By now, most Americans have concluded the climate is changing; temperatures are rising, extreme weather events are growing more dangerous, and younger generations now agitate forcefully for ambitious reforms. Amid this milieu, Chris Macdonald’s OPERATION SUSTAINABLE HUMAN could hardly be more timely and urgent.
Even while many now take climate crisis seriously, because of the overwhelming volume and nature of data and reporting on it, concrete steps can be difficult to parse. Macdonald’s work fills in those gaps with crisp, clear, imperative writing, documenting several of the largest drivers of climate change one by one. For avid readers of climate change reporting and research, the synthesis of information in OPERATION SUSTAINABLE HUMAN presents some facts anew. Macdonald’s chapters on food and transportation stand out in particular–huge, systemic causes that have gained attention, but benefit from the breadth of analysis Macdonald brings to bear.
As a slim volume (exclusive of endnotes, it is well under 100 pages), OPERATION SUSTAINABLE HUMAN contains some distractingly recurrent editing and typographical issues. There also are sporadically squishy facts, like the overstated universality of the Paris Climate Agreement. (The U.S. abandoned the Agreement in 2017; Ecuador initially opposed it for not going far enough.) Some of the solutions provided also go far beyond individual agency, like choosing efficient mass transit, walking, or cycling–an option only feasible for commuters in the largest cities.
The sixth, most ambitious chapter smartly redirects to the perverse financial incentives and outright corruption pervading U.S. politics, suggesting a possible route for overcoming the preceding critique. To meet the challenge, drastic, necessarily political reforms are needed, including rethinking of the very patterns of structuring our cities and politics.
Despite quibbles, Macdonald packs numerous possibilities into each subject-area. Even where Americans cannot currently “green” commuting habits, many others can curb discretionary air travel, limit or eliminate meat consumption, and avoid popular-yet-wasteful clothing choices. In an era of apocalyptic recitation of facts in climate change-focused writing—however accurate—Macdonald’s OPERATION SUSTAINABLE HUMAN underscores solutions across a range of modern activities and industries. It’s a quick, sharp read for anyone hoping to look forward.
Chris Macdonald’s accessible, if alarming, deeply researched reference work overemphasizes individual agency in combating climate change, but OPERATION SUSTAINABLE HUMAN provides a clear, broader roadmap for ambitious change.
~Andy Carr for IndieReader