Author Tags: Environment

A senior editor at the David Suzuki Foundation, Ian Hanington co-authored Just Cool It!: the Climate Crisis and What We Can Do - A post-Paris Agreement game plan (Greystone 2017) and Everything Under the Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet (Greystone 2012) with David Suzuki.

A former editor of the Georgia Straight, researcher, news reporter, and critic, Hanington teaches in the professional writing program at Douglas College.


Just Cool It!: the Climate Crisis and What We Can Do - A post-Paris Agreement game plan (Greystone 2017) Co-author David Suzuki $24.95 978-1-77164-259-0

Everything Under the Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet (Greystone 2012) Co-author David Suzuki 978-1553655282 $24.95

[BCBW 2017]

Just Cool It: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do
Review 2017

from John Gellard
Just Cool It: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington (Greystone Books $24.95)

A catastrophically narcissistic president in the U.S. believes climate change is a Chinese hoax and other politicians are being accused of taking illegal donations from energy companies via surrogates, so David Suzuki and Ian Hanington have provided realistic solutions in Just Cool It: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do. If we can put a man on the moon, Suzuki says we can change the outcome of the dire crisis that is upon us.

Human activity is profoundly altering the biosphere and, by extension, the very geology of the planet. The atmosphere is heating up. It’s a result of human greed and wilful ignorance. If we don’t do something about it, the human species is done for by the end of the century.

The bulk of Just Cool It: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do is taken up with solutions—things we can do individually and collectively—but first we must understand what global warming is. What is meant by calling carbon dioxide a “greenhouse gas”? Why is methane a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2?

What is a “positive feedback” mechanism? What is the “albedo effect” that should keep the Arctic Ocean cold but doesn’t? Why is this particular geological epoch called the Anthropocene?

Everything is connected. So Just Cool It gives exhaustive details about the effect of our addiction to fossil fuels, our profligate use of fertilizers, deforestation, overfishing and the “massive swirling islands of plastic waste in the oceans.”
If the oceans are being ruined, can the land be far behind? The book gives vivid accounts of desertification of grasslands, massive insect invasion of forests, catastrophic storms and floods, and migrations of people escaping starvation when droughts cause crops to fail.

Do you make fun of Al Gore? Are you a climate change denier or skeptic? Just Cool It examines how The Heartland Institute falsely argues that “global warming is a myth; that it’s happening but it’s natural … that it’s happening but we shouldn’t worry about it, that global cooling is the real problem … that CO2 is a benign gas that stimulates plant growth.”

David Suzuki and Ian Hanington carefully point out fallacies in such arguments, including the “false dichotomy” that pits “the natural environment against the human-invented economy.” They convincingly dismiss the notion that “economic growth” necessarily offers happiness.
So what is to be done?

As individuals we can resist an economic system that encourages waste and consumption and the careless use of fossil fuels.
•We can divest from the fossil fuel industry and invest in renewable energy.
•We can use fuel-efficient cars or electric cars.
•We can cultivate habits of bicycling, walking, and using public transportation instead of cars.
•We can resist anti-transit campaigns.
•We can insulate our homes and use energy-efficient lighting.
•We can install solar panels on our houses.
•We can buy less “stuff” and waste less.
•We can eat less meat and, by composting, waste less food.

In our agriculture, we can get away from factory farming and monocultures that use GMO seeds requiring chemicals. We can “design an agro-ecosystem that mimics the structure and function of local ecosystems and replace GMOs with “evolutionary plant breeding.” The authors praise the urban agriculture movement which uses space within cities to grow food and keep livestock.

Technological solutions are most important. We must revolutionize the way we produce electricity. Right now, in northern B.C., construction has begun on the 1100 megawatt Site C dam. The reservoir will flood 80 square km of the Peace River Valley containing valuable farmland and essential wildlife habitat. The justification for it is that we need another reliable “base-load” power station. The authors argue that the base-load idea is obsolete and that we should take advantage of the versatility of “variable renewables” hooked up to a “smart nimble grid” that can co-ordinate supply and demand.

Renewables would include solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal. Development of these systems is growing by leaps and bounds, and the costs are coming down. The Meikle wind farm, for example, near Site C, now generates close to twenty percent of the expected power of the dam at about a quarter of the cost per megawatt. And the sixty-one beautiful turbines have a far smaller “footprint.”

It is unfortunate that Just Cool It was completed before the election of Donald Trump whose new U.S. administration is packed with climate change deniers. Administrative orders have gutted the Environmental Protection Agency, removed restrictions from dumping highly toxic coal mining waste into streams and rivers and sent troops to clear Native American protestors away from construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Our own government of Canada has approved the Site C dam, and the Kinder-Morgan pipeline which will bring diluted bitumen to the coast to be shipped off in supertankers—400 a year. The loaded tankers will inevitably destroy the coastal ecosystem whether or not they run aground.

So what is to be done when we have governments that are so in thrall to the powerful, impersonal force field of Capital that they are incapable of acting in the best interests of the people and of the planet?

It’s as if we were on a runaway train. The First Class passengers are feasting and celebrating, and there’s a mad engine driver at the controls. How do we stop the train before it reaches the bridge that isn’t there?

Is revolt our only hope? Marches? Petitions? Civil disobedience? David Suzuki and Ian Hanington have done such a thorough job of offering solutions. The Epilogue in Just Cool It begins to suggest some of our next steps.


John Gellard is a retired teacher whose articles have appeared in the Globe and Mail and the Watershed Sentinel. He was named Canada’s “Best High School Teacher” in a Maclean’s poll in August 2005.