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How You Can Save the Planet (cover)

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, London

Publication Year: 2021

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 240

ISBN Number: 9780241453049

Price: £ 7.99

How You Can Save the Planet

A book by Hendrikus van Hensbergen, the founder Action for Conservation (an organisation getting more young people involved in nature), needs little introduction. Highlighting the lack of participation of young people in conservation, the organisation has helped to inspire others in the field to engage more with the young. The charity has a large following and holds a series of successful events and programmes throughout the year. Action for Conservation was a major influence in the creation of the BTO’s Youth Advisory Panel.

You could easily be forgiven for assuming that van Hensbergen would be writing a biography. He certainly has enough experiences to talk about.  Yet, his book is a powerful addition to the work of Action for Conservation, getting young people to realise what they can do to help 'save the planet'.

The book acts as a guide to how school age children can create their own campaigns, organise projects and speak to those in power. Van Hensbergen explores the ways in which young people can get involved and, refreshingly, does not sugar-coat the practicalities and compromises needed to get projects off the ground. At the end of the book there are links to many organisations that can help with plans. Speaking from personal experience, the clear guide to places is highly useful in what can sometimes seem like a daunting task.

The true selling point of the book is the inspiring case studies of individual actions for conservation. These stories importantly help to make the book seem realistic, enthusing its young readers to think "if they can do it why can’t I?" The individuals range in age, with some young people’s journeys being from the age of 6 to 13 in the case of Louise Chauvet and to others who found nature later, when in secondary school. A few of the stories are especially inspiring due to the exceptional nature of the individuals involved; Helena Gualinga’s challenge to the fossil fuel industry in the Amazon Rainforest springs to mind among many others. Van Hensbergen also does a great job of looking at individuals from communities traditionally underrepresented in the sector and their stories are a positive way of giving these communities a voice. Moreover, the difficult experience referenced by individuals like Dara McAnulty, who faced bullying as an autistic person who was into nature, are particularly special in encouraging others not to let the bullies prevail.

If I had any complaint with the book, it would be its format. A larger A4 workbook would be more appealing to read rather than the current large amount of often-squashed large text. A larger format would enable crucial points to be highlighted and allow for annotations, which I feel the current format does not particularly support. As an 'Action' guide it feels disappointing to see the book let down by a conventional format.

It would also have been worthwhile for some of the interviews with the young people featured in the book to have been expanded. Overall How You Can Save the Planet is an engaging and thought provoking book and an extremely useful guide for young people keen to get involved in environmental action.

Book reviewed by Keir Chauhan

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