Discourse on climate change is fraught with emotion, which generates more heat than light. In contrast, Samuel Goodman calmly examines the evidence, and presents it in a book that logically describes the problem, and what we can do about it.
He decided to become a climate scientist because he wanted to make a difference, but he doesn’t write like a scientist. The book’s tone is more like that of an inspiring teacher. Einstein said, you don’t understand something until you can explain it to your grandmother, and that could have been Samuel’s guiding principle when writing. Beyond Carbon Neutral could be set as a textbook for a middle-grade science class. Students would come away informed, and inspired to take action. In addition, it should be set as compulsory reading for all candidates for political office.
As the subtitle implies, this is an optimistic book in a situation of the gravest concern. Of necessity, the Introduction rubs in the problem: nothing matters if we all die. “Our only hope of reclaiming our lives is to do something about climate change” (p 16). However, the theme immediately becomes “There is still time to keep the door from closing on our future” (p 17).
Given the problem we are facing, the discourse goes from the technical and practical to the political. Here also, the reasoning is calm, and all the more powerful for being so. We are led to understand why and how greed is destroying our world, how vested interests rule politics — and what we can do about it if we have the will.
If I have a criticism, it is that this book focuses almost entirely on the USA. This is not unreasonable, but the case would be even more powerful by considering global solutions for a global problem with global causes.