Sustainably Motivated Reading List
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This one was a long time coming! I’ve been happy to share some sweet titles after I read them (see Learning Tools), but hadn’t yet compiled a reading list. With all the time I’ve spent online however, I’ve come to realize how convenient these list posts are, so here it goes. Below are some of my absolute favorite sustainably related books.
Each are great on their own, but together they present a highly relevant and enriching narrative that’ll help you better understand and solve for sustainability. Without a doubt, it can be initially intimidating to try and unravel this complex issue, but it’s totally worth it! So without further ado, here are a dozen brilliant books to grow your brain matter and build your sustainability skills.
1. The Sacred Balance
Written by renown environmentalist David Suzuki, this book offers a pretty comprehensive view of the many amazing befits bestowed to us by nature. It’s a nice book to start with, as it provides a ranged examination of humanity’s relationship with the environment through the exploration of the various elements that sustain life. It also touches upon the deeper relationship that exists with nature, and how to improve our care and connection with the earth. For more on this book, click here.
2. Silent Spring
Written by Rachel Carson over 50 years ago, it is a landmark book in the environmental movement. Despite the decades since its initial publication it is no less timely and potent. Carson brought serious attention to the widespread use of chemicals in the agricultural industry, and the subsequent danger to all life on earth.
By investigating the specific poisons in use through herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides, she generated the vigorous (and ongoing) debate that helped launch the US environmental movement of the 1960s. Silent Spring is a critical book for understanding the continuity of this struggle and recognizing the impact that our choices have on the complex natural systems that support life. For more on this, click here.
3. Start With Why
Written by the organizational consultant & motivational speaker Simon Sinek, this book speaks to finding your purpose. He offers up some terrific wisdom for both yourself, and your organization. Learning more about what drives you and your work can help place it in the bigger picture and assist you with long term perspective. Thinking sustainably means considering that long term view, and this book is great for putting you in that frame of mind. To learn more about it, click here.
4. The Ecology of Commerce
Written by Paul Hawken, this book is meant to highlight the possibility of leveraging business to help resolve social and environmental problems. Such problems are often exasperated by short-sighted business practices. Rather than take the destructive approach, Hawken offers a vision by which companies can actually maintain their own sustainability and profitability, through their consideration of the grander ecology in which they exist. Click here for more.
5. Cradle to Cradle
Written by William McDonough and Michael Braungart this book (that was made by something other than a tree) is an enlightening read about design and manufacture. The authors encourage us to think about what things are made of, what happens to such items when we’re done with them, and how we can make them better. They provide readers with a fresh perspective when considering the purpose and design of our stuff, and an alternative means of looking at how we fulfill our needs. Click here for more.
6. The Green Collar Economy
Written by Van Jones, this book highlights the immense opportunity in the revolutionary transition societies need to take in order to fend off climate change and break off the addiction to fossil fuels. Rather than resist the glaring scientific evidence of man-made global warming, Jones explains the many benefits of choosing to adopt greener measures through the development of renewable energy sources. Such massive developments do in fact create jobs. Well paying, local jobs, that could also help redress wrongs done to disenfranchised communities. It’s essentially a win-win! Click here for more.
7. Why We Can’t Wait
Written by the perpetually inspiringMartin Luther King Jr, this book lays out the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement, as King explains the motivation and reasoning behind non-violent civil disobedience. Fighting for the dignity and equality that was denied African-Americans, King speaks to the need for non-violent action necessary to help fulfill and expedite the legal progressions.
The parallels with the current environmental movement over climate change are evident. We are running short on time! King reminds readers that those fighting for what is right will eventually succeed, but that it does require struggle and sacrifice. Click here for more.
8. The Sixth Extinction
Written by Elizabeth Kolbert this compelling book is a powerful indication of the extensive changes that are currently underway on our planet. Due to the excesses of human activity, we are bringing about the next (6th) mass extinction of life on this planet. We are dooming countless species, and quite possibly ourselves, with no grand external threat to blame. Click here for more.
9. Oil & Honey
Written by Bill Mckibben, this book narrates his personal journey from author and environmentalist to climate change activist and founder of 350.org. As he describes it, he would like nothing more than to keep to his quite rural life in Vermont and help raise bees, but that it is his love and concern for the bees, trees, plants and animals that compel him to act.
He simply knows too much, and has seen to much, to allow the rising threat of man-made climate change endanger his daughter and indeed all future generations. This book is an account of his actions and reflections as he pursues his quest to help society break free from its dependency on fossil fuels. Click here for more.
10. Climate Justice
Written by Mary Robinson, this book highlights the considerable impact of grassroots organizations in their effort to combat climate change. As former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Robinson had the opportunity to meet with and learn from people from all over the world. It helped her realize that Climate Change and Human Rights were firmly intertwined and therefore needed to be solved together.
The horrors and devastation of climate change are already present, but her book focuses on the strength and resilience of people, as they come together through communities and organizations to help one another in the face of this threat. Her message