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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book We Need
I'll let the Globe & Mail review say it all:

Published in the Books section, October 6, 2007

THE GEOGRAPHY OF HOPE
A Tour of the World We Need
By Chris Turner
Random House Canada, 480 pages

A year of living optimistically
Review by EVAN OSENTON

Bad news might sell books and turn science authors into global...
Published on Oct. 22 2007 by Mrs Hilksom

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book buried in 480 pages of manic writing
Am I the only person who thinks this book needs an editor? The premise is good: seek out the people and places that have tackled global warming in a positive way and show that there are pockets of hope out there for a sustainable future. In fact the author gives very detailed and interesting accounts of many such solutions to our current environmental problems...
Published on Jan. 24 2009 by I. Dobson


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book We Need, Oct. 22 2007
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This review is from: The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need (Hardcover)
I'll let the Globe & Mail review say it all:

Published in the Books section, October 6, 2007

THE GEOGRAPHY OF HOPE
A Tour of the World We Need
By Chris Turner
Random House Canada, 480 pages

A year of living optimistically
Review by EVAN OSENTON

Bad news might sell books and turn science authors into global celebrities, but it isn't particularly good at changing minds, motivating people or inspiring hope. It certainly isn't convincing our species to give up our game of ecological Russian roulette.

Chris Turner would know: In the mid-1990s, he took a summer job for Greenpeace as a door-to-door canvasser in Kingston, Ont. His specialty - indeed, he notes, most environmental groups' specialties then and now - was bad news. Doom. Gloom. Lurid descriptions of bleached coral and starving polar bears, cracked hardpan and skyrocketing asthma rates, rivers of glowing Chinese factory effluent and mutilated seal pups. On one doorstep, Turner recalls a seven-year-old girl "so consumed with worry over the planet's health, [her parents] told me, that sometimes it made her stomach ache too much to eat." Mostly, Turner remembers people's weary indifference to his spiel.

Fast-forward a decade. Chris Turner is a writer of national renown, fresh off his bestselling, lushly enthusiastic Planet Simpson (quite possibly the most comprehensive book published on the most important pop-cultural phenomenon of the past 20 years). Turner never quite stopped believing the bad news, but, like so many of us, he'd become overwhelmed and moved on.

And then his wife gave birth to a baby girl. In a moment of awful clarity (fittingly, while on a hill overlooking the oil-company spires of downtown Calgary), the bad news came back, ringing truer and more urgently than ever. "It makes me positively ache in places I didn't know I had until [my daughter] was born that I can't make her any promises," Turner writes. "I can't even tell her with any confidence that there is a future with sufficient durability to serve as a drawing board for her lifelong dreams. There's a legitimate possibility that she'll face calamity on a scale I can't imagine, on a scale beyond anything humanity's ever seen. This is a prospect that makes it hard to think, makes my vision cross with angry, impotent tears. It terrifies me."

Turner realized he couldn't return to doom and gloom; he owed his daughter far better. And so of his terror and ache and love was born The Geography of Hope. For one year, Turner and family criss-crossed the globe in search of people living sustainably; people living or building, in the words of Small is Beautiful author E. F. Schumacher, "a lifestyle designed for permanence." Turner decided he needed to find eco-pioneers and assess their ideas, however strange, unexpected or heretical to the modern economic order. He needed reassurance that his little girl had a future, that she needn't endure Armageddon or de-evolve.

Indeed, Turner wasn't interested in promising his daughter "traditional" sustainability, a future of animal skins, foraged roots and yurts. His criterion: "Would this - this place, this machine, this social system or way of life - be capable of continuing on its present course for the foreseeable future without exhausting the planet's ability to sustain human life at something like the current population and quality of life?"

So off Turner went to Samsø, a remarkable Danish island completely free of fossil-fuel dependency, part of a country that could be totally powered by renewables within a generation, and whose ease of transition is truly inspiring. Turner visited Germany, where it turns out sustainable housing comes with no great discomfort or cost, and where investors in solar energy - whether altruistic or seeking riches - are realizing giddy returns.

