50 things you can do to save the earth

John Javna is trying to save the planet &

again. This time with help from the next generation.

When the Ashland author wrote "50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save the Earth" in 1989, it sold 5 million copies and opened a lot of minds to habits like recycling.

"A vital step," he calls the book, but it didn't go far enough.

His new book of the same title is completely rewritten to focus on things you can do, by collaborating with others, to counteract 50 horrible crises that have attacked what he calls the planet's life support system.

This slim, easy-to-read book is not your typical file-and-forget conversation piece, but rather a doorway to global groups who are actually doing something and stand ready to be contacted by you, so you can help in their goals and tactics.

The book got its inspiration last year when daughter Sophie Javna, 14, (inspired by Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth") asked Javna why the family had stopped composting garbage. He realized the 50 simple things from the original book, while helpful, just weren't saving the earth.

"You can't carry water for everyone. It can't be just a few people doing this. The few things we do don't make much difference," says Javna, cracking open his first box of books from publisher Hyperion Books in New York. "A lot of people stopped there, with the clipping of plastic six-pack rings."

Then humorist P.J. O'Rourke needled the book on TV, calling it "the Tommy the Tank Engine of the Environmental Movement." O'Rourke said Javna had to update the book or let it go.

So, with the help of Sophie and son Jesse Javna, 18, he identified the 50 most egregious catastrophes facing the earth, contacted the group most focused on each crisis, and learned its causes and possible solutions.

If you thought there were only five or 10 ways the world was undoing itself, guess again:


162; There are 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile in the ocean, with plastic bags killing a million birds and 100,000 mammals yearly. What you can do is stop using plastic grocery bags, get your store (and city) to ban them, join Ocean Conservancy's annual coastal cleanup, adopt a beach and clean it thrice annually, and plug into Greenpeace for further tasks.


162; The U.S. government invests $16 billion a year on airlines and $40 billion a year on highways, but only $1.3 billion on trains, which move much larger crowds with much less environmental impact. What you can do is use trains, of course, but also join the National Association of Rail Passengers and advocate to state and federal governments for enhanced rail service.


162; We've paved 61,000 square miles of America, so rainwater runs off instead of going in the ground like it's supposed to, carrying gobs of pesticides with it. Runoff is the number one source of water pollution in the country, causing fish kills and toxic algae blooms. What you can do is wash your car on the lawn, compost yard waste and sweep, don't hose, driveways. Set up a rain barrel to save water for gardens and become an advocate, working with construction firms (a major source of runoff) to fix it. And connect with the Waterkeeper Alliance.

Javna knows what he's working against, a huge ballast of inertia in the human lifestyle, but he tries to do it without guilt-tripping the reader and by simplifying the topic (two pages per catastrophe), keeping the lingo friendly and hopeful.

It's the same formula that made a huge success of his "Uncle John's Bathroom Reader," a series greatly expanded since he sold the rights some years ago.

"I'm trying not to impose an overwhelming burden on readers, and if I have a skill, it might be simplifying complex ideas," says Javna, adding he hopes the material lands readers somewhere between denial and panic. His Web site, , can link readers to all the information and action portals they need.

"The culture is going full steam in one direction and it's not sustainable, so we have to turn it around. It's slow and difficult, like turning an aircraft carrier around. You have to have patience, but taking substantive action brings a sense of community and hope," he says.

"It's hard to create something new like this, but I felt I owed it to my daughter and son to try to do it, to create something that really works."

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