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Change is gonna come

Worldchanging offers readers hope

Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century

Edited by Alex Steffen

596 pp. $37.50

Tired of the environmental brow-beating? Climate change report thumping? Doomsday scenario hyping? Or just plain tired of hearing you should line dry your laundry instead of using your dryer? Then, Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century is the book for you.

Edited by Alex Steffen, an award-winning writer and executive editor of the book’s online counterpart, [www.worldchanging.com], this book is an encyclopedic compendium of current and potential solutions–’a toolkit for a changing world’–to the challenges facing the planet.

The book is a pragmatic and optimistic guide for individuals and communities wanting to bring about positive change. In what other environmental tome, do you find devastating facts combined with hope? ‘Facing the grim realities of climate change, mass extinctions, and ecosystem collapses does not make for a cheerful day. But we shouldn’t lose heart,’ Steffen writes.

Filled with fun facts–did you know Velcro was inspired by the way burrs stick to fur?–Worldchanging is organized into seven fairly intuitive and yet often eye-opening sections, such as the consumption-oriented Stuff to the expansive look into Shelter. Each section is sub-divided into bite-sized briefs on various topics. For example, Shelter starts out with the more expected Green Remodeling but moves into Transforming Disaster Relief and Landmines. Resources are listed at the end of each sub-topic, but those mainly include further book reading. It would have been nice to see some websites, although the problem could be that the Web, like the world, is always changing. The book’s online counterpart does do a better job of providing links and up-to-date information.

And unlike many green guides that offer up dogmatic ‘musts,’ such as stop eating meat or driving a car–things most Americans, who are the most resource-devouring individuals on the planet are unwilling to do–Worldchanging is a book of ideas that each individual can put to use in her own way.

‘Good intentions are great, but remember that only passion changes the world,’ writes Steffen in the introduction. His simple equation for moving forward: ‘Do the easy things, then do a few more challenging things that we really believe in and enjoyÖThe world doesn’t need our suffering, it needs our shining examples, and every one of us has an example to set.’

Yes, it does sound a bit rah-rah, and Steffen has been criticized for being overly idealistic, but with the human contribution to climate change now undeniable and an increasing population hungry for ever-shrinking resources, why not be hopeful? After all, if you just can’t commit to hanging out the laundry, there are some small changes you can make: dry similar fabrics together, run separate loads consecutively to take advantage of residual heat and clean the lint filter.