We’ve got big news this week. Sightline has released a new book, called Seven Wonders for a Cooler Planet.
Seven Wonders, which was penned by award-winning journalist Eric Sorensen and Sightline staffers, examines seven everyday objects that serve not only as solutions to global warming, but also—and more importantly—as springboards for exploring some of the key issues behind climate change.
What are the wonders? Stop thinking Taj Mahal and start thinking of bikes, condoms, and clotheslines—ingeniously simple devices that have transformed our lives but often go unnoticed. Each wonder is profiled in a lively chapter full of brain-teasing facts and forward-looking solutions for our climate (and for our pocketbooks, health, and cities).
- “The Bicycle” is an ode to the most energy-efficient vehicle ever devised—and the world of transportation solutions that is already at our feet. (My favorite biking fact: “Pound for pound, a person on a bike can go farther on a calorie of food than a gazelle can running, a salmon swimming, or an eagle flying.”)
- “The Condom” examines how a little more “wrapping-up” could have a big impact on global-warming pollution, and our health.
- “The Ceiling Fan” shows that energy efficiency isn’t just a free lunch. “It’s a lunch you are paid to eat.” (Great quote, huh? Amory Lovins said it.)
- “The Clothesline” starts with a six-dollar piece of rope and ends with the vast potential of renewable energy.
- “The Real Tomato” uses the well-traveled vegetable to examine how to make agriculture greener. (Favorite veggie fact: “Even a seemingly innocent one-pound bag of lettuce can be a fossil-fuel glutton, consuming 4,600 calories to grow, process, and ship an item that is mostly water and contains a scant eighty calories of food energy.”)
- “The Library Book” shows why “reuse” is the most important of the “three R’s.” (Library fact: “A typical US library prevents 250 tons of greenhouse-gas emissions each year, just from the paper it doesn’t consume.”).
- “The Microchip” is a testament to how the online world—and all the technology that drives it—can benefit our real-world climate.
Find this article interesting? Support more research like this with a year-end gift!
If the book title sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Sightline originally published Seven Wonders: Everyday Things for a Healthier Planet in 1999. It was designed as a hopeful follow-up to our very popular book, Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things, which was long on really interesting facts, but a bit short on solutions.
Last year, Sierra Club Books, the folks who originally published Seven Wonders for us, proposed the idea of re-tooling the book as a climate-change handbook. The idea made sense—most of the original wonders did connect to global warming—so we hired journalist Eric Sorensen to do the rewrite, and off we went (kudos to Sightline researcher Eric de Place, who also did a huge amount of work on the book).
A final note: While Seven Wonders looks a lot like a book of “personal tips” on climate change—it’s really not. Instead, it offers new ways to think about the world. The authors explain it better than I can:
Seven Wonders for a Cool Planet is not another book of tips. Like its antecedents in the “seven wonders of the world” lineage, it’s a guide to miraculous human-made things. The twist about these wonders is that they already surround you. This book is an ode to seven everyday devices you probably already own or use, which are so powerful, elegant, and in most cases simple, that they are and always have been friends of the climate (and also of your pocketbook, neighbors, health, and children). It’s a reminder of everything that’s right about our lives, not everything that’s wrong.
More subversively, Seven Wonders is a way to think—illustrated seven ways—about solving the climate crisis once and for all: by designing sustainability into the very heart of our lives, communities, institutions, and economy.
It all starts with human ingenuity, the greatest wonder of them all—and our most valuable renewable resource for taking on big challenges.
P.S. You can find out more about the book—including where to order it—on our Seven Wonders page and via the press release and this fact sheet. We can also make excerpts available to online magazines, newspapers, and blogs. (Unfortunately, since they own the rights, this is one of the few books where we can’t publish the pdf of the text.)