Fermenting Revolution (How to Drink Beer and Save the World)
New Society Publishers, USA: 2006
Chris O'Brien is the Director of Sustainability at American University in Washington, D.C. In his book, Fermenting Revolution, he lays out the case that beer, as a global industry, has become non-sustainable and an exacerbator of social ills.
If beer created urban society, which then led to large-scale exploitation of nature, which may now be leading us toward our own extinction, then beer must bear some of the blame.
But like many of us who enjoy a good beer, he also believes passionately in the transformative power for good of beer itself and of smaller scale, 'craft' breweries.
Beer could be part of the solution. Many brewers and beer drinkers are now helping to reverse, or at least slow down, the negative trends associated with our modern consumer lifestyles, and innovating sustainable wasy of living.
He offers his evidence in chapters on the history of the industrialization of beer—the 'masculization' of of a previously feminine craft, on organic beer, on sustainable models, on global warming, on beer and health, on indigenous brews.
Like many of us, O'Brien believes maybe too passionately in the good power of good beer. Thus, he may be at his most convincing when he offers his research. Some of what he reveals can be unexpected: even the "corporate pig-dog" mega breweries, while not promoting community development, are leaders in new sustainable methods and models on, of course, a large scale.
The A-B [Anheuser-Busch] Recycling Corporation is the world's largest aluminum can recycler —recycling more beer cans than they ship worldwide, which is about twenty billion every year. In 2003, the amount of energy saved from recycling aluminum cans was equivalent to 15 million barrels of oil. With all this recycled aluminum, it stands to reason that A-B is also one of the nation's largest purchasers of recycled-content products, purchasing more than one billion pounds of post-consumer content products in 1999.
O'Brien ultimately holds drinkers accountable. He concludes Fermenting Revolution with a challenge, a "Twenty-four Point Action Plan" for would-be beer activists.
A sustainable world could indeed be created without beer, but it would be a dry, thirsty place.
This is the third in a a series of 12 recommendations for beer-themed books —one per day, until the Winter Solstice, 21 December.
This is not a Top 12 list. It's my list of 12 books, personal delights. On Christmas Day: put your feet up, pour yourself a good beer, and read a good book. Better yet: give a friend the gift of a beer and a book.
12 'Beer' Books For Christmas: the entire list here.