Monday, April 27, 2009
Review: The Carbon Diaries 2015
The Carbon Diaries 2015
2008; Holiday House; 978-0-8234-2190-9 (hardcover)
Summary: Environmentally speaking, everyone's up the creek. After a Great Storm hits London, the desire to reduce greenhouse gases and stop climate change becomes a necessity. So Great Britain agreed to institute carbon rationing. Every citizen is issued carbon points. Go over your monthly points, and you have to pay fines, get reeducation counseling--even have your power shut off. In her diary, Laura writes about how climate change has also changed her life: family, friends, school, her band. Will things be better by the end of the year?
Three Things to Know About The Carbon Diaries 2015
#1: After disaster comes change.
The Great Storm-alluded to but never fully described-apparently lit a fire under people to prevent further similar tragedies. Instead of gradually phasing in emissions restrictions by 2030, as originally planned, Great Britain decides to institute restrictions right away. Over the course of the year that Laura keeps her diary, emissions levels do fall. Yet there's still disasters and tragedies. A massive super-hurricane devastates the American East Coast, blizzards and wildfires wrack Europe, and England itself has a prolonged drought followed by unprecedented flooding. Sadly, it took over a hundred years to radically alter Earth's climate; one year won't make that much of a difference. But it's the first year of change.
#2: Within a family, you see the worst.
It's tough times for Laura's family. Her older sister Kim planned to spend her gap year in the United States, working in a clothing store and having fun. But with carbon rationing, her plans are canceled and she rebels against the new carbon rationing. She flies to Spain, keeps her TV running 24/7--and thus drains her carbon points and wracks up such a big fine, she has to go to Carbon Offenders counseling. Laura's parents aren't much better. Her father loses his job as a travel and tourism instructor at the local college, thanks to the new carbon rules. With travel now an extreme luxury, students just aren't interested in travel and tourism anymore. Meanwhile, her mother is forced to give up her beloved car, and keeps getting lost on buses. And when one family member goes over their points, everyone is affected, like when the power is shut off in the middle of cooking dinner. For the first half of the year, Laura keeps seeing the worst in her family, how none of them seem able to deal with these changes. Slowly, though, everyone adjusts and carbon rationing isn't that big of a deal anymore--not with the problems that Great Britain faces.
#3: You still have to live even as the world is falling apart.
In spite of all these negatives, Laura tries to focus on the good things in her life. Her friends, her crush on the boy next door, her band the dirty angels: that's what matters to Laura. Not everything is good, of course. One of her friends has become environmentally liberal, encouraging destruction of inefficient gas cars and other such acts. Laura manages to get her crush to notice her, but once he does, he can't seem to commit to a real relationship. Her band goes from the highs of playing gigs to falling apart due to infighting. But through it all, Laura doesn't give up on her friends or her band. Even as there's so many hardships to face, by maintaining the things she enjoys Laura weathers the storms of 2015.
An intriguing look at how climate change for the better could be started, this novel is bound to provoke discussion in the same way as Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. Although both books work better as consciousness raisers than as literature, The Carbon Diaries 2015 will appeal to many teens with its relatable protagonist and quick-paced storyline.