walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_No Impact Man_, Colin Beavan (kindle)

Subtitled: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process

This book has an appendix for where to go to find out more about how you too can reduce your impact, arranged by chapter. The chapters are arranged by the stages in which Beavan reduced his impact. Some of bibliographical information is really disturbing; I've read and own many of the books Beavan includes in his list.

This is another in a non-fiction genre that's become really trendy in the last few years: younger-than-boomer author decides to spend a year living their life according to a set of clearly unattainable rules, writes a book about the process, describing what they liked, what was hard, how their friends and family reacted, and what they intend to stick with in the future, also, how it Changed Their Lives in expected and unexpected ways. Beavan, however, is very meta about it. When he's trying to reduce the impact of his food choices, he gets in touch with the couple who had then not yet written their book that would become _Plenty_ in the US and _The 100 Miles Diet_ in Canada.

Like Spurlock and other young-than-boomers who attempting to enact political change by massively rearranging their personal lives, a whole lotta zen speak. Also, a lot of charming detail about his and his wife's personal histories. Not in a what did they use instead of toilet paper way; in a class consciousness way.

Beavan is competitive and control freaky. He's engaging in this project in conjunction with a daily blog and, after a while, with a New York Times reporter trailing along behind him and his small family. This could have been really unpleasant, but he's so into self-criticism in a non-wallowing-in-despair sort of way that it instead takes the edge off what could otherwise be an incredibly annoying screed. The other thing that helps is his constant focus on the equal importance of getting power to the people in the world who do not have power to help them with things like laundry (boy, howdy, I sorta wish he'd gotten into the hauling water thing. Yeah, doing laundry in the tub sucks, buddy, but try hauling that water out of a well, too.). This is not an environmentalist who has never heard of social justice. It is refreshing.

While he mentions only in passing that just by living in Manhattan, his impact is a third that of a typical resident of the US, he does not otherwise make that much out of it. And even better, rather than advocating a bunch of stuff and then admitting he hates all of it, a la the author of _Green Metropolis_, Beavan clearly loves New York, and loves the effects on his life and relationships of many of the changes he makes for his project.

Beavan has a wonderfully driving prose style: after having to slog through other books I was, honestly, a lot more interested in reading, and far more motivated to extract information from, _No Impact Man_ was a swift breeze. The book is a pleasure, and worth the brief time it takes to sail through it. Break his rules, buy a copy -- then make sure you loan it out to all your friends. Or use your library card: first to check this out, then to work your way through his suggested reads. Even if you don't intend to make any changes, you might stumble into one or two anyway.
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