We are inundated daily with reports about the devastating effects climate change is wreaking on the planet. Just when we thought we had heard it all, former New York Times science writer Tatiana Schlossberg brings new issues to the forefront in her debut book, Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have, outlining how our individual habits and the products we use play a significant role in the changing climate.
Schlossberg’s investigative reporting skills are a huge asset in explaining how we got to this point, why it matters and what we can do about it. Full disclosure: She does not paint a pretty picture. The detailed scientific evidence and statistics she uncovers are mind-boggling and very scary, particularly the complexity of the consumer impact on the environment and how swiftly it’s altering our world. But she does her best to lighten the mood by mixing these cold, hard facts with witty prose.
She breaks the book down into four main sections of human consumption: technology and the internet, food, fashion and fuel. Most folks have heard about how food and fuel contribute to climate change, but technology and fashion are lesser-known culprits. The reasons behind the environmental footprint of these two industries are eye-opening, such as the enormous quantities of water required to grow cotton to make our jeans and the huge amount of power wasted by devices in off, standby and sleep mode (equivalent to a quarter of all residential energy, as per one study).
As pointed out by Schlossberg, what it boils down to is that many of our daily activities are “much more connected to each other, to global climate change, and to each one of us than we think.” Although she offers suggestions for many of the pressing issues, she admits that our ripple effect on climate change is confusing and that “it’s really hard to know the right thing to do.” As we continue to push the Earth to its limits, Inconspicuous Consumption is a call to action for our future success and survival.