Friday, January 15, 2010

Carbon Diaries

In the young adult novel The Carbon Diaries, Laura Brown documents the events of the year 2015. As the book begins, the global climate has declined so precipitously that the United Kingdom has made the unilateral decision to cut its carbon emissions by 60 percent. In this modern epistolary novel (a diary format supplemented with few emails to a cousin), 16yo Laura chronicles her own experiences during this year of great change.

Due to an extremely severe European storm, Britain decides to implement carbon rationing. During the course of the following year, incredible drought, extreme cold, riots, forest fires, and serious flooding shape the daily experiences of the central characters.  The UK is the first country in the world to respond to the global-warming crisis by setting strict limits on how much energy people can use. Everyone is given a carbon allowance of 200 Carbon Points per month that can be spent on food, heating, and travel. These ration points came on top of the higher prices people already pay now that the carbon usage of each commodity has been factored into the item's cost.

As Laura's family confronts carbon rationing and the effects of global warming, they each find themselves going in new directions. Unable to withstand the pressures of carbon rationing, Laura's parents decide to separate. Her mother becomes involved with a militant women's commune, while her father develops into an urban homesteader--raising a pig, tearing down neighborhood fences to create a common field with his neighbors and taking a job driving a horse-drawn delivery wagon.

On top of the difficulties Britain faces due to climate chance and rationing, Laura tries to keep her eco-punk band (the Dirty Angels) together, negotiate family tensions, survive the complications of teen friendships, and get the attention of the cute boy next door.

I highly recommend this book, but be aware that the amount of British teen-speak may make you feel both old and foreign.  It is not great literature, but it is compellingly written and endlessly thought provoking.

I can't wait to read the sequel, The Carbon Diaries, 2017!

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