Being the Change Book

Praise and reviews


A plethora of insights about nature and ourselves, revealed by one man’s journey as he comes to terms with human exploitation of our planet.

—James Hansen, climate scientist and former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies

A low-carbon world will not look like Star Trek, it will look mostly like it looks today, it’s just that we will inhabit it differently. Peter Kalmus’s brilliant book is about his deciding to start living that way today. He finds that (a) it’s not that hard, and that (b) life improves. He becomes more skilled, connected, fulfilled, nourished. As will we all. Allow him to ease you over the threshold.

—Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement

When it comes to climate change, our biggest problem isn’t that we don’t think it’s real. It’s that we don’t think we can fix it.That’s why Peter Kalmus is my favorite type of person – a pragmatic idealist. He’s a scientist, so he doesn’t minimize the nature of our predicament. Yet he runs headlong towards that challenge with a joy and an infectious enthusiasm that buoys the spirit.

So often, we feel that nothing we do will make a difference. Peter doesn’t just dispel that myth, he buries it. These gut-wrenchingly honest yet obstinately hopeful reflections provide a roadmap to building our own personal bulwark against the storm we face today.

—Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist

A powerful reminder that it is possible — and joyful — to move away from fossil fuels, even in a society still in the throes of addiction.

—Bill McKibben, author, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

Too often, books by scientists err toward the ultra-cerebral. Full of facts, figures and charts — but not enough heart. That’s what makes Being the Change so refreshing. Kalmus is a respected atmospheric scientist and weighs in with authority when it comes to the topic of climate change. But he speaks to us as a person, sharing his experiences, concerns, and aspirations as a fellow human being combatting the existential threat of human-caused climate change. And he shares with us a vital message about how we can indeed be the change we need to see in the world if we are to avert a climate catastrophe.

Michael E. Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Penn State University, and co- author, The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening the Planet, Destroying our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy

What does an astrophysicist do if he learns that civilization is on path toward oblivion? If he’s Peter Kalmus, he meditates, examines his life, and makes significant changes to reduce his personal carbon output. Then he writes a book. The result is a humane and intelligent exploration of what anyone can do to reduce climate impact — and live a better life in the process.

—Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute

Imagine you had your very own climate scientist living next door. What would he or she tell you to do? Peter is that neighbor. He walks the walk for his kids, for the land, for our future — and he can help you do it too.

—Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, authors, The Urban Homestead and Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World

When science and the mind are aligned with the heart, they become true science and this manifests in books like Being the Change—a courageous manifesto for citizens of the world in the 21st century. Peter Kalmus is the kind of dad, husband, friend, serious meditator, scientist, heartivist and brother any of us concerned for future generations and more harmonious communities would like to have in our (Solar) neighborhood.

Pancho Ramos-Stierle, Satyagrahi and full-time ServiceSpace volunteer

Peter’s work makes me smile. The mission of Citizens Climate Lobby is to create the political will for a livable planet by encouraging others to make breakthroughs in their personal and political power. Peter demonstrates practical steps, for individuals and organizations all the way up to the global scale, to advance these goals. His manner of living exemplifies the connection between power, reason, creativity and joyful living.

—James Waterhouse, co-founder of Citizens’ Climate Lobby Pasadena-Foothills chapter

Too many people say that personal action isn’t enough to deal with the mess we’ve made of the global climate, and think that this means personal action isn’t necessary. In this timely and provocative book, Peter Kalmus points out that changing the world has to start with changing our own lives. It’s a crucial message that needs to be heard.

—John Michael Greer, author of After Progress and “The Retro Future

We all must take huge risks in order to create a truly just and life-sustaining society. Being the Change maps the first important leaps on this journey, describing real-life examples of the good life that awaits us beyond capitalism, species-extinction, economic injustice, and fossil-fuel addiction. It is a roadmap out of our destructive and oppressive culture that touches upon the essential need for wealth redistribution and racial justice in the climate revolution. Please follow Peter’s inspiring example: we must act!

—Ethan Hughes, co-founder of the Possibility Alliance

Being the Change is a unique and powerful contribution to the literature on climate change. As a NASA climate scientist, Kalmus is more than qualified to explain the science of climate change and does so clearly and thoroughly. But what stands out is his personal journey. Kalmus is the rare scientist who also possesses the heart of a story teller. As well as explaining what’s happening to our climate, Kalmus tells the crucially important story of how we can respond. And he does so in a concrete, compelling manner—by modeling the change in his own life.

