What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper – Review

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us’ by Tony Juniper – a leading environmental campaigner and sustainability advisor – is a remarkable book which highlights the true value of the natural world, and the true economic cost of human ignorance in modern day development. 

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper (2012)

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper (2012)

After getting thoroughly engorged into the first few chapters, I was fortunate enough to attend a book club hosted by Friends of the Earth with my manager Dawn Newton, where we had the opportunity to meet Tony Juniper himself (and get my book signed – eeeek!) and learn first-hand about his motivations for writing ‘What Has Nature Ever Done For Us’. He passionately spoke how science is basically communicated to the general public in Swahili, with poor communication methods effectively building great walls and further separating environmentalists, and everyone else.

Juniper’s key aim therefore was to communicate the science to all audiences, which he fulfilled by explaining the complexity and interdependency of nature in a story-like fashion. He produced an engaging and highly readable account of how we as a population are literally liquidating the capital of the Earth.

Tony Juniper - Executive Director

Image provided by Friends of the Earth

To introduce the complex web of interactions and relationships occurring within the Earth’s system, the prologue tells the story of Biosphere 2, the first man-made version of the biosphere which incorporated a variety of the world’s ecosystems in individual biomes. This introduction outlines how a group of eight people embarked on a 2 year experiment in a microcosm of the Earth’s closed systems and the trials, tribulations and complexities they faced.

Juniper then continues to address the importance of the different components of the Earth’s system and their vital interactions. He explains to the reader the full importance of nature’s processes; constantly moving from a cold statistic to a vivid anecdote about the economic failures we have already faced as a consequence of our need to fund our exploding population and consumption habits.

A favourite example of mine concerned the Indian vultures – a scavenger which typically doesn’t pluck at the heart strings of conservationists – who suffered a population decline of 40 million birds following the introduction of a painkiller into cattle, the carcasses of which were a key source of food for the vultures. The original aim was to increase the farmer’s revenue by increasing the productivity of the cattle; however the painkiller proved poisonous to the vultures instigating a population crash and left mountains scattered with ‘putrefying fly-ridden corpses’. The consequence was more wild dogs, more dog bites, and a rabies epidemic which cost the Indian economy $30 billion.

Indian Vulture

Junipers key message is that we must put a price on nature if we are to ensure the long term preservation of our natural assets, and in turn maintain the long-term benefits the natural world provides. Nature’s services are not free and are not limitless. To capitalize on this goal we need to move away from our ‘green economy’ dominated by engineers and politicians, and move to a ‘bio economy’ where like during the construction of Biosphere 2, ecologists, climatologists, engineers, politicians, and businesses all work together to maximise our understanding and achieve our common goal.

Overall this book has provided the opportunity for readers from all walks of life to understand the difficulties faced by the natural world and our interwoven fate.

If you aren’t eager enough to buy the book already here are links to other reviews from the Guardian, by Designs On Earth, and by Friends of the Earth! 

And if your still not convinced visit Tony Juniper’s website…

Finally if any of you are interested in attending future Friends of the Earth book clubs visit their webpage with video of Tony (which also has the link to buy the book) contact: foebookclub@foe.co.uk

tumblr_m04d7lhXKL1qc6j5yo1_500Want to do something to help?

Healthy Planet’s Conservation Community allows you to directly impact the difficulties faced by the natural world. It is a fun and engaging way for anyone, anywhere to support real conservation projects that are helping make a healthier planet.

Visit the community and get on the map. www.conservationcommunity.org

Blog post written by Rhiannon Downer: Marketing & Communications intern at Healthy Planet

Are we nearly there yet?

Reading the recent news about the Arctic ice, waves of fear swept through many an eco-conscious person. Each year we get told the situation is urgent and as campaigners there is a concern that people will suffer from crisis fatigue. We are repeatedly told of the urgency of the problem you can feel numb, and further stick your head into the sand.

For campaigners this is a disaster as we need to keep people taking those little steps to get to those big changes we need.

So what can be done? Well obviously there are a number of simple things that people can do. A quick web search will give you no end of options. Change your lightbulbs, drive less and eat less meet.

What interests me is the formation of habits and the promotion of our ideal world. Making environmental choices a habit will certainly be one of those tools needed to affect positive change. Connected with that is the focus needed on the positive. Talking about disaster and XXX and may move someone to action but for many it will shock them into inaction. What is important is to talk about all the benefits that can be gained if we make the change. Cleaner, better public transport, more jobs, better quality, able to heat your home in the winter and much more.

There are great examples of where this is already working, recycling is one. We have been conditioned to put separate waste outside our homes for collection. Over the years this action has become so normalised that even the most ardent climate change skeptic gas guzzling drives are starting to wash out their plastic bottles each week. Saying you don’t recycle gains the same expression as someone who doesn’t wear a seat belt. If people in the green movement could utilise this sort of habit forming then it will make the job a whole lot easier.

A better world is possible. We have small pockets of society which have got it right but much more is needed from the citizens of the world.

Meat Free Monday

Meat Free Monday

We need to make things easier and more attractive. It’s a simple message that has been said before but we forget it at our peril.

Top 5 things you can do:

  1. Eat less meat – try meat free Mondays
    http://www.meatfreemondays.co.uk/
  2. Change your lightbulbs to energy saving bulbs
    http://www.ecogiggle.com/information/energy-saving-light-bulbs.html
  3. Drive less and bike / walk more
    http://www.sustrans.org.uk/what-we-do/national-cycle-network http://www.walk4life.info/
  4. Repair, reuse & recycle things as much as possible
    http://www.recycling-guide.org.uk/rrr.html
  5. When you do need to buy something new – choose locally sourced foods & eco versions – particularly appliances
    http://www.redtractor.org.uk/Behind-the-Logo
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_energy_lab

You can also get involved in Books for Free http://www.healthyplanet.org/booksforfree & Stuff for Free http://www.healthyplanet.org/stuffforfree

More ideas here: http://lilmyssdoodlez.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/simple-eco-tips.html

About our guest blogger: Adam Roxby

Adam is a student nurse, environmental campaigner, Karate Black belt and blogger. Adam’s blog can be found here: http://optical-minefield.co.uk/

Nine in ten people want more renewable energy.

Almost nine in ten people want to see the government increase the UK’s production of clean domestic energy and reduce the country’s reliance on imported gas, according to a new YouGov poll.

Currently, only 9.5% of UK electricity comes from renewable energy sources and Friends of the Earth, who had 2,884 people questioned for the survey is concerned the government’s encouragement of gas production (by exempting gas-fired power plants from emissions restrictions) is having a negative effect on the search for greener alternatives to fossil fuels.

With hostility to the locations of wind farms causing political tension concerns are mounting that renewable energy investments are being put on hold, as investors question the degree of political backing for cleaner energy.

This is why Friends of the Earth has called on the prime minister to use his speech at the Clean Energy Ministerial on Thursday 26 April to demonstrate his backing for low-carbon energy.

“The public has given a clear vote of confidence to clean British energy from our wind, sun and sea. It makes no sense for the government to pursue an unwanted, costly dash for gas that’s causing our fuel bills to rocket,” said Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s director of policy and campaigns.

“David Cameron must back Britain by using his speech to kick-start a switch to clean British energy. It’s time to wave goodbye to costly fossil fuels and develop affordable power for the future.”

Friends of the Earth believe the UK’s reliance on domestic renewable sources would not only help reduce co2 emissions, but would also create new green jobs. This is backed by government figures that show that £4bn of investment in renewables last year created nearly 14,000 new jobs.

This week London is host to The Clean Energy Ministerial and Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) in which international energy ministers will set the agenda for the UN sustainable development conferences which take place later in June and decide how to deliver energy to the world’s poorest people and promote a clean energy future.