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Being the Change: How to Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  178 ratings  ·  38 reviews
How a climate scientist and suburban father cut his climate impact down to one tenth the US average and became happier because of it. Being the Change merges science, spirituality, and practical knowledge to offer a deeply optimistic message: living without fossil fuels is not only possible, it can be better.
Published July 17th 2017 by New Society Publishers
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  178 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nccca
I had the pleasure of hearing the author speak at a book signing. Dr. Kalmus' story is compelling as are the many solutions he not only offers, but indeed he lives. They author is walking the walk, cycling to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he works, to study climate change. The first section of this book is the best description of climate change I've read yet. His thoughtful hand holding through the process of explaining CO2e and GHG equivalence will crack open the otherwise challenging-to- ...more
Daniel Gair
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-world
In “Being the Change”, NASA climate physicist Peter Kalmus takes us on a journey, mostly by bicycle, to a future where humans learn to live in harmony with nature, and themselves. That future also happens to be Kalmus’s present.
In the first third of the book, Being the Change offers a sweeping survey of current climate science, before moving on to explore how individuals can effect real change on a personal level while elevating that change to a pilgrimage of spirit. Through Kalmus's enter
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cannot recommend this book enough. Will write a full review later.

ETA: Here it is. Essay alert! TL;DR: READ IT!

I have been following Peter Kalmus on Twitter for some time, and bought this book about 6 months ago, but put off reading it until recently.

I was and am afraid of what climate breakdown will look like, and I was and am resistant to making changes to my lifestyle that I know I should. If you are anything like me, your lifestyle is not sustainable and you feel g
Edouard Stenger
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another book I discovered lately, Being the Change by Peter Kalmus is an excellent opus on climate change. Too many of them focus on the big picture and macro economics and this is my first about this topic with a personal lens.

Peter Kalmus is a scientist and a very smart man: he is a climate scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and he has a Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University.

The author now lives with a carbon footprint a tenth of the US per capita average: two metric tons
Elle Crosby
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The first half of this book is a solid overview of the science proving that global warming is happening, is caused by humans, and is getting rapidly worse the more we burn fossil fuels. The second half is what I was really excited about - what we as individuals can do to reduce our fossil fuel consumption and help others do the same.

There was lots of great advice that I plan to put into action, others that I hope to put into action if I ever own a home with a yard, and others still that I see t
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book may not inspire everyone to cut back on fossil fuels but it will inspire some to take action. It will inspire more people to ride bikes, to garden and compost, to consume less. And those people will in turn inspire others. What Kalmus says is true, it is not enough to wait and hope that governments will mandate an end to fossil fuels. We have been waiting and meanwhile emissions have been increasing. We have to begin with ourselves. And when we do take action we will feel happier. In a ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Climate change is the challenge of our times. Barring nuclear war, it's the thing that will most affect our children and their children in turn. But it feels overwhelming. What can I do about it?

This wonderful book courageously tackles this difficult question. The author, a climate scientist, speaks from his personal experience, describing how it came to feel wrong to burn fossil fuels (he sees the suffering it's causing, e.g. Harvey) and giving specific detail as to how he cut back
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Kalmus is a climate scientist so it was great to read his take on climate change. He loads the book with lots of detailed information that can sometimes get a bit overwhelming but he saves most of the truly technical stuff for the notes. It's all pretty grim but he manages to keep it from feeling hopeless. He talks a lot about the things he has done in his personal life to quit fossil fuels and to advocate for a post-carbon future and offers suggestions and encouragement for readers to take thei ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mindfulness
"Meditation bridges the gulf between what we know to be right and what we actually do."

"Our natural tendency is to run away from suffering by constantly seeking pleasant sensation. Our society is built around chasing happiness through consumption."

"The average American watches over five hours of TV per day -- 12 years over a 40 year period."

"In a global poll, 24% of the world's people said the United States is the greatest threat to world peace."

Perfect. It's rare to find a book that is written with compassion but it also honest and realistic, this is one. The author's scientific background informs a climate perspective and action plans that are realistic and can make a meaningful difference in the face of such a large problem.
Also one of those few books that realize solving our current crisis will require the end of the growth economy and the end of the idea that humans are separate from the world around us.
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have so many thoughts on this book, I'm not sure even where to begin with a review. I could probably write a review that would rival the length of the book itself.

The title jumped out at me because I am always looking for ways to improve myself, my life, and my impact on my community and the world. I always want to be part of the solution rather than the problem. When it comes to global warming, we are all unfortunately, inevitably, part of the problem, through our mere existence, but I do be
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, important
So this book was a wild ride. I read it from May 2019 to August 2019, thats four months. I honestly didn't think I was going to finish this book and that was because of two chapters - Chapters 3 and 4 - which are 45 pages in total. 45 pages delayed me finishing this book by about 3 months. These two chapters talked about the scientific causes and evidences for CLIMATE CHANGE and I did not understand a single word of it. It was like reading a foreign language. All the scientific terms and jargon ...more
C Bower
Sep 15, 2019 marked it as to-read
Saw in op-ed LA Times 9/15/2019
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hmm. Enjoyed a lot of things about this book. I liked the idea of focusing on how we may actually be improving our quality of life by choosing slower, less wasteful modes of being and doing. I thought there were a lot of interesting specific suggestions. I liked the integration of a spiritual perspective, and the woodcut illustrations which really did break up the text. I liked the science, which was straightforwardly explained, and the recommendations.

