Book: Inconspicuous Consumption

There are plenty of thoroughly researched books about the dismal fate of our environment. Many focus on a certain topic (changing weather patterns, melting ice, ocean acidification, global reliance on oil, etc).

These books can be intimidating: I care about protecting the Earth, but I don’t know all that much about how climate influences weather, or what impact different kinds of fuel and energy have on my daily life, or why, exactly, food waste is bad. Sometimes these books can be too didactic, not sharing the elementary science behind these forces, or have a motive warped by politics.

Inconspicuous Consumption (2019, Grand Central Publishing) was my solution. Author Tatianna Schlossberg describes in accessible and sometimes humorous writing exactly why the problem of climate change is so complex. She investigates how four primary factors — internet/technology, food, fashion, and fuel — affect the changing planet, especially as the conveniences they bring have become deeply woven into our everyday lives.

Schlossberg gives readers well-researched and important historical information to expose the detrimental impact of the lightning-speed consumption of the developed world. She was formerly a New York Times reporter, and her experience is evident in the book. Schlossberg is also down-to-earth in her narrative: She knows the raw data isn’t likely to stick with readers, but the feeling we’re left with after closing the back cover is the best impression she can make. For instance, I know cashmere is bad after reading, but I don’t remember for what reason. Perhaps I need to take more ownership over how fast I read since I didn’t absorb her data well enough. But, instead, I think Schlossberg chose to focus her writing on two main principles: The environmental villains Americans know about, but not enough to change their habits (e.g. microplastics, fast fashion), as well as the environmental factors they know nothing about but really ought to (e.g. corn and aquaculture industries). She aims to instruct readers enough so they have a basic understanding of the entire spectrum of calamities stressing the environment. The choice to learn more or take action is theirs to make.

For a book that reveals the dismal health of the planet, it is thoroughly enjoyable. My one gripe is Schlossberg’s habit for writing in very long sentences. Interjections of parenthesized data or narratives stuck between commas appeared often, and I had to re-read more than a handful of sentences. Still, I’m certain I will review sections of this book repeatedly in the coming years.

P.S. The chapter I highlighted the most, titled Staying Cool, Getting Hotter, opened my eyes to the abysmal chemical known as hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), which is used in air-conditioning and refrigeration. While the developed world uses HFCs (a greenhouse gas) to keep cool at an alarming rate, it’s also contributing to the warming of our planet. This particular section invoked my most charged reactions of outrage and incredulity.

[I was not paid to write my honest review. Links are not affiliate.] 


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