I applied for an ARC of Environomics when I realised that it is already over 25 years since I studied environmental economics. It is also more than fifteen since I actually used any of it in my work. I’m very grateful for the chance to review this book, and for the sense of relief it gave me (especially after last week’s Bringing Down Goliath).


by Dharshini David

Why might an orangutan care which toothpaste you choose? What does your mobile phone have to do with wind turbines? And can your morning coffee really power a bus?

Economics affects every aspect of our lives, from the clothes on our backs to the bread on our tables and the fuel in our cars. And there are huge changes afoot as the global green revolution sweeps across the globe.

In this vibrant and eye-opening book, economist and broadcaster Dharshini David follows the course of an average day – from the moment we flick on the light in the morning – to reveal the green changes that are already taking place in every aspect of our world. Exploring industries such as energy, food, fashion, technology, manufacturing and finance, she asks what is happening, how quickly, who is driving it all – and what it means for us. Ranging from crucial issues such as sustainability and corporate greenwashing, to global flashpoints such as industrialisation and trade wars, she shows how even the smallest details in our day are part of a much bigger story about where our world is heading.

If you’ve ever wondered what green issues really mean for your day-to-day life, this book is for you. (Goodreads)

My Review

Environomics is a very readable account of what impacts underpin the simplest things in our existence. The author makes most of her focus the environmental side, especially climate change, pollution and land/sea use. But she also raises the social impacts as well, which is vital if transitions are going to be acceptable in our (and as you are reading this, more often ‘their‘) lives.

We start gently, by waking up and turning on the light. Plenty to analyse there. We start with the whole electricity and renewable energy system. While at times it feels like moving a mountain, it is clear that globally, we are making progress to cleaner systems. And cleaner light bulbs. After a diversion into clothing, we get back to the energy sector with our drive, bike or train to work. We are definitely making progress, but with some cautions…and especially when it comes to batteries. That leads into the battery impact of our phones, computers, laptops, etc., and the problem of rare earth metals, which, if you’ve never heard of them, are a Problem: scarce, geographically sparse, and extremely polluting to extract.

Let’s get back to clothes. This is probably the section where I learned most. The fashion industry needs much more attention, because it’s the one the consumer can really influence. In fact the average clothes buyer is probably the only person who can get the industry to change from its wasteful over-consumption of both natural and man-made fibres, all of which damage the environment.

Environomics goes on to examine palm oil, which is worth buying the book for even without the rest of the information. It also covers construction, shipping, the impact of next-day deliveries, and teases out some misconceptions in the process. And banking…payment systems and bitcoin. It’s pretty hard to think of any stone she has left unturned, although I think I found one… entertainment. How do you allocate the carbon emissions of downloading a film? Maybe that’s why she didn’t go there. Maybe the TV and Film industry does not figure that highly in sectoral emissions.

The good news is: most industries, governments and innovators are making great strides towards reducing their impact on our world. The bad news? Not fast enough, not enough investors, and they didn’t start soon enough. Very little in this book was not in prototype 20 years ago. Some of the solutions currently being developed will probably need 20 years to reach commercial status. Unless something even more urgent pushes them forward, we are sunk in our own mess.

The author does not reference her work here, although does give ‘further reading’ which is a tip of the iceberg (melting, obviously). I think for balance, anyone reading this should finish with the last section of David Attenborough’s ‘witness statement’ in which he cites more initiatives and countries who are playing a different, greener game. It makes economic sense to them.

Oh, and I haven’t mentioned China. Don’t worry, she does!

Book Review | Environomics by Dharshini David
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2 thoughts on “Book Review | Environomics by Dharshini David

  • 6 July, 2024 at 8:04 am

    That’s a very interesting topic, and the book great for getting all this input one needs for proper discussions. Thanks for the recommendation and the perfect review, Jemima! Best wishes, Michael


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