Gaia 2023: Greeniology 2020 by Tanya Ha

You must be the change you wish to see in the world

Mahatma Ghandi

Climate change is at the front of our minds these days, particularly as we experience soaring temperatures and more extreme weather events than ever before. Hearing the dire predictions for the future, it is quite natural to feel overwhelmed. We wonder: what do we do? Where do we start? Thankfully, Tanya Ha has produced an easy-to-read, practical book that summarises the science, but more importantly, gives us the information and tools to make the changes that will make a difference.

Tanya Ha is an Australian author, science journalist and environmental campaigner. Her first book, Greeniology (2003) is the forerunner to Greeniology 2020, which was published in 2011. Often described as the “people’s environmentalist,” Ha says: “ordinary people can achieve great things when they’re made to feel empowered, rather than guilty.” The blurb for Greeniology 2020 says…

There’s never been a better time to reduce your personal impact on the environment and prepare for change as our society moves towards sustainability. Covering everything from green cleaning and eco fashion to growing food and saving energy and water, Greeniology 2020 is a practical, fun guide to changing your lifestyle for a healthier home and healthier planet.

Not all of us feel comfortable on the front line of climate change protest action, but we do all share the responsibility for trying to fix a damaged earth. Instead of complaining about it, Ha encourages each of us to step up to the plate, take responsibility for our own actions and focus on being a part of the solution. In Greeniology 2020 she outlines the steps we can take to change our lives, and explains how and why this matters, calling it the “science and art of living a greener life.”

The first chapter, Becoming Future Ready, gives an overview of the environmental challenges of climate change, from rising temperatures and sea levels, to changing rainfall patterns and increased droughts and bushfires. However, Ha reminds us that as human beings, we are resilient, innovative and adaptable. We only need to look at the Covid 19 pandemic to remind us of how we can work together for change – when we see the immediate need. Greeniology 2020 is essentially a workbook for developing an action plan to create a greener life. Readers are encouraged to think about and set short, medium and long term goals that will help them meet the over-arching goal of a greener life.

The rest of the book covers topics such as creating a healthy home environment, workplace practices, eco cleaning, sustainable fashion, daily life routines, recycling, energy and water use. Much of the information presented could almost be regarded as common knowledge now, however I did learn a few new interesting things. There is a handy little list of indoor plants that are not just green and attractive but also work to purify the air. These include aloe vera, peace lily, gerbera and spider plant. Good excuse to visit your local plant nursery!

During the pandemic, the sale of anti-bacterial and industrial-strength cleaners shot through the roof, and while they have their place, there are kinder, healthier and cheaper alternatives such as bi-carb soda, white vinegar and lemon juice. Ha likes to promote a more commonsense approach to cleaning, but one thing I didn’t know is the number of products that release fumes into the air. Who knew books could be toxic! Fortunately by the time I get mine they have already had a good airing, but we should be wary of cheap furniture made from plastic and other man-made materials. Investing in good quality furniture made from sustainable timber seems to be a healthier way to go.

Fashion, both in the wardrobe and in the home, comes in for a beating. We all know about the down side of fast fashion which ends up in landfill, but natural isn’t always as environmentally friendly as we might think. For example, the production of cotton requires the intensive consumption of water and chemicals. There’s no need to purge our wardrobes though. Ha recommends thinking more about the way we use and care for the garments we already have. You know, less is more, buy second-hand, and be inspired by Yves Laurent who said: “Fashions fade; style is eternal.”

There is also plenty of information on growing your own food, the benefits of gardening, and even how to have a green baby. Climate science and sustainable technology is a rapidly changing area, so much of the information is a little out of date by now, however Greeniology 2020 is still a very practical book which encourages readers to identify the changes they want to make and put them into practice. One of the best take aways from the book is Ha’s encouragement to be “as green as possible, within your means” and to view sustainability as an ongoing project. It is a very encouraging and practical choice for the Gaia Reading Challenge hosted by Sharon from Gum Trees and Galaxies.

Today, February 11th, is also the International Day for Women and Girls in Science. Environmental campaigners and science journalists, like Tanya Ha, play a very important role in communicating the science of climate change to those of us who care about our world, are worried about the future and want to know what we can do to make a difference. This year the focus of the day is to champion the work of women scientists working at the forefront of climate science and to recognise the valuable role of women and girls in sustainable development. As the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says,

We can all do our part to unleash our world’s enormous untapped talent – starting with filling classrooms, laboratories, and boardrooms with women scientists.

The International Day for Women and Girls in Science is about communicating their amazing contribution to the world.

Happy Reading!


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