Tony Juniper Praises Independent Publishers
Since 1998, Tony Juniper has written and published numerous environmentally-oriented books. He’s worked with a range of publishers and imprints, from the Yale University Press to the BBC to multi-national publishing corporations like HarperCollins. What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? is actually the Juniper’s sixth book, but rather than going back to HarperCollins, the outfit behind his last two titles, the environmentalist has gone a different route this time around: independent outfits.
In Europe, Juniper worked with Profile Books, an independent publishing firm that focuses specifically on non-fiction titles. In the United States, What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? will be released by Synergetic Press, a company devoted to publishing books “that deepen our understanding of Earth's living systems and the role of human culture within them.” According to Juniper, his experience with both outlets has been remarkably positive.
“Independent publishers have an understanding of what the author is trying to do and the ability to put in the kind of thinking and time to be able to promote it properly, which is not something that necessarily happens with a large publisher,” he said.
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British Environmental Figure Aims to Start a Conversation on Economy and Ecology
“All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”
The above quote, drawn from the 1979 Monty Python film, Life of Brian, comes amidst a conversation between Palestinian citizens who do not believe their Roman rulers have ever added anything positive to their lives. Obviously, the accusation is ridiculous. How could the Palestinians have even had civilized lives without the presence of education, medicine, irrigation, sanitation, and all of the other public services mentioned in the “apart from...” list? The joke—and it is a joke, since we all know that virtually nothing made it into a Monty Python film if it didn’t have the potential to elicit a few laughs—is funny because of its exaggerated execution. But what happens when that hyperbolic ignorance is actually not a joke, but something that applies to one of the biggest questions of our time?
Such is the conundrum that British environmentalist Tony Juniper tackles in his latest book, titled What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?, in a sly reference to the memorable Monty Python sketch. Juniper, one of the foremost environmental figures of his generation, saw an interesting and disturbing parallel between the Palestinian squabble of Life of Brian and the modern-day devaluation of the environment. In Juniper’s estimation, nature is our version of the Romans—a larger-than-life entity that has spoiled the people of earth with uncountable systems, processes, amenities, and other gifts without which we could not live. But for too long now, the preservation of nature has taken a back seat to the rapid progress and profit of the economy. Many figures around the globe, from politicians to big business CEOs to industrial leaders, have argued that the preservation of nature and the preservation of a thriving economy are not compatible missions, and that we must choose which we are more invested in pursuing. In many circles, the economy is winning.
That’s where Juniper comes in, though his stance on the subject is likely not the one you would expect. Juniper doesn’t choose the environment so much as he recognizes that, really, there is no choice. The two sides of the argument—environmental ecology and economic prosperity—are inextricably linked.
“There’s this misconception that looking after the environment is an economic cost and is harmful to economic growth,” Juniper explained. “And that is the main problem in [the United Kingdom] and it seems in the U.S., as well, as policy makers look at the options they have for dealing with things like climate change or continuing species extinction or resource depletion.”
With What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?, Juniper has set out to debunk that way of thinking and bring a more farsighted perspective into the equation.
“Being able to dispel that myth really was the purpose of the book, to present people with the information showing that nature is not a drag on economic development, it’s actually essential for economic development,” he added. “And the main reason we need to protect nature is not an environmental reason, it’s to keep the economy going.”
The environmentalist is ambitious in his goals for the new book, which he hopes will help shift the way we perceive the relationship between economy and ecology in the coming years. Juniper will certainly face an uphill battle with that mission, not only because environmental arguments have proven particularly devoid of consensus in recent years, but also because the concepts he is laying forth in this book have really only been discussed on a technical and scientific level thus far.
That groundbreaking aspect is ultimately what makes What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? such a compelling read. Essentially, the book is Juniper’s attempt to bring the ecology versus economy debate into the mainstream for the first time, and he pulls it off smashingly. Instead of delivering his message through overly technical explanations or experimental findings, Juniper establishes and defends his argument through riveting and accessible anecdotes that display just how important environmental balance is to a booming economy. In one particularly sobering chapter, Juniper shows how a single and simplistic disruption in the food chain cost the Indian economy an estimated $34 billion. I won’t spoil the gory details for those interested in checking out the book, but suffice to say that the story is both enlightening and devastating, and the other snapshots Juniper provides throughout these pages follow in the same vein. Clearly, nature is worth more than most of us can even fathom.
According to Juniper, scientists have estimated that the value of the nature to the global economy is nearly twice as big as the worldwide GDP in any given year. The problem is, that value is not often measured in mainstream circles.
“That’s a reflection on the fact that the bit of the economy we are measuring is about half as valuable as the bit we aren’t measuring, which is in turn sustaining the bit we are measuring,” Juniper explained. “But the bit we are measuring is degrading the other part.”
“We have all the solutions to be able to fix this problem,” he added. “It’s not a question of the technologies or the policy ideas or the insights being absent. It’s really a question about basic mindset needing to change first.”
Want to be a part of that changing mindset? Click here to pre-order What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?, which is set for a United States publication in August. The book released to European audiences in January.
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Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for Independent Publisher, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at email@example.com.