Sustainable living, not green consumerism


Sustainable Living for Dummies

By Michael Grosvenor

Wiley Publishing Australia, 2007

320 pages, $39.95 (pb)

I have a friend who is outraged by the government's climate change TV ads. So, he has taken to driving around with a mock, black-painted coffin on the top of his car. Painted on the side he has: "Bury John Howard in the desert instead of radioactive waste? I can do that!"

This guide, Sustainable Living for Dummies, to doing what you can to stave off the climate crisis is practical and extensive but could do with a good dose of that kind of political straight-forwardness. Written in the basic, dummies-guide style — lots of jokes, easy to read text and short lists of action items — it is genuinely helpful for householders wanting tips on doing the right thing. It covers everything from your dunny paper to your roof insulation, with excursions into the garden, shopping and a whole lot more.

Its strength is in taking up things like credit-card debt, overconsumption, city sprawl, social equality, and globalisation among other things. Its weakness is that it resolutely argues for green consumerism — support those cuddly green capitalists and the world is safe.

Sorry, not!

It is important that the ecological crisis gets linked with the broader subject of the mode of production of our society and the market system that turns that production into profit. Author Michael Grosvenor avoids this like the plague.

Organising industrial production, consumption, housing, farming, waste disposal and all other aspects of civilised life around the profit motive is deadly to the planet.

The Cuban government has shown how to bring about a national household energy revolution. They mobilised thousands of young revolutionary activists to go house-to-house educating people, performing energy audits and changing all light bulbs to low-energy models for free.

Combine this with their organic farming revolution and they are showing the real way to live sustainably, and you don't have to be a dummy!

People power, combined with socialist production will allow humanity to live harmoniously with nature. This book's intellectual horizons are very broad but can't expand enough to meet the fundamental challenge.