Although Lily Cole has been, for many, a household name throughout her modelling career, it was only fairly recently that I heard her talking passionately about climate change and the environment on a podcast.
What was interesting about her approach was that she was looking to come at climate change from a place of optimism. She found that in the face of catastrophic headlines, people tended just to shut down.
Her recent book, “Who Cares Wins: Reasons for Optimism in Our Changing World”, was published this July (2020). It includes a neatly added preface to cover the sea change that has come about since the advent of Covid-19. “Who believed our machine could stop?”, she asks.
In the midst of the darkness, she believes that the pandemic could prove to be the wake-up call we all need, highlighting our “capacity for collective mobilisation, kindness, and how quickly everything can be transformed”.
Although she doesn’t sugar-coat the alarming facts of environmental degradation and climate change, the book leaves you feeling buoyed in that it shines a light on the people that are actively working to make our world a better place. It’s the other side to the terrifying soundbites that we often hear.
That said, Lily Cole is far from advocating that we sit back and wait for scientific innovation to save us. She explores the ways that we as individuals can make a difference in our own behaviours – consume less, repair and reuse, reduce our meat intake – but makes the reader comfortable with the fact that no-one is, or can be, perfect. You may switch to a plant-based milk brand, but often these come packaged in hard to recycle Tetra Pak.
We often like to point the finger and pull someone up when they make a mistake. Lily Cole says, “how dare I write about the environment when I am inevitably part of the problem?”.
But, as you read through the book, you become more informed by the range of conflicting viewpoints and more empowered to make your own choices. What matters is to take whatever action you can.
She quotes the zero-waste chef, Anne-Marie Bonneau, “we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
I remember feeling slightly sceptical when first picking up the book. What credentials does Lily Cole have for teaching me about climate crisis and a divided world? But as the book comes from her own soul searching, her own desire to explore the ways out of this crisis, it makes for a very accessible read in language, content and tone. Even if some of her friends and experiences leave you with a bit of the green-eyed monster!
The book is well-researched, includes interviews with a wealth of experts and covers a range of different voices and viewpoints. Its wide in scope, very current, and perfect for someone who feels that they have just woken up to the climate crisis or are questioning the ethics of capitalism and inequality across the globe and are looking for a way to find out more.
In her introduction, Lily addresses the question of “why optimism?” She says, “whereas pessimism can breed apathy, inaction and fatalism – if you believe the ship is sinking, there is no point fixing the hull – optimism can inspire action and change”
I have started avoiding certain troubling nature documentaries, instead choosing to bury my head in the sand. Reading “Who Cares Wins” has left me with a personal to-do list of achievable changes that I can make in my own life to make the world and the environment a better place.
“Who Cares Wins: Reasons for Optimism in Our Changing World” is an exercise in positivity that feels essential in current times.