Kalmus shares how he underwent the process of reducing his carbon footprint, and in so doing, happened upon the transformative revelation that reducing our individual emissions is a positive, enriching experience. A low-emission lifestyle is empowering, happier, and strengthens our connection with community and our environment (plus yes, it saves us thousands of dollars). The themes in this book are unlike any book by a climate scientist that I’ve read. He inextricably links reducing fossil fuel use to increasing our ability to love. As we change ourselves for the better, we become more able to change the world for the better. He exhorts his readers to follow their joy, not their guilt.

These are empowering messages and putting on my climate communicator’s hat, align with the lessons of social science. The way to achieve enduring behavior change is not through self-deprivation but by replacing a poorer lifestyle with a better lifestyle. Rather than fear the end of our dependence on fossil fuels, we should embrace this change. Illustrating these changes through concrete, personal anecdotes are a powerful way to communicate his themes. This is an important and valuable book, and recommended reading for anyone interested in a richer life or a safer climate (doubly so for those interested in both).

—John Cook, founder of

Reviews It occurred to me also, holding Being the Change in my hands on that smoke-immersed train with my beloved child beside me, that Peter Kalmus has provided us with a different blueprint, and he’s shown through his own experimentation that we have the capacity to choose it, and to use it. On the cusp of climate catastrophe, we are neither choiceless nor powerless. (Chris Moore-Backman) Read full review. “Being the Change” is a book I desperately needed to read…. The tone of authenticity kept me reading eagerly till the end. It is refreshing and empowering to read about real-life solutions, rather than the guilt-ridden, doom-and-gloom tales that dominate much of the environmental movement. Kalmus is positive, by contrast, bursting with practical strategies. He writes with joy, infectious curiosity, and a hopeful enthusiasm that’s hard to resist. (Katherine Martinko) Read full review.

VERDICT Kalmus’s straightforward and necessary steps toward ameliorating the challenges of global warming will be welcomed by a wide readership. Highly recommended.

Foreword Reviews (five stars): “Being the Change” approaches climate change from a fundamentally different perspective. It repudiates the idea that individuals can do nothing about climate change and encourages mindful transition to a low-energy lifestyle—not as a sacrifice to stop a threat, but as a means of embracing a richer life. This emphasis on the bright side of climate change mitigation has a good chance of resonating with ambivalent audiences.

The book offers an unusually comprehensive and scientifically satisfying explanation of how climate change happens. While most people are familiar with the basics, and some will know about factors like albedo and feedback loops, Being the Change’s explanation will present something new to almost everyone. That it is able to do so in a straightforward way is a significant feat. (Anna Call) This really is a book like no other. Personal transformation books are often trite exercises in ego-driven vanity. Being The Change is not that. It’s one guy’s journey, written honestly, openly, with gallons of facts underpinning it all. Kalmus has an easy, optimistic style which makes you want to hang out with him. (Anthony Sharwood) Read full review. I am an avid reader and I have read many books about global warming, climate change, and activism. Being the Change provides readers with solid information and practical inspiration. One thing that sets it apart from many of the books I have read is that Kalmus focuses on the joyfulness possible in a world without fossil fuels. I recommend reading Being the Change to anyone who is planning to continue residing on Earth or who is concerned about his or her children or future people’s ability to do so. (Linda Poppenheimer) Read full review. This book is inspiring as it holds the mirror just in front of my face: We are the (climate) change! It talks about our common predicament and our millions of little ways of denial and escaping. It’s written by a fellow traveler in the middle of this industrial society, though he has to deal with the undeniable data and facts every day as a climate scientist. Using very understandable language, [Kalmus] shares with us a critical view of how this data is processed in the culture/society. Why are we not f****** doing it? It’s right there! Let’s opt out of fossil fuels and everything connected! (elke) Read full review.

Library Journal (starred review): Kalmus, an atmospheric scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is strongly convinced that living without fossil fuels is not only possible but better for both the planet and the individual. The author draws on science, practical action, and spiritual examination to make the case that by reducing our carbon footprint, people can slow global warming and the ensuing civil unrest. Kalmus encourages meditation to provide satisfaction in the moment rather than the need for more, presenting valuable tips for opting out of what he deems a destructive system.

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