He saw exponential growth in Indian micro-scale solar, witnessed Muhammad Yunus's micro-credit banking revolution in action, and confronted the argument that India and China will necessarily repeat all of North America's mistakes (and negate all of our hypothetical environmental progress). Off to Southeast Asia, to tank up at a hydrogen "filling station," witness mountains of cassava waste reclaimed as biofuel and help rural Thais and displaced Burmese generate run-of-river hydroelectricity.

Hope abounds, it seems, even in decadent North America: in Seaside, Fla., and suburban Denver's bold expression of New Urbanism; in Taos, N.M.'s revolution in intuitive architecture; in the form of Interface, one of the world's largest carpet manufacturers and the first fully sustainable multinational corporation. Turner even found hope near home, in Alberta's Drake Landing, North America's first solar-powered subdivision, and in the massive wind turbines spreading across southern Alberta's foothills like so many snow-white pinwheels.

The author's visit to energy activist Amory Lovins's Rocky Mountain Institute alone could have inspired a thick volume. Currently working with Wal-Mart to bring massive improvements in efficiency to their truck fleets, and with the U.S. military to integrate lightweight carbon fibre into (now hyper-inefficient) military vehicles, Lovins, co-founder of RMI, is perhaps Turner's best evidence that a hopeful future isn't the exclusive dream (or right) of any one group, and that a sustainable future will only work once we engage literally everyone in solution-making.

Chris Turner does his daughter proud. The Geography of Hope makes an overwhelming case for an abundant, even limitless amount of hope for humanity. The book is a captivating travelogue, the writing marked by piquant observations and raw, emotional engagement with farmers, radicals, business people, activists and indigenous people the world over.

And Turner should find a broad audience; his stories are full of references to his love of driving, cold beer, the Big Lebowski and The Simpsons. The Geography of Hope might stimulate an interest in sustainability among readers who otherwise fear "environmental books." At any rate, Turner has helped push us ever closer to Malcolm Gladwell's tipping point, after which sustainable living should, once again, become second nature to our species.

Without naming names, Turner mentions thick volumes of environmental doom and gloom he read in researching his book in which "the vivid horror, not the dim hope stuck" (we all have a favourite culprit). The Geography of Hope merely aspires to be Turner's "scrapbook from a year spent living optimistically." Doom and gloom's insights, eloquence and terrible truths aside, I know from which set of stories I'd rather my children assembled a vision of their future.

Evan Osenton is the books editor at Alberta Views magazine and a former honour student in the have-I-got-some-terrible-news-for-you school of persuasion.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What would Homer do, Dec 28 2007
By 
Ken Kardash (Montreal, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need (Hardcover)
I have no background in environmentalism or connection to the author. As a general reader I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it informative, inspiring and entertaining in equal parts. An unequivocal five stars!
The author is a journalist and disillusioned environmental activist. He is also a new father, and, concerned for his daughter's future, decided to do a global survey of existing, practical methods of achieving environmental sustainability. His perspective is what makes this book so refreshing: tired of the mainstream environmental movement's two main weapons of guilt and apocalyptic predictions, he searches for not just the means but the inspiration to change the way the world's resources are used. I found this practical, hopeful approach much more compelling than the doom-and-gloom, armchair analyst approach of, say, George Monbiot's Heat.
Potential readers should keep in mind that the author's previous opus was Planet Simpson, an exploration of the cultural significance of an animated cartoon series. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it informs his writing with a pop-culture sensibility that makes for entertaining asides and a contemporary grasp of how cultural fashions evolve. On the other hand, the one time I felt we may be getting a little too much information was in the final chapter. There he describes how the epiphany of embracing environmental sustainability occurred to him at a Seattle Lebowski Fest, a cult-like celebration of a movie that he admits to "only begin to understand after the fifth viewing". Presumably fatherhood changed his priorities, and rather than strain his credibility, I found this geeky anecdote disarming. A Greenpeace diatribe this is not.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, an environmental book that doesn't make me despair, April 5 2008
By 
Gordon Neufeld (Schenectady, New York) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need (Hardcover)
The trouble with the majority of writing about climate change and other environmental worries is that they make people think, "Oh, hell. It's too late anyway. Why even try to do anything?" The Geography of Hope is an antidote to this kind of thinking. I am now 54 years old, and when I was 20 years old or so, I devoured ecological jeremiads such as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. The trouble is, back then I actually thought my civilization was doomed to fall apart before the end of the 20th century. This, fortunately, didn't happen and in the meantime I got sidelined by matters too complex to detail here. Now at last I am returning to my environmental roots, but I find I simply no longer have the patience and strength to wade through dour predictions of ecological gloom and doom. Chris Turner's The Geography of Hope is the first book on this topic that I have felt glad to pick up, because it shows that it is really possible to put the brakes to the looming climate train wreck before it occurs and that sustainability is already within our grasp using existing technology, if only we would commit to it. How inspiring!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Positive and encouraging, Oct. 12 2008
By 
Jonathan Davies (Ottawa, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need (Hardcover)
When I read this book, I was very glad to see that there are solutions to the problems we face and that there is hope that our quality of life can become much better than it is. I really appreciate all books that tell us about solutions to problems and/or better alternatives to the status quo!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good outlook, Nov. 16 2013
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I really enjoyed the positive outlook that Chris puts on environmental movement. I recommend this book at anyone who is looking to learn more about sustainable projects around the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book, May 14 2013
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This review is from: The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need (Hardcover)
I should have read this book by Chris Turner first but I heard of The Leap on the CBC so I read it first. I also had read and studied The Courage to Hope by Rev Bill Phipps with a group What an impact it had on me
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart, stylish and inspiring, July 3 2008
By 
Tim Falconer (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need (Hardcover)
Chris Turner is one of the best non-fiction writers in the country, as anyone who’s read his entertaining first book, Planet Simpson, or his work in various magazine and newspapers knows. His latest book, The Geography of Hope, came out last fall, and it’s a stunner.

