The one sentence summary

The best way to live better is to understand the true facts about how our choices affect the planet.


  • This is a handbook that calculates the true effect of everything we do. It covers everything from feeding the world, climate change, and biodiversity to antibiotics and plastic.
  • What is most pressing, what are the knock-on effects of our actions, and what should we do first? The answers are here.
  • Why don’t more people explode from over-eating? Because overweight bodies are less efficient. If all humans were a healthy weight and ate only what they needed, it would liberate food for an extra billion people.
  • Food transport becomes a problem when things get put on an aeroplane. In the UK, avoid grapes and berries from California, fresh tuna from the Indian Ocean, baby vegetables from Africa, and worst of all, asparagus from Peru.
  • Food waste is huge and varies considerably by region. Cereals account for 48% of all calories lost, while meat, fish and dairy make up 9%. Cutting waste by half would add 20% to the world food supply.
  • Rice is the most greenhouse-gas-intensive of all the staple carbohydrates, mainly because of excessive use of fertilizers. Sustainable rice is hard to find.
  • When it comes to population, one billion reckless people would easily trash the world, whilst 15 billion careful people could happily snuggle up together and be fine. But then if everyone were careful there wouldn’t be 15 billion of them…
  • Some things that every politician needs to know about climate change:
  • A global temperature rise of 2 degrees looks very risky, but 1.5 degrees much less so.
  • The temperature rise we experience will be roughly proportional to the total amount of carbon we have ever burned.
  • Emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas, have grown exponentially for 160 years. We have not yet dented that carbon curve. Almost all the fuel that gets dug up gets burned, so it has to stay in the ground.
  • Growing renewables, whilst essential, won’t be enough to deal with climate change, so we urgently need a working global agreement to leave the fuel in the ground.
  • The world has produced an estimated 9 billion tonnes of plastic so far. Of this, 5.4 billion tonnes has been chucked into landfill or scattered onto land or sea. If all of the discarded plastic on earth were cling film, it would be more than enough to wrap the whole planet.


  • There are three values that we need to become new global cultural norms:

1. All people are inherently equal in their humanity.

2. Respect and care for the world.

3. Respect the truth for its own sake.

  • We need to develop 21st century thinking skills to make this a reality, in this cycle:
  • Big picture > global empathy > future thinking > appreciation of the small, local and present > self reflection > critical thinking > complexity and complicatedness > joining it up
  • Support politicians who demonstrate these skills, and reject those who don’t.
  • Be a role model for sustainable living as best you can. Find ways to consume less but appreciate more. Be sparing with meat, dairy and waste. Know your supply chains.
  • Don’t beat yourself up about your shortcomings but don’t let yourself off the hook either.


  • Not much. It’s highly informative and you can dip in and out wherever you like.