David R. Boyd wrote The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Toward a Greener Future with the premise that people are more likely to move forward if they think that there is hope. Boyd is not, as he states early on, a rose-colored glasses kind of writer. As an environmental lawyer for more than twenty years, he is in a position to know what efforts to preserve the environment are showing success and where further work is merited. And he is optimistic about our chances of becoming good stewards of the Earth.
Boyd does not claim everything is working wonderfully—there are plenty of points in the book that make one wince. Yet, he shows where efforts to clean water, restore habitat, move toward renewable energy, to create long-use, fully recyclable items, and, in general, to change matters for the better are bearing fruit, sometimes much faster than anticipated. His goal is to encourage further change. As he writes, “we need to be optimistic about our prospects for becoming better environmental stewards, so that we’ll take the actions required to save the planet.” Boyd backs his claims up with studies showing what is working, where, and how.
All of these numbers and studies mean that The Optimistic Environmentalist is not always the liveliest of reading. There are few personalities here and the book tends toward a more abstract view of events. The prose is serviceable rather than lyrical. The book does, however make Boyd’s point: People are making progress, and we are capable of making more. As someone who has teetered between trying to keep up with recycling, doing the small bits involved in keeping an environmentally friendly front yard, and resolutely not reading about global warming simply because there seems to be no hope of managing it, I appreciate the good news, all the more so because it is grounded.
So, I’m all in favor of The Optimistic Environmentalist as an argument for continuing.
The Optimistic Environmentalist comes out from ECW Press on August 11, 2015. Find it it on Amazon