Along with the stylish writing we’ve come to expect from him, the research is truly impressive, but what really blew me away was how smart it is. Turner travelled the world to see examples of sustainable living: housing, buildings, communities, transportation systems and so on. Toward the end, he has a great — and, bizarrely, relevant — riff on The Big Lebowski, the brilliant Coen Brothers classic.

Best of all, though, is the optimism that fills the book. The Geography of Hope is an inspiring look at the world as it could be. Yes we can, indeed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Visiting All Change Agents, Feb. 8 2009
By 
Brian Griffith (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
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Turner turns his back on his environmental-protest Greenpeace-volunteering past, and goes searching, somewhat frantically, for those who are actually building a sustainable future. For him, it's like turning from "I have a nightmare" to "I have a dream". There follows a whirling tour of the planet, from energy-self-reliant communities in Denmark or Thailand, to urban farms in Cuba, or micro-credit financed solar energy in India. Turner captures the excitement of people who feel their work is turning the world's tide. He wants us excited, and he wants ecological to win because it's cool. And he does cheer me up. He does make you feel far more can be done than our petty individual reductions in consumption. But as for how most of us are gonna fit in all this transition, the book still leaves us with no clear band wagons to jump on. It's still, Turner admits, just us, being a little more alert to how our own place can change.

--author of The Gardens of Their Dreams: Desertification and Culture in World History
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book buried in 480 pages of manic writing, Jan. 24 2009
By 
I. Dobson "Free thinker" (Thunder Bay, Ont) - See all my reviews
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Am I the only person who thinks this book needs an editor? The premise is good: seek out the people and places that have tackled global warming in a positive way and show that there are pockets of hope out there for a sustainable future. In fact the author gives very detailed and interesting accounts of many such solutions to our current environmental problems. Unfortunately you need to wade through pages of tangential writing that appear to bear little relevance to anything. Chris Turner seems to be overly preoccupied with song lyrics which he interposes in his writing for no obvious reason. Similarly, his frequent use of foul language is totally out of keeping with a work of this nature.
The Weathermakers, which I would consider a companion book to The Geography of Hope, looks at the negative side of global warming. But it is substantially shorter, well organized and a bit more scholarly in tone while still being highly readable.
Since this book is somewhat unique in its approach to the environmental crisis we are facing, I would still recommend it but be prepared to do alot of skimming to get to the real meat of the thesis.
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The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need
The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need by Chris Turner (Hardcover - Oct. 5 2007)
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