as natural resources dry up - sound familiar?
He then turns his attention to why we're heading in this direction by questioning the foundations of the modern, Liberal democracy: is striving for economic prosperity (in the guise of universal peace) a truly sustainable goal? He argues (perhaps somewhat cynically) that the only way to achieve prosperity in the emerging globalised world is through immoral greed, the exact type of behaviour which leads to the opposite of peace, conflict. That is bad news for everyone.
"Modern man does not experience himself as a part of nature but as an outside force destined to dominate and conquer it. He even talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that, if he won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side.”
Ernst F. Schumacher
The solution? To stay away from what Schumacher calls 'Gigantism', a pervading ideology which seeks to make companies, cities and modes of production ever larger in their scope and scale. You can't fault his remarkable foresight, for when we examine the modern world, we see a society where Gigantism has triumphed; mass production, sprawling metropolises and transnational corporations (TNC) with a truly international reach such as Adidas, Apple and McDonald's are now the norm. If this is set to lead us down the path of self-destruction, what should we do?
The book's title forms part of the answer, and Schumacher advocates that we must scale our economies to small private enterprises which serve local communities and put less strain on the environment. As an economic adviser in Burma, he discovered that local businesses are often the lifeblood of a community and can have astute knowledge of the area, a sharp contrast to the rise of the faceless TNC in the West. It is more than this, however. He cuts straight to the heart of human nature and urges for a radical change in our selfish, greedy and materialistic ways, echoing recent calls for unrestrained economic growth to be curbed in the face of irreversible climate change. Although the book is close to 50 years old, it remains wholly pertinent to issues of international political economy which face us in the 21st century.
I can't say I'm an expert on horticulture, but I don't have to be either thanks to this excellent guide by Sarah Wyndham from Bermondsey Street Bees. Planting for Honeybees provides a thorough guide as to what plants are the perfect magnets for attracting some striped pollinators into your garden. "But why bother?", you ask. Great question.
Agriculture relies heavily on pollinators (creatures which distribute pollen from plant to plant) such as bees in order for crops to grow - so our food security is closely tied to these little insects. You'll probably be aware that bee populations are in decline, and there are a whole range of factors driving this shift. One of the key causes is the increased use of pesticides in modern farming techniques. While they have their benefits, one of the biggest losers from their use are bees, who are very susceptible to be being poisoned. Last year, the EU expanded their ban of the most harmful pesticides, neonicotinoids, in a bid to claw back at the extensive reduction in bee numbers. But that is only just the start of it. If we're to raise colony numbers, we'll need more than just lobbyists on board. Cue Wyndham's guide.
Not everyone has the luxury of owning a backyard with plenty of space to start their own botanical garden, but this isn't entirely necessary thanks to Planting for Honeybees broad scope, offering advice for the smallest of flat windowsills to large gardens. Perhaps you could team up with your university flat mates and see who can grow the best bee-friendly plants? For tutors, discussing plants could be a great session to teach students about the eco-system (biology) as well as human geography and the relationship between the land, nature and people.
And that's all folks! Will you be taking one of these books about sustainability on holiday with you this summer? I'd love to hear your 'green' reading recommendations, so feel free to get in touch via the Green Machine on Twitter - have a great summer break!
Blog Post Crafted by Oscar
Oscar studies Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at the University of Warwick.
When he's not studying or tutoring GCSE Maths and Science, Oscar plays saxophone and co-ordinates the Small Band division of the University of Warwick Big Band.