The 'One Planet' Life – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The 'One Planet' Life
A Blueprint for Low Impact Development
by David Thorpe
published by Routledge (part of Taylor and Francis) November 13, 2014.
Paperback, 438pp, 382 full colour illustrations, 15.8 x 2.8 x 23.4 cm
ISBN: 978-0415738552
Price: £26.99

9780415738552The 'One Planet 'Life is being billed as a successor to John Seymour's 'Self Sufficiency', in that it comprehensively and practically tells people how to reduce their impact upon the environment. At the same time, it is an appeal for governments and planners to have a new attitude to development, planning and land management to take into account the full environmental impact of human activities.

The 'One Planet' Life demonstrates a path for everyone towards a way of life in which we don’t act as if we had more than one planet Earth. Much of the book is a manual – with examples – on how to live the 'good life' and reduce your impacts upon the environment to lower your 'ecological footprint'. The average UK citizen is unfortunately using more than three and a half times the amount of resources than the country can sustainably manage.

This book particularly examines the pioneering Welsh policy, One Planet Development but also considers efforts towards 'one planet' living in urban areas.

It contains detailed guides on: sustainable building, supplying your own food, generating renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions from travel, land management, water supply and waste treatment, plus 20 exemplary examples. It contains an introduction by former Welsh Environment Minister Jane Davidson, and a foreword from the co-founder of BioRegional and One Planet Living, Pooran Desai.

Author David Thorpe said: "The 'One Planet' Life" is perhaps the non-fiction book I was meant to write, the combination of everything I have learned, plus the collected wisdom of the scores of people I interviewed who are living the one planet life now. The book provides people with the tools to empower themselves and make their lives and the country as a whole more resilient. "It's easy to give into a sense of fatalism when faced with climate change and other ecological challenges, but this book decisively shows how to take matters into your own hands."

The One Planet Council, of which David is a patron along with Jane Davidson, is behind this title. Jane proposed and was responsible for the One Planet Development policy when she was Minister.

This book is being billed, as already mentioned earlier, a modern day successor to John Seymour's “The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency” which, by now, has seen a fair number of updates and revisions since John Seymour wrote the first one at the beginning of the last quarter of the last century. However, I would think it is more and different. While “The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency”, and ideally we should have more than one edition, and also “The Survival Handbook” by Michael Allaby, which John Seymour co-authored in the early 1970s, deals with skills more than this book does; “The 'One Planet' Life” tackles another subject in this bracket and that is a new way of creating a new kind of development and also communities.

Ideally thus both, or all three of them, should be in the armory and on the bookshelves of those of us who work on the creation of a new society and those new settlements.

Most of us in the so-called developed world use more than the resources of one Planet, of one Earth, as if there were other Earths just hiding behind the sun to pop up for us to use up when this one is finished. The wait could be a long one, though, as there is not another going Earth to pop up for us to rape as well. And neither is the notion by Prof. Stephen Hawkins going to hold water, namely that we will simply have to leave the Earth and head for some other Planet. I am afraid to say that with statements like that from someone apparently so educated one can but wonder which planet he is living on.

The book gives, among others advice, step-by-step guidance to the process of applying for OPD status. Alas, for the time being, this applies in Wales only and not for the whole of the UK. It can be useful, though, also in other locales, no doubt.

David Thorpe has twin careers in writing and environmentalism. He has a novel out on the same theme this month too: Stormteller. See the website below for more details. He is a Special Consultant on Sustainable Cities Collective, the primary website for urban leaders globally; a patron of the One Planet Council; and the author of several books on sustainability, solar technology, energy management and more. He is a novelist, non-fiction author, journalist, scriptwriter and the winner of a HarperCollins contest to find a major new children’s writer with his novel for young adults, Hybrids, which the Times called ‘A stunningly clever novel’. He lives in Carmarthenshire with his wife, Helen Adam. Find out more on

One can but say that it is a shame that the rest of the United Kingdom does not, anytime soon, unless we have a government change for the better, follow the Welsh example for One Planet Living and One Planet Developments.

The government in Westminster rather wants to create garden cities, much like the eco town idea of the previous labor administration, that will benefit neither the people not the Planet but only the developers who are the ones who will be giving the tender to create those towns and cities.

We neither need eco towns nor garden cities in the UK. What we need are one planet living communities and individual developments, and that not just in the countryside. They also must be created at the fringes of the towns and cities and in the very towns and cities themselves.

This book, I am sure, can help also all of those of us who are working on creating such changes in the minds of planners and government, and it sure should be in the armory of all of us.

A very well written book that covers every conceivable aspect and which also leads the reader – or the prospective applicant for OLD status for a property – through the application process and more, much more.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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