The author was trying really ha
Aug 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Helpful, clear, brief review of climate change. I especially liked the portion about how to calculate your own carbon output. I found the author's changes to his life to reduce his carbon output very interesting but (as Kalmus acknowledges) these personal changes are not sufficient for the problem at hand.
Daniel Gair
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In “Being the Change”, NASA climate physicist Peter Kalmus takes us on a journey, mostly by bicycle, to a future where humans learn to live in harmony with nature, and themselves. That future also happens to be Kalmus’s present.

In the first third of the book, Being the Change offers a sweeping survey of current climate science, before moving on to explore how individuals can effect real change on a personal level, while elevating that change to a pilgrimage of spirit. Through Kalmus'
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peter Kalmus has written a profound book about the science of global warming, and a profound book about love:
“These two seemingly disparate things – reducing my own fossil fuel use and increasing my ability to love – are actually intimately interconnected.”
In the process he grapples with three of the most troublesome questions facing the environmental movement. Can we convince people it’s essential to eliminate fossil fuel use, when our own lifestyles say that fossil fuel use is n
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution will show you that you can hugely reduce your fossil fuel use and have a good time doing it.

Last November, I was browsing the book table at an event when I spotted Being the Change by climate scientist Peter Kalmus. I read the back cover and flipped through the book.

Kalmus’ message seemed to be that you could substantially reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and still enjoy your life. I think many people are fearful of l
Mitch Cloke
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I was in a bit of a predicament in how I should score this book. The ideas and changes the author has made to reduce his footprint are inspiring - and yet most of what he has changed are what many people are already doing, thus not offering many new alternatives. Therefore, 5 stars for the message he’s conveying, but 3 stars for me due to the lack of ideas. However, it is certainly a book everyone should read.

The one thing I have taken away though is there is no magic fix. Small chan
Chris Anderson
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Being the Change is a rare combination of Buddhist philosophy and climate activism which provides a fresh look at this important issue. There are a lot of great examples of how to take action now, as individuals, and some guidance on collective action. However, one major downside of books like this is their implicit assumption of (relative) wealth and privilege. Although the author briefly recognizes this weakness, he doesn’t do enough to address how to move forward. Climate activists must also ...more
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the better books that I've read about the climate crisis. The beginning is an impressively researched and well-communicated accounting of where we are on a number of the "we're killing the world" fronts, but with some additional reframings that are both refreshing and useful for thinking about these issues more clearly. The ending is then more practical, laying out some of the steps people can take not only to change their lifestyles, but also to change their own minds, and in so ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn’t expecting to dig this book as much as I did. I think the framing is correct: creating, repairing, and collaborating often brings more pleasure than buying things and watching tv. It isn’t just sacrifice now to save the planet later, but that this is actually just a very pleasant way to exist. I borrowed this from the library but I’ll definitely scoop up a copy to reference when I am not in an apartment.
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I liked this book so much here is a copy of the thank you email I sent the author. "Hi Peter, I just read your book, Being the Change. I want to send a quick thank you for writing and sharing it. It is by far the most balanced, intelligent, heart centered, and common sense climate change related material I've read. Thanks for making it personal and I hope your outreach inspires others as much as it has inspired me. I feel empowered and transformed."
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
Interesting read. Once I got past the seemingly “I’m better than you because I do these climate-saving things” intro and the super dry and dull “Global Warming: The Science” chapter, it was an interesting read. I’m not sure how much of his ideas I can personally put into practice (other than riding my bike and not driving a lot, which I already do), it is an interesting and thought provoking read. We shall see how our future progresses.
Luca Tanaka
At times dismaying, but often inspiring, Being the Change is a friendly introduction to transitioning to a more sustainable, more connected, and happier lifestyle. Kalmus' s insights are accessible and relatable, while never shying away from the full truth. Rather than leaving me feeling depressed and hopeless, this book left me feeling empowered to take steps, however gradual, to change my own life, and the conversation with those around me.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It takes a unique mind to encompass the science of temperature trajectories due to rising atmospheric CO2 and the equanimity achieved through meditation. Being the Change demonstrates Peter Kalmus' skills and passion in both these areas and gently encourages us to take specific actions and, more importantly, change our mindset from one of sacrifice and despair to joy and peace.
Robert Meehan
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wish our leaders would read this book and have the same sense of caring, compassion, and urgency that Peter Kalmus demonstrates through his way of life. The first chapters enlighten the reader about the science of climate change, and the rest of the book details practical ways to help.
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Sadly, I expected more from this book. Great title, holds hope. Science was good but the last 1/3 was nothing new. Just more of the same ways which have been stated by many others to live more environmentally aware. The only new thing I learned was humanure. Nope, not ready for that.
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very practical book that explains the basics of the climate crisis and what we can do to lower our impact.
Ryan Hebert
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Honestly if it wasn't for all the bits about meditation I would give this book 5 stars. It's a great read and call to personal action.
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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 f ...more
“I know that I can change the world; indeed, I am changing the world. What I can’t do is save it.” 0 likes
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