"Climate change is not a distant problem," says Schlossberg, a former New York Times reporter, of new book Inconspicuous Consumption

By Sam Gillette
September 05, 2019 04:56 PM
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Elizabeth Cecil

Tatiana Schlossberg, Caroline Kennedy‘s daughter and a former New York Times science writer, hopes to both unsettle and inspire readers with a new book about climate change called Inconspicuous Consumption.

In an interview with PEOPLE, featured in this week’s issue, Schlossberg discusses her book, the environmental disasters which she says are partly rooted in consumers’ need for convenience and how she’s continuing grandfather President John F. Kennedy‘s legacy — even as she forges her own path.

“Climate change is not a distant problem,” says Schlossberg, 29. “It’s involved in all of our lives through the stuff that we use, buy and eat — which is not to say that individuals like you and me are responsible for climate change.”

“There are people who are responsible,” she continues, “and the fossil fuels industry and other industries have gotten us to this point. I hope people understand the scope of the problem and see that there are ways to be engaged and involved.”

Inconspicuous Consumption breaks down the ways the internet, technology, food, fashion and fuel impact the environment in hidden ways. For example, Schlossberg explains in the book how the high demand for cashmere causes desertification in grasslands — more goats for cashmere also means more goats eating grass — and the ways eating red meat in New York City can lead to pollution in the Gulf of Mexico.

Her book is also a call to action.

“I’ve been really inspired over the last year by all the activism,” she tells PEOPLE, referencing emerging advocates such as 16-year-old Greta Thunberg. “We can’t just leave it up to our leaders anymore. As we’ve seen, they haven’t done enough so if people really care about this issue then they need to make their voices heard.”

Below are selections from Schlossberg’s interview.

What do you want readers to understand about consumerism and climate change?

I’m not letting everybody off the hook, but it shouldn’t be up to the consumer to find the most sustainable option. I hope readers will feel like they have the power to make more demands of companies.

What did you learn that alarmed you the most?

I came to understand how destructive the creation of [clothing fiber viscose rayon] can be, because about 30 percent of the plant fiber is made from ancient or hardwood forests [and is made with] so many chemicals that it’s very difficult for it to be considered a natural material. There aren’t really standards in the parts of the world where it’s often made. So I was stunned by that part of the fashion industry.

What are you fears about Donald Trump’s government and how it will impact the environment?

We’ve seen a pretty significant disregard of climate science by the current administration. I’ve taken for granted that we have clean air to breathe in cities, relatively speaking, and most people have access to clean water. But we can’t take these things for granted.

Schlossberg's brother, John, showing support for her book on Instagram.
Jack Schlossberg/Instagram

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How did you approach writing the book?

I’m a journalist, not an advocate, so I approached researching and writing the book the same way that I do any other reporting. But when you’re writing for yourself, you have a little more room to say what you think.

How does your husband, Dr. George Moran, support your work?

He’ll tell me how important he thinks what I’m doing is. I feel like, “Well, you’re a doctor, so nothing compares to that.” But he’s not the kind of person who would ever make me feel like what I was doing was less important. He’s incredibly supportive and encouraging, especially when I’m frustrated and take it out on him.

 

You’ve talked about growing up next to the water. How did that influence your writing?

I’m very lucky that I got to spend my summers at my grandmother’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. My brother really loved fishing, and he spent a lot of summers working on a charter fishing boat. Hearing from him and also seeing the changes (we hear the striped bass don’t come when they used to, or not as many of them) I felt like I was exposed to the phenomenon of overfishing. I was aware of [climate change] from an early age, and so I really wanted to write about fish and the ocean.

Did your family raise you to be environmentally conscious?

Both my parents had respect for the natural world. Beyond that, I’ve always been connected to my grandparents by studying history. My grandfather was involved in the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore, so I [learned the importance of] stewardship of nature and recognizing the beauty of the natural world.

Inconspicuous Consumption is on sale now.

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