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How people came to believe that individual choices could save the Earth

Kate Yoder

It was the late 1980s, and the headlines warned of acid rain, air pollution, and contaminated water. So John Javna, then a writer best known for books found on the back of toilets, traveled from drought-stricken California to Washington, D.C., with his backpack, looking for practical advice on how to save the world.

Javna self-published the book he’d written in his attic in California: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth. The guide featured “unbelievably easy” steps, like installing low-flow showerheads and bringing cloth bags to the grocery store.