Pic: Cambridge University Press

Book review: There is no Planet B by Mike Berners-Lee

 2 mins | By Antony David
 | Book review | Aug 28th 2020

For the many of us concerned to understand the nature of the environmental crisis humanity faces, and what we can do about it, Mike Berners-Lee’s book offers wide ranging descriptions and analysis of the challenges as well as advice for individuals and organisations.

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He reminds us global heating is not the only emergency we have to deal with. The first chapter focuses on food and discusses supply chains, wastage, inequities in availability and the consequences for a global population forecast to grow from 7.8 billion today to 9.7 billion in 2050 and around 11 billion by 2100, and draws on his first book, How bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything.

Professor Mike Berners-Lee. Pic: theresnoplanetb.net

In what Berners-Lee describes as a handbook, most of the writing takes the form of answers to a host of questions about the topics. There are plenty of facts, many presented in accessible graphics. In his discussions of all the topics from climate change to energy, transport, work, economics and society, he strives for a politically neutral stance frequently betrayed by his egalitarian instincts. In the final chapters he reprises his beliefs in the values underpinning the changes he thinks are required for humanity to survive the Anthropocene era it has created.

The missing piece is chiefly our ability to adjust our mindsets and lifestyles to a less consumerist, more relaxed way. There is plenty here to help us as individuals to understand how we might follow such a path, but he stops at offering solutions to the intractable problems of getting effective global cooperation, hoping, one assumes, that people can lead their own governments.

On technology, he maintains that most of the tools required to address the challenges we face are already at our disposal. While this may be true, the rate of innovation of sustainable technologies offers the prospect that they may still play a bigger part though we may be wise to discount this in our present state.


About the Author

Antony David

A chemistry graduate, Antony spent most of his career using and then making equipment for the music and broadcast industries. He was managing director of Oxford-based electronics and software company, Solid State Logic.

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