How You Can Save The Planet: Book Review

How You Can Save The Planet is a book by young people and for young people packed with tips and practical tools on how to get started.

by Julia Migné

Want to protect the natural world? Feeling inspired by young people such as Greta Thunberg but not sure where to start? Hendrikus van Hensbergen has got you covered with his first book How You Can Save The Planet.

Hendrikus is the CEO of the youth environmental charity, Action for Conservation (AFC), which he founded in 2014 with the aim to engage young people in environmental action. The charity has since become an influential force in the environmental sector and describes itself as “a group of young people taking action for the natural world”.

The world we are currently living in is challenging to say the least. The 2020 Living Planet Report tells us that “the population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 1970”. And this is having a real impact on our mental health, with a new study from the Royal College of Psychiatrists revealing that “more than four-fifths (84%) of the UK public think the climate and ecological emergencies will affect mental health in a decade at least as much as unemployment (83%) and Covid 19 (84%)”.

Van Hensbergen states in the introduction of How You Can Save The Planet: “When faced with such a situation it is often easier for us to turn away. But more and more people are choosing not to.” This book is the perfect toolkit for young people in need of an action plan.

Drawing on his work with Action for Conservation, van Hensbergen weaves together stories and tips from real-life young environmental activists with practical actions. We are first introduced to Amelia Lam, a teenager living in London who started her environmental journey by picking litter around where she lived. Fast forward in the future and you’ll discover that Amelia became the youngest person to be selected at the London Wildlife Trust’s Young People’s Forum. She is now working to inspire other young people to take action for nature.

Amelia’s story is just one of many inspiring stories throughout the book and each testimonial comes with a text box that showcases the message that the young environmentalist wished to share with the readers.

Remember you are never too small or too young to make an impact in the world. Know that everything you do counts. It is best to start now, because we don’t have much time.

– Lesein Mutunkei

While those stories are incredibly moving and powerful, they are strengthened by actions designed to give young readers a practical way to put their environmentalism into practice. From building a vertical wild flower meadow to planning a wildlife education walk in a school or local park, each action point comes with illustrations of what tools and equipment will be needed to make it happen and with step by step instructions on what will need to be done to accomplish the goal.

© How To Save The Planet

With chapters on Nature, Clean Air, Food, Throw Away Culture, and Environmental Campaigns, this book showcases the breadth of environmental actions that can be taken. Leading from hope rather than doom and gloom, van Hensbergen aims to empower young people and give them the tools they need to make a change in the world.

Reflecting on my own journey within the conservation sector, I marvelled at the tips and tricks shared in Chapter 7. From how to source materials to how to meet with figures of authority, I couldn’t stop wondering how useful it would have been for my teenage self to come across this book. I had to wait until much later in my life to start building my skills on how to create a budget or fundraise for a project. But those skills are what a lot of young activists need these days and so How You Can Save The Planet is a crucial toolkit for any young budding environmentalist out there.

Because as van Hensbergen says beautifully at the beginning of the book: “It doesn’t matter whether you start small or big – the important thing is that you take action. Together, we can save the planet.”

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