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Being the Change (PDF)
Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution
We all want to be happy. Yet as we consume ever more in a frantic bid for happiness, global warming worsens. Alarmed by drastic changes now occurring in the Earth's climate systems, the author, a climate scientist and suburban father of two, embarked on a journey to change his life and the world. He began by bicycling, growing food, meditating, and making other simple, fulfilling changes. Ultimately, he slashed his climate impact to under a tenth of the US average and became happier in the process.
Being the Change explores the connections between our individual daily actions and our collective predicament. It merges science, spirituality, and practical action to develop a satisfying and appropriate response to global warming.
Part one exposes our interconnected predicament: overpopulation, global warming, industrial agriculture, growthaddicted economics, a soldout political system, and a mindset of separation from nature. It also includes a readable but authoritative overview of climate science. Part two offers a response at once obvious and unprecedented: mindfully opting out of this broken system and aligning our daily lives with the biosphere.
The core message is deeply optimistic: living without fossil fuels is not only possible, it can be better.
Peter Kalmus is a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory with a Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University. At work he studies the physics of clouds in a changing climate, and at home he explores how we can address climate change while living happier, more connected lives. He lives in Altadena, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, with his wife and two children on 1/10th the fossil fuels of the American average. He enjoys orcharding, beekeeping, and backpacking. Peter speaks purely on his own behalf, not on behalf of NASA or Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"A plethora of insights about nature and ourselves, revealed by one man's journey as he comes to terms with human exploitation of our planet."
Dr. James Hansen, climate scientist and former director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies
"A powerful reminder that it is possible — and joyful — to move away from fossil fuels, even in a society still in the throes of addiction."
Bill McKibben, author, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
"A low-carbon world will not look like Star Trek, it will look mostly like it looks today, it's just that we will inhabit it differently. Peter Kalmus's brilliant book is about his deciding to start living that way today. He finds that (a) it's not that hard, and that (b) life improves. He becomes more skilled, connected, fulfilled, nourished. As will we all. Allow him to ease you over the threshold."
Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement robhopkins.net.
"Too many people say that personal action isn't enough to deal with the mess we've made of the global climate, and think that this means personal action isn't necessary. In this timely and provocative book, Peter Kalmus points out that changing the world has to start with changing our own lives. It's a crucial message that needs to be heard."
John Michael Greer, author of After Progress and The Retro Future
"What does an astrophysicist do if he learns that civilization is on path toward oblivion? If he's Peter Kalmus, he meditates, examines his life, and makes significant changes to reduce his personal carbon output. Then he writes a book. The result is a humane and intelligent exploration of what anyone can do to reduce climate impact — and live a better life in the process."
Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute
"A low-emission lifestyle is empowering, happier, and strengthens our connection with community and our environment (plus yes, it saves us thousands of dollars). This is an important and valuable book, and recommended reading for anyone interested in a richer life or a safer climate (doubly so for those interested in both)."
John Cook, research assistant professor at George Mason University and founder of SkepticalScience.com
"Too often, books by scientists err toward the ultra-cerebral. Full of facts, figures and charts — but not enough heart. That's what makes Being the Change so refreshing. Kalmus is a respected atmospheric scientist and weighs in with authority when it comes to the topic of climate change. But he speaks to us as a person, sharing his experiences, concerns, and aspirations as a fellow human being combatting the existential threat of human-caused climate change. And he shares with us a vital message about how we can indeed be the change we need tosee in the world if we are to avert a climate catastrophe."
Michael E. Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Penn State University, and co-author, The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening the Planet, Destroying our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy
"When Science and the mind are aligned with the heart, they become True Science and it manifests in books like Being the Change — a sort of courageous manifesto for citizens of the World in the 21st century. Peter Kalmus is the kind of dad, husband, friend, serious meditator, scientist, heartivist and brother any of us concerned for future generations and more harmonious communities would like to have in our (Solar)neighborhood."
Pancho Ramos-Stierle, Satyagrahi and full-time ServiceSpace volunteer
"Imagine you had your very own climate scientist living next door. What would he or she tell you to do? Peter is that neighbor. He walks the walk for his kids, for the land, for our future — and he can help you do it too."
Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, authors, The Urban Homestead and Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World rootsimple.com
"So often, we feel that nothing we do will make a difference. Peter doesn't just dispel that myth, he buries it: under his feral bee hives, his urban chicken run, and his compost heap (just don't ask what's in it). These gut-wrenchingly honest yet obstinately hopeful reflections provide a roadmap to building our own personal bulwark against the storm we face today."
Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist, Professor at Texas Tech University, author, A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-based Decisions
"This book makes it clear that all of us have a responsibility to cherish the miracles that compose the natural world. We need to think deeply about how we live and then, as Peter Kalmus advises, radically reduce our use of fossil fuels. Everything is sacred. Learning how to get along, to be happy and to live within the limits of the biosphere are sacred tasks. Please read this book. It will be good for your soul."
James Hoggan, author, I'm Right and You're an Idiot
"Peter's work makes me smile. The mission of Citizens Climate Lobby is to create the political will for a livable planet by encouraging others to make breakthroughs in their personal and political power. Peter demonstrates practical steps, for individuals and organizations all the way up to the global scale, to advance these goals. His manner of living exemplifies the connection between power, reason, creativity and joy."
James Waterhouse, co-founder, Citizens Climate Lobby, Pasadena Foothills Chapter; co-founder, SoCal 350 Action Network
"We all must take huge risks in order to create a truly just and life-sustaining society. Being the Change maps the first important leaps on this journey, describing real-life examples of the good life that awaits us beyond capitalism, species-extinction, economic injustice, and fossil-fuel addiction. It is a roadmap out of our destructive and oppressive culture that touches upon the essential need for wealth redistribution and racial justice in the climate revolution. Please follow Peter's inspiring example: we must act."
Ethan Hughes, co-founder of the Possibility Alliance
Coming Ashore in a World Adrift
How churches are working to protect Earth's climate
Building to Cool the Climate