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Review - Ecologic - Brian Clegg  



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We've thought long and hard in the past about how to review books written by our editor, Brian Clegg. There's always the danger of seeming biased. So for this book we've instead gone for a summary of what it's about and a few quotes from an independent review in BBC Focus Magazine.

This is the thesis of the book:

We aren't well equipped to deal with green issues. Our natural tendency with such an emotive issue is to be swayed by feelings, rather than logic. And that's fine to get us all excited - but it doesn't make for good solutions to green problems. Ecologic uncovers the reality behind the greenwash and the eco-bogeymen.

It includes:

  • Why biodegradable carrier bags are worse for the environment than conventional ones

  • How a marketing organization gets primary schools to promote their brand

  • Why you're better off not eating celery than eating organic food to avoid additives

  • How a BMW 3 series can be better for the environment than a Toyota Prius hybrid car

  • Why carbon offsetting and being carbon neutral can have no impact on the planet

  • How a cottage garden can teach a big lesson in sustainability

  • … and much more

And here's part of the review:

This book crackles. Every paragraph pits your heart against your head. Those with green sensibilities and a nervous disposition may have a cardiac arrest. But the rest of us will have our synapses set alight...

He rails at ‘MMR madness’ and has the notorious Channel 4 programme The Great Global Warming Swindle bang to rights as an intellectual swindle itself. He is intelligent on fair trade and the “muck and mysticism” of organic farming and understanding about our unfortunate confusion over biodegradables...

A cracking read for anyone who cares about both their environmental footprint and their sanity in a world being flooded with greenwash and gobbledegook. (5 stars out of 5)

You can see more independent reviews at the book's web page.

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Review by Fred Pearce

Community Review by Pema

It was an admirable task for Brian to set about analysing the true "green-ness" of those claiming to be green on several broad spectrum environmental issues. However, I found the book more debilitating and exhilarating when it came to changing my own behaviour to be green. The approach was methodical indeed, the arguments well founded and certainly I learnt more in depth about several issues including a real look at the "organic" movement. And yet, while the author's best intentions are to reveal why and how we should be green, and properly green at that, there is little hint of this motivation apart from in the dedications and on the final pages of the book. Taking a scalpel to the "irrational" side of science is fine and yet it somehow cut out my raison d'etre of reading the book. By the end the book I was still wondering if cutting my carbon emissions would make the blindest bit of difference to anyone if nitrous oxide is the true bogeyman we should be focusing on, as Brian had factually pointed out.

On the positive and rather academic side the book made me ask lots of questions.

The best question the book made me ask myself was "what organic and natural things am I deceiving myself with that are actually really poisons?" It has stimulated much label reading in the kitchen and bathroom and a reverence for coffee, one the most toxic things I had not really thought much about until reading this book.

Oh well. If you want to pass your university Msc. in Science Studies by arguing and critiquing the issues then buy this book. If you want a green fairytale or a local green operational manual to inspire yourself out of eco-inertia you need to look elsewhere.

I am still waiting for a popular science book that is clear and easy enough to read in the bath to relax!

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Last update 05 June 2007