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A grass-roots push for a 'low carbon diet'

David Gershon's book guides readers through a series of behavioral changes to reduce their 'carbon footprint.'

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Last June, David Gershon saw Al Gore's global warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." The time was ripe, he realized, to finish an old project.

In 2000, Mr. Gershon created a step-by-step program, à la Weight Watchers, designed to reduce a person's carbon footprint. The idea received positive reviews after a pilot program was run in Portland, Ore., but it eventually fell by the wayside for lack of interest. "The world wasn't ready," says Gershon, who heads the Empowerment Institute in Woodstock, N.Y., a consulting organization that specializes in changing group behavior.

But since then, Americans witnessed the catastrophic fury of hurricane Katrina, which, if nothing else, showed them what a major city looks like underwater. A substantial body of evidence supporting the idea of human-induced global warming accumulated. And, of course, Mr. Gore made his movie.

Attitudes toward global warming had shifted considerably. (Indeed, a recent poll by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that nearly half of Americans cited global warming as the No. 1 environmental concern; in 2003, only one-fifth considered it that critical.)

Gershon put his nose to the grindstone, and a slim workbook titled "Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds" was the result. Replete with checklists and illustrations, the user-friendly guide is a serious attempt at changing American energy-consumption behavior.

Although representing 4.5 percent of the world's population, the United States contributes an estimated 25 percent of its greenhouse gases. Faced with this fact and news reports of spring arriving earlier, winter arriving later, and the Arctic melting, the subject of climate change has gone from an abstract issue debated among scientists to something with apparently measurable effects in daily life.

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