Want to have the joyous bubble of your Western consumerist lifestyle momentarily burst? Pick up Everything Under the Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet, the latest book from everyone’s favourite Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki. The book, co-written with Ian Hanington, is a powerful look at nearly every aspect of our planet and the impact we have had on it. While at times the content is quite grim, it offers many helpful suggestions and remains hopeful that we can still pull ourselves out of our current nosedive of environmental destruction, and help to restore the planet for future generations.
The book is true to its name, and covers an astounding array of environmental issues that we currently face. Everything Under the Sun’s diverse subject matter moves from the health of our oceans and forests to our oil addiction, over to the mass loss of species and growth of the human population. Suzuki has a knack for taking complex information and boiling it down into an easily digestible and interesting format. Throughout the book, Suzuki stresses the point that we are running out of time to save ourselves, noting in several instances that he and other scientists have been spouting warnings about the consequences of our actions for 20+ years now. Many of the facts that the book provides are depressing and quite frightening, and although each section and chapter ends speaking of hope, the road ahead looks dark and difficult. It is clear in the writing of many of the book’s passages that Suzuki is angry, and not afraid to display his frustration with the trajectory of Western society in particular.
Everything Under the Sun follows a simple structure, with each chapter dedicated to a particular issue. These chapters are broken up into smaller subsections, so that Suzuki can present focused arguments on specific topics. While he never examines one area for too long, we are still provided with a bounty of fascinating facts about the natural world. One downside to this structure is that although it makes the book very easy to read, the formatting occasionally leads to some repetition of facts, as Suzuki goes over various interconnected subjects. Everything Under the Sun provides us with the latest research on each tackled issue, and looks at specific events that have occurred in the past few years such as the Gulf Oil Spill and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. These concrete examples demonstrate the issues surrounding our dependence on oil and nuclear energy, as well as the dangers they involve. In each chapter, Suzuki notes what can be done to change our current path to a more green and sustainable future. He explains that while individuals can make an impact, these well-intentioned efforts are not enough, and we must lobby our governments to stand up against destructive corporations who see only their bottom line when looking at the Earth’s finite resources.
This book was a very enjoyable read. I’ve always been a sucker for anything regarding nature and the environment and Everything Under the Sun presents the most pressing issues facing humans and our planet in a way that is understandable. Perhaps the most powerful thing about this book is the urgency in which the facts are presented. It is very clear that we need to become proactive in finding sustainable ways to live or we run the risk of damaging the planet beyond repair, thus endangering future generations. As the book wisely points out, humans belong to a diverse biosphere, and exploiting everything else within it, assuming it won’t affect us, is simple folly. The onus is on us to make the necessary changes and chose our priorities.