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‘The Future We Choose’ by Christina Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac – Book Review

‘The Stubborn Optimist’s Guide to the Climate Crisis’ – In equal parts shocking and inspiring, this book is a call to action, demanding urgent efforts to halt the damage that we are causing to our planet, while remaining determined that it is not too late to change things for the better.

The authors state that they both ‘stand with one foot in outrage and the other in optimism’, determined and full of ideas for what can be achieved, but weary that without immediate action we are heading down a dangerous path of increasingly extreme weather events, a rapidly warming planet resulting in rising sea levels, and food scarcity as farming is impacted by climate and soil degradation. We read that ‘half the world’s tropical forests have been cleared, and every year about 12 million more hectares are lost’, and ‘in the last 50 years, the populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians have, on average, declined by 60 per cent. Some suggest that we are already living through the sixth mass extinction’. However, the authors are quick to clarify that while environmental devastation is a growing possibility, it is not yet inevitable; ‘the full story has not been written … we have to choose’. The future is in our hands. 

Christiana Figueres (right) and Tom Rivett-Carnac (left). Picture credit: Greenbiz.com

Written by a pair of highly experienced politicians and climate activists (Figueres was the UN Executive Secretary for Climate Change 2010-2016, and Rivett-Carnac was senior political strategist for the groundbreaking 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change), this book strikes the balance between refusing to understate the seriousness of our global situation, highlighting dangers through alarming statistics and frightening predictions of a dark future, while refusing to let pessimism overpower the desire to achieve progress that can still be made. They offer reassurance that if certain milestones are reached, then it is not too late to alter the trajectory that we are on, without shying away from the fact that urgent actions must be made imminently by all of us if these positive global changes are to be achieved. 

In a section titled ‘What You Can Do Now’, Figueres and Rivett-Carnac list a series of achievable steps as to how we can all, jointly, help to achieve a better future, rather than descending further into climate change induced disasters. These suggestions range from eating less meat and cycling more, to contacting elected officials and campaigning for climate friendly policies. It is highlighted clearly that ‘Right Now’, we must collectively decide that progress is achievable, and that we will play our part. The authors state that ‘From this moment, despair ends and tactics begin’. We must commit to reducing our negative impacts on the environment, starting today, and continuing this trend into the future. 

In conversation with the two authors about the issues that are discussed in this book, David Attenborough asserted that ‘We have no option. No option if we want to survive. But the reason is because it’s the right thing to do’. 

More can be found at https://www.globaloptimism.com/

Written by Hannah Shakespeare