John Cowsill: how do we get to a safe planet?


We spoke to local author John Cowsill, who’s forthcoming book Safe Planet comes out on the 26th September.


john cowsillWhy did you write this book?

My next door neighbour asked me that question two years ago.

‘Anger’ was my initial one word reply.

The anger is rooted in the knowledge that the world has enough resources for everyone, but that those that currently control what is produced do it out of reasons that take no consideration of the needs of anyone but themselves and their friends.

So mixed in with anger there is also hope. Hope and faith that things can change.


What’s your upcoming book Safe Planet all about?

The book deals with the excuses the energy companies have for polluting the environment and endangering the climate – the anger. And it talks about what we can do, both technically and politically to change things for the better – the hope.


How desperate is the environmental threat today?

There have been recent reports that methane is being released from the permafrost in Siberia because of increased temperatures. Some have said that this shows we have reached one of the so called tipping points for the climate. I will wait for the world’s scientists to investigate this. In the meantime, we must assume that there still is time to avert a climate disaster. This means that we must use the fossil fuel we have to build a renewable energy replacement. The remaining fossil fuel must be left in the ground.


What should we be doing to tackle it?

The problem is not technical, it is political. The current world leadership have shown themselves incapable of solving the problem of climate change.


One of the key themes of your book is how the struggle for a more ecologically sustainable world is connected to the fight for a fairer world – could you explain a little about why you think that is.

Of the world’s most 10 most profitable companies 6 are oil and fossil fuel companies, 2 are banks and 1 is an auto manufacturer. The world economy is dominated by the companies that are responsible for clawing out of the ground the fuels giving rise to climate disruption.


It’s sometimes said that everyone is green now, even the government claims to be the greenest government ever. Is that true?

I’ve not heard that. Anyway, tackling climate change is not an individual thing – something that we must all do our little bit about and then all will be well. Climate change requires a systemic change. The government is no more green than my green Subaru (It’s a dirty green colour).


One of the injustices of climate change is that the people who have done least to contribute to it are going to be hit the hardest by it. For those of us living in rich nations is it a moral duty or a matter of self interest to avert as much of the effects as we can?

It’s not about morals. Leave the morals to the priests and the politicians. Its about anger.

Rich people in the developing world will be ok. Poor people in some parts of the world are already dead and dying because of the droughts storms and floods we have already seen. Much worse is already locked in. Instead of the cause of this – the carbon blanket causing the warming being built up in the atmosphere – being steadily removed – it is continuing to be added to… business as usual it’s called. The rich continue to enrich themselves, disregarding the effect their actions have on the rest of us and the planet.

People are welcome to come to the Safe Planet North London book launch at the Big Green Bookshop on the 3rd October.