Edward Davey, began his book in 2015 – and it shows. Given Half a Chance starts with the optimism around the UN’s delivery of the Global Goals and COP21 Paris Agreements. Twice in that year, global leaders came together to make solid commitments to society and the environment: ‘despite a fractured world, the international community had somehow managed to put its difference aside and broker these two ambitious agreements,’ he writes. In light of the political upheaval that has unfolded since, Given Half a Chance is a quick and insightful guide to get us back on track.
The ten ways – rather than instructions such as ‘recycle more’ – are the important subjects we should be focusing on, such as forests, renewables, oceans and biodiversity. To tackle them, Davey brings together some of the biggest names in the environmental movement. Generally, this works to the book’s advantage. Each path can report straight from the helm of projects such as Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, ongoing efforts to create a Global Ocean Commission, and the French government’s initiative to increase the carbon content of soil.
Occasionally, however, the book leans too heavily on interviews with established figureheads. Interactions with David Attenborough and Prince Charles are referenced often, despite not offering any revelatory information. Prestige is also favoured over grassroots, and the paths refer more often to corporate leaders and ‘top ten people to change the world’ than group stories. Not only might this intimidate the young generations Davey hopes to inspire, it is also a missed opportunity to give coverage to effective but uncelebrated projects. Besides, real environmental revolution will involve the cooperation of billions of people, not just the top ten.
Nonetheless, the book is a valuable introduction to the many sides of the environmental challenge. Far from being a gimmick, the book’s listicle style makes solving them seem straightforward. Given Half a Chance finishes with a sense of hope that we are ‘on the cusp of an astonishing transition’, and returns us to 2015’s sense of possibility, and its urgency.
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