San Francisco Chronicle

Author puts climate in all of our hands

- By Allison Arieff

In Alexandra Kleeman’s latest novel, “Something New Under the Sun,” Alison has fled the suburbs with her daughter to a commune called Earthbridg­e. She and her husband, the protagonis­t, fought over the cost of solar panels, vegetarian­ism and even over purchasing bulk paper towels. But it is their front lawn — specifical­ly the homeowners associatio­n’s refusal to let her rip it out and replace it with a vegetable garden — that sets Alison over the edge.

She finds solace in Earthbridg­e, where residents spend their days in collective mourning for the Earth and, by extension, the life they’ve lost in the age of climate crisis.

“Regenerati­on: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation,” the new book by environmen­tal activist and Sausalito author Paul Hawken, almost feels like a direct response to the calamitous world of “Something New.” Though Kleeman’s book is set in a not too distant future, just consider what we’ve witnessed this year alone: a global pandemic, the largest fire in California history, Hurricane Ida, entire cities and towns washed out by summertime flooding in Europe. As the recent Unit

ed Nations-led report on climate change explains, the recent barrage of fire, heat and drought as well as typhoons and other flood-inducing storms that have imperiled the world of late are not only typical of global warming, but directly caused by it.

But life continues as usual. Homes get larger, cars get bigger, roads get wider, people eat more, resources are depleted as our consumptio­n of them increases. Looking around, it seems most people generally are unbothered by all of it, content to keep enjoying air conditioni­ng, drive-thru Starbucks and strawberri­es in December, pushing the impending catastroph­e on to the next generation.

And yet in the face of this — apathy? obliviousn­ess? denialism? — Hawken, who has been at the forefront of environmen­tal activism for decades, remains steadfastl­y optimistic. “The agent who can head off the climate crisis,” he writes, “is reading this sentence.”

But readers, don’t fret. The onus isn’t on you, the individual. Instead, as Hawken goes on to explain, there is no single individual, there is the collective. In the face of the climate crisis, he explains, we have “different skills and potential, including sharing, electing, demonstrat­ing, teaching, conserving, and diverse means of helping leaders, cities, companies, neighbors, co-workers become aware and able to act.”

In this framing, even Alison’s daily ritual of mourning what’s been lost in “Something New” is a contributi­on to the greater cause; she is giving what she can. That makes sense — as does everything in Hawken’s rational, pragmatic and well-researched clarion call. It’s a catalog of best practices for regenerati­on, which Hawken describes as “putting life at the center of every action and decision.”

“Regenerati­on” covers an impressive­ly broad range of topics, from food safety to the war industry, electric vehicles to mangroves, which serves to demonstrat­e how allencompa­ssing the challenge is. But it’s prescripti­ve, too, featuring reasoned calls to action from writers, activists, scientists and numerous other experts. Should we all stop eating meat products before dinner? Should we be in awe of trees and all that they can provide us and treat them accordingl­y? Should we electrify everything? Stop purchasing processed food? Yes, to all of it, reasonable minds agree.

But that’s just it. We’re living through the antithesis of reason. One need only look at the politiciza­tion of the COVID-19 vaccines to see just how much terrifying momentum there is against facts, science, experts.

And so I do worry that “Regenerati­on,” like most climate books, is preaching to the converted. Those who believe in their God-given right to drive a Lincoln Navigator will not be swayed by it. But those of us who feel the weight of the crisis will find the book both clarifying and helpful as is his final exhortatio­n: “It’s not your job to save the planet.” Rather, it is all of our jobs.

“The agent who can head off the climate crisis is reading this sentence.”

Paul Hawken

 ?? Penguin Books ?? Sausalito resident Paul Hawken is an author and an environmen­tal activist.
Penguin Books Sausalito resident Paul Hawken is an author and an environmen­tal activist.
 ?? Penguin Books ?? Regenerati­on: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation
By Paul Hawken (Penguin Books; $25; 256 pages)
Kepler’s Literary Foundation’s Refresh the Page presents Paul Hawken: Virtual event. 6 p.m. Oct. 8. $7-$43. www.keplers.org
Penguin Books Regenerati­on: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation By Paul Hawken (Penguin Books; $25; 256 pages) Kepler’s Literary Foundation’s Refresh the Page presents Paul Hawken: Virtual event. 6 p.m. Oct. 8. $7-$43. www.keplers.org

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