Review also includes:
Waste Disposal, Andrew Solway, 978-0749688106
Climate Change, Andrew Solway, 978-0749688110
Water, Geoff Barker, 978-0749688127
Resources, Andrew Solway, 978-0749688134
Feeding the World, Anne Rooney, 978-0749688141
Each book in this series treats the problems suggested by its title in 16 illustrated spreads, followed by a spread of ‘Facts and records’ (in one case ‘Facts and figures’), a Glossary, suggestions for Further Reading, an Index and a Webfinder. Each chapter opens with a box of ‘Earth data’, and particular points are elaborated in boxes entitled ‘Planet Watch’.
In each case, the main issues are carefully and clearly laid out at the start of the book and then developed in greater detail. Contrasts between more-developed and less-developed countries are frequently drawn, and the unfairness to the latter of inequalities in production, consumption and destruction pointed out.
The responsibilities of rich countries or of businesses in rich countries are not always criticised as firmly as this reviewer would have liked – for example the appalling position of the Bush administration on the Kyoto treaty is handled too gently. Possible solutions to the problems of a world at risk are outlined, sometimes with suggestions about what ‘we’ can do. The books vary concerning this: one final picture caption preaches that ‘The future of our planet is in our hands. We all need to act together before it is too late.’ Feeding the World is more realistic: the final chapter is headlined ‘Science may help to solve the problem of world hunger, but politics has an important role to play, and could provide solutions to the current crisis more quickly.’ In some cases where time or place seems relevant, the captions to the illustrations are too vague to explain where the illustrated scene is to be found, or where and when it took place.
The level of accuracy is only fair to middling. In the Chapter 1 Earth Data of Resources, world production of natural gas is understated by a factor of 1,000; in a Facts and Figures table of the same book the factor is corrected, but the relevant column is headed ‘billion square metres’ instead of billion cubic metres. A graph on page 10 of Carbon Footprint appears to understate carbon dioxide emissions by a factor of 1,000. The opposite page gives the molecular formulae for three greenhouse gases correctly, but drops the subscript 6 from sulphur hexafluoride. The Facts and Records page of Climate Change tabulates the ‘Top ten carbon dioxide (CO2) producers’ by tonnes of annual emissions. These figures appear to be the figures for carbon, not for carbon dioxide, and to be understated by a factor of 1,000. A separate table showing CO2 (tonnes per head) also appears to list the figures for carbon, not for carbon dioxide. There appears to be an inconsistency between figures given for all water and fresh water on Earth in Chapter 1 of Water. A paragraph on page 18 of Waste Disposal could be taken to mean that carbon dioxide can be burned.