1st Edition

The Low-Carbon Good Life

By Jules Pretty Copyright 2023
    296 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    296 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Low-Carbon Good Life is about how to reverse and repair four interlocking crises arising from modern material consumption: the climate crisis, growing inequality, biodiversity loss and food-related ill-health.

    Across the world today and throughout history, good lives are characterised by healthy food, connections to nature, being active, togetherness, personal growth, a spiritual framework and sustainable consumption. A low-carbon good life offers opportunities to live in ways that will bring greater happiness and contentment. Slower ways of living await. A global target of no more than one tonne of carbon per person would allow the poorest to consume more and everyone to find our models of low-carbon good lives. But dropping old habits is hard, and large-scale impacts will need fresh forms of public engagement and citizen action. Local to national governments need to act; equally, they need pushing by the power and collective action of citizens.

    Innovative and engaging and written in a style that combines storytelling with scientific evidence, this book will be of great interest to students and scholars of climate change, sustainability, environmental economics and sustainable consumption, as well as non-specialist readers concerned about the climate crisis.

    Book Structure and Contents

    Preface: Transgression

    Thanks and Acknowledgements

    The Illustrations

    1 Dust and Air: A Dangerous New Economic Worldview

    2 Ten Thousand Good Lives: Sustainable and Kind Ways of Living

    3 The Climate Crisis: The Safety of One Tonne Each

    4 The Inequality Crisis: Togetherness Is Better Than Selfishness

    5 The Nature Crisis: Regaining Earthsong and Attentiveness

    6 The Food and Agriculture Crisis: It’s Nourishment, Not Calories

    7 The Best Things in Life: How Immersion and Flow Make the World a Better Place

    8 Enoughness: Creative Slowth Is Better Than Infi nite Growth

    9 Public Engagement and New Power: The Race to Net Zero

    10 Transformation: Achieving the Low-Carbon Good Lives

    Coda: Let’s Dance, Together

    Chapter Endnotes

    Datasets for Figures and Tables




    Jules Pretty is Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex. His books include Sea Sagas of the North, The East Country, The Edge of Extinction, This Luminous Coast and Agri-Culture. He advises governments, has won awards and prizes, chairs the Essex Climate Action Commission, is host of a podcast, and received an OBE in 2006.

    "What is important about this book is the clarity, kindness and intelligence of its thesis; what is beautiful about this book is its rootedness in the wisdom of myth."

    Jay Griffiths, author of Wild and Why Rebel

    "Jules Pretty has long been a credible and trusted guide on the questions of what we must do, and how we might do it. Now he adds a crucial part of the story: why this will make our lives better, deeper, richer."

    Bill McKibben, founder 350.org, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

    "Brilliant reframing around what living a good life looks like – creative and compelling."

    Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, Green Party

    "Unputdownable, inspired, hopeful, informed, prescient, millennia and continent spanning, hopeful, cautious, careful, understanding; but above all else, different.’

    Professor Danny Dorling, University of Oxford and author of Slowdown

    "In a truly masterful manner, Jules Pretty weaves empirical fact with myth, data with passion, knowledge with wisdom and poetry with prose. A meticulously argued and wonderfully creative account of how greener, low carbon and happier options can be established for all."

    Professor Richard Bawden, Western Sydney University

    "A fascinating exploration of how we can live happily and sustainably, drawing on sagas and stories, through philosophy and economics, to climate science. This beautifully written book contains a compelling case for a low-carbon good life that can also bring us greater happiness and contentment."

    Professor Pete Smith, University of Aberdeen, Science Director Scotland's ClimateXChange

    "A most valuable ready reference, as we struggle through the paths that lie ahead of us in troubled times."

    Robin Hanbury-Tenison, founder of Survival International, author Taming the Four Horsemen

    "The rare book about global change crafted as story, drawing from Indigenous traditions, philosophy, political science and literature in addressing pathways to increase the proportion of global society with a high quality of life, and the likelihood that such quality of life can be sustained."

    Professor Erica Fleishman, Director Oregon Climate Change Research Inst, Oregon State University

    "This book is almost unprecedented, in its scope, scientific foundations, interdisciplinary reach and contemporary relevance. It is simple and vivid, a personal conversation. It brings the climate challenge back home, and with hope. This book offers practical paths for enriching lives and saving the planet along the way."

    Dr Geoff Wells, Director, Rural Communities Australia

    "A skilful blend of science, metaphysical poetry and a manifesto for good low carbon living. The result is a book about the climate emergency that is full of hope. A joyful, playful and engaging read."

    Right Reverend Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester

    "A terrific and unique book. It fills gaps and links subjects that have previously been separate. If we are to find a good path through the next few decades for us as individuals, for communities, societies and for biodiversity and climate, this should be the book that world leaders put at the top of their reading lists."

    Professor Lloyd Peck, British Antarctic Survey