Monday, September 07, 2020

The Story of More by Hope Jahren

The Story of More by Hope Jahren is a good book following up on her biography Lab Girl and this effort subtitled How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here.

Part One: Life - Jahren notes how in 2009 she was asked to teach a class on climate change and the research for that led to The Story of More. The point is made that the problem we have with resources in the world today is one of distribution, many of us consume beyond our needs and many don't have enough resources. The vast majority of deaths in the world come from illness, with in the developed countries those coming from heart disease and cancer, and in less developed countries, from things linked to lack of access to clean water, sewage systems, vaccinations, and antibiotics. Jahren covers that there have been definite improvements in access to clean water and immunizations, but it still a large problem in much of the world.

Part Two: Food - Jahren starts this section by detailing how eating meat requires an enormous amount of resources. Six pounds of grain fed to an animal results in one pound of meat harvested. She makes the point that people don't necessarily need to become vegetarians, they just need to eat less red meat and poultry, as eating less meat means less grain that goes into feeding the animals that are eaten. If the 37 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) cut meat consumption by half, it would free up 120 millions tons of grain per year to feed the hungry. Additionally, there's a similar problem with fish that there is with meat as most fish eaten today are harvested via aquaculture rather than line-caught, and require large amounts of fish food, one pound of salmon requires three pounds of fish meal. Jahren also notes the negative impact of waste, 20% of what American families send to the landfill each day is edible food, around 2/3 pound a day.

Part Three: Energy - Detailed in the book is how we use energy for everything, and energy, just like food is heavily weighted towards developed countries. Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, has just over 13% of the global population and less than half the people there live without electricity. The region also has half of all people globally who live without access to clean water. Back to the idea of distribution, Jahren notes that if all the fuel and electricity used today were distributed equally to every person on the globe, they would have plenty, consuming the same amount as the average person in Switzerland in the 1960s. The mantra around this, and many other things in the book is use less and share more. It's also covered how cars and airplanes are enormous energy hogs, as well as outrageously dangerous, and how most discussion around energy is around how we can get more, not how we can use less.

Part Four: Earth - Jahren writes of how the burning of fossil fuels leads to more carbon dioxide, warmer temperatures, melting ice, and rising waters. We're at a risk for a sixth mass extinction of species, with the last sixty-six million years ago wiping out the dinosaurs. There are wide-scale geo-engineering projects being talked about, and those discussions should occur, but energy conservation requires the least effort of any approach. There is reason for hope, we can foster that by looking at our own lives and how we use.

Appendix: The Action You Take - She closes the book with the notion that each person should think about what matters to them, learn about it, make a change that they can make. Even seemingly simple changes like buying less food so there's less waste and keeping the heater or A/C in the house turned off or down matter. It's noted that home energy use largely driven by the water heater, if someone can go from a fifty gallon heater to twenty, energy usage in the house can be cut a great deal. It's a sobering book to be sure, but also one with reason for hope and tangible ideas that can be implemented.