Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: How Bad Are Bananas: The Carbon Footprint of Everything, By Mike Berners-Lee

The Premise:
Mr. Berners-Lee looks at the estimated carbon footprint of practically everything, from sending a text-message to riding a bike to waging a nuclear war.

The Good:
Mr. Berners-Lee is candid about his intentions and methodology. This is not a definitive guide for exact measures, but an earnest attempt to contribute rough estimates. It’s more of a ranking of this versus that, so readers can start to begin to understand which of their decisions have more of an impact on the environment and which have less. So given the choice between giving a loved one a red rose or a red apple, the reader will have a better understanding of which is more carbon efficient (albeit, not which is more romantic). And, as a bonus, the author keeps things light with small doses of humor and little to no preaching--he even acknowledges the skepticism people may have of Global Warming.

The Bad:
Because this book was written as more of a resource to be picked up and flipped through, much like a dictionary, it is a bit redundant at times. We are told that cows ruminate (i.e., give off methane as a result of chewing grass and burping gas) in the sections involving milk, steak, cheese, sheep and lamb production. It’s a small point, but one that gets old when reading straight through.  

The Verdict:
Worth a read. I hesitate to recommend an outright “buy” because the science is continually evolving. If you want to support Mr. Berners-Lee and his research, then buy. But regardless, if you are at all curious about your impact on the world, it’s definitely an interesting read.