From Publishing Perspectives:
The timing of London Book Fair’s new Sustainability Lounge program is significant.
Rachel Martin, the global director of sustainability at Amsterdam’s Elsevier, says that the arrival of the United Nations’ latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has raised the alarm to its necessary pitch.
“We are not on track to limit warming to 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) or even 2.0 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit),” the report tells us.
The message has become inescapable: The level of urgency has soared in these years since the 2018 advent of these UN reports. One conclusion is unmistakable in the panel’s new Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023: Time is running out faster than we thought it was.
‘We Need the Poetry and Fiction and Children’s Books’
If there’s anyone in book publishing who’s becoming the international go-to personality for the climate crisis for the book business, it’s Martin at the publishing giant Elsevier—like London Book Fair, a RELX company.
Martin and her Elsevier colleague Michiel Kolman have worked with London Book Fair director Gareth Rapley and his associates to develop the Sustainability Lounge. And in an interview with Publishing Perspectives, it becomes evident that Martin has two assignments for the international publishing business.
- Obviously, publishing must adopt climate-crisis responses in carefully worked out plans to ensure the industry lowering emissions in its own operations, from acqusitions through distribution and sales.
- But maybe not as obviously, publishing also needs to produce the content necessary to capture, inspire, and guide the world’s attention to the racing rise of an existential threat.
“We need the poetry and fiction and the children’s books and the stories and the different perspectives around this,” Martin says, “in order to get people to understand there is a better future out there—because there has to be a better future out there.
“And so we do need publishers to be catalysts of action, we need them to be publishing on topics like what does 2030 look like? We need them to be talking about self-help, and how do you become a change-agent in your own organization?”
. . . .
The IPA also has led the way in three critical publishing responses to the crisis:
- The SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] Book Club
- The fast-growing SDG Publishers Compact, now with some 300 signatories
- With the Federation of European Publishers, the Publishing 2030 Accelerator, a project to develop systemic industry response to the pressures of climate change
. . . .
But the Sustainability Lounge at London Book Fair has the distinction of being a stage devoted all week to the question of the climate emergency, with bespoke programming throughout the run of the trade show.
. . . .
Martin—a vivacious conversationalist, full of humor and enthusiasm for her specialization—is crystal clear on what’s needed from publishing: both those best practices in sustainability but also “a vision of what we’re working toward, so people feel like they’re headed for a better life. They need to be inspired.”
This executive at one of the very biggest academic houses in the world says with a smile, “Academic publishers are very good at putting out the science, right? But we need to use every lever at our control. Every inspirational, motivational idea of cultural power to push us over a little hump when we’re not quite sure if we want to go down a path” required to ease the warming crisis.
For that, she’s turning to the trade: The role for carbon-footprint reduction is urgent–and so is the call for climate-relative literature.
. . . .
Martin tells Publishing Perspectives that she’s calculated the carbon footprint on the Elsevier stand. “And what are some of the lessons learned,” she asks rhetorically, “in terms of carbon emissions at book fairs? We’re thinking about something a bit like the ‘carbon label,’” she says, “something that RX and London Book Fair might give their exhibitors to calculate their own stands’ carbon footprints” in the future.
Rachel Martin stops herself in mid-conversation, thinks about it. Then she decides to go ahead: “Okay, what we found out—spoiler alert—is that it’s more about who is on your stand than it is about some of the materials on your stand.”
Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives
PG will welcome the reactions of visitors to TPV, but for him, the scent of virtue-signalling is strong in the OP.
He wonders if a consistent push to reduce the number of physical books published by these enormous companies each year and a rapid transition to electronic-only publishing wouldn’t do more good than having a sustainability display at a physical conference that involves hundreds of book people flying from all over the world, more than a few on corporate jets.
PG suggests allowing a great many of the trees that are pulped for paper books each year to continue to live by absorbing lots and lots of carbon dioxide might be a more significant contribution to diminishing global warming. Think of the amount of pollution the trucks, ships and planes involved in moving physical books and their components around spew into the air each day?
PG is not an expert on global warming, climate science, etc. However, he has seen enough virtue-signaling over the years of his adulthood to recognize the difference between saying the right things and doing the right things.
But as always, PG could be wrong.