Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
Highly informative and accessible
on April 9, 2014
This is the autobiographical story of Colin Beavan, an author in New York who becomes greatly concerned with the negative impacts humans are having on the environment and embarks on a journey to discover what it looks like to live life in New York with a wife, small child and a dog while having no net impact on the environment. Beavan makes this transition gradually, making the following lifestyle changes over the course of a year: no production of trash whatsoever, almost entire reduction of carbon emissions, no impact eating through consumption of locally grown, organic foods, only purchasing previously owned or used goods, no coal-powered electricity and making positive impacts on the environment. He does not simply talk about the experiences, however, but explains his motives for undertaking the No Impact project, shares information about the degradation of different environmental resources and integrates his own personal struggles and past experiences in an occasionally heart-wrenching narrative style. This journey is clearly moral as he wrestles with the relationship between humanity and nature and searches for answers to human realities of suffering and death. Beavan ultimately concludes that while action by individuals is absolutely necessary to the restoration of our environment, a fundamental culture change must take place for the degradation of our habitat to come to a halt.
The brilliance of this book is its simplicity and acknowledgement of humanity; changing how we live is just plain hard, and Beavan never shies away from that fact but is instead brutally honest about how much he struggled at times. His writing is very accessible and even when he's sharing a lot of information about ecological crises around the world his terms are never so technical that the average person wouldn't be able to understand. Furthermore, he provides illustrations that make big numbers make sense for the individual, something that is rarely done but incredibly powerful. He has a very positive view of human nature, which is sometimes inspiring and empowering and other times comes off as rather naive. He is very upfront about his political and religious beliefs which I found refreshing and helpful for contextualizing his arguments and actions, whether or not I agreed with them.
The actions he takes to live in a more sustainable way are well researched and quite practical. He admits that he does not really expect the average American to put all of his ideas into practice (and that he was only able to do so because it was part of his job to carry out this whole project) but he writes of many people who were able to take a few of his ideas and integrate them into their everyday lifestyles. I found this helpful because I think living sustainably often sounds like a lot of work. It's helpful to get lots of ideas of different ways to live that are simultaneously minimally disruptive to the environment and our present lives. If reducing our contribution to the ecological crises of our day is so easy to do then we can feel empowered instead of helplessly complacent. That said, his ideas are significantly more relevant to other people living in large cities.