"An informative book, with a balanced and comprehensive view of the issues facing our planet."

book author: Tony Juniper 

reviewed by  Tessa Sanderson


 Saving Planet Earth is a beautifully presented book with fantastic photographs of animals, places and people. It brings together the endangered animals in the BBC1 TV programme (also called “Saving Planet Earth”) with facts and figures of how the human race is changing planet earth. The book is written by Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth UK.

The book is divided into three broad chapters, respectively entitled ‘living earth’, ‘warming world’, and ‘plundered planet’. In some ways, the chapters create an arbitrary division because each describes the wonderful diversity of life on earth and then how quickly humans are destroying it. Juniper gives a pragmatic and balanced view of the global situation. For example, it is the rate of extinction that he finds worrying rather than extinction per se. He also explains how human activity can increase biodiversity as well as decrease it through activities such as logging, over-fishing and polluting. The facts and figures in the book seem as if they are there to shock you into an awareness of the huge scale of the problem. Where the TV programme relies on celebrities to make sentimental and direct pleas for financial help to viewers, the book takes a more considered approach. It emphasises the effect that current human activities will have on the quality of our lives in the future and of our children’s lives. There is definitely a strong emotional argument/narrative being used.

Fifty percent of food grown for consumption in the UK is wasted during transit, processing, retail stage (sell-by dates) and end users (that’s you). There were plenty of facts in the book like this that gave me food for thought and even made me exclaim aloud. There were clear explanations of terms such as ‘evolutionary novelty’. There was a comprehensive coverage of all the different issues. But I wasn’t really sure who this book was aimed at. For those already interested in environmental issues, a lot of the content would be familiar. For Joe Bloggs watching the TV programme about endangered animals, it would be a huge leap to the other issues and level of writing in the book. The text of this 252 page book is broken up with great images and less great pages of colour. Bright greens, mustards and lilacs make the text difficult to concentrate on, but otherwise the presentation is excellent.

The subtitle of the book is ‘What is destroying the earth and what you can do to save it’. I found the lack of information on what individuals can do to save planet earth surprising. There were only four pages of text focusing on what changes an individual can make: looking at energy in the home, transport, food and choosing materials. I would have liked more facts and figures here too. Don’t just tell me cycling is a good alternative. Tell me how much pollution can be prevented if a person cycles 5km to work instead of driving Other benefits, such as keeping healthy and saving money, could have been extolled. The book has concentrated on the bigger picture: Kyoto agreements, global economics, etc., but after all the doom and gloom of the reported destruction this left me feeling hopeless. I’m sure this wasn’t Juniper’s intention. Juniper has written a more solution-focused book: ‘How Many Light Bulbs Does it Take To Change a Planet?: 95 Ways To Save Planet Earth’.

This book is well-written and visually appealing. If you want an informative book, with a balanced and comprehensive view of the issues facing our planet, this is the book for you. If you want an emphasis on solutions, look elsewhere. All royalties from the sale of the book are going to the BBC Wildlife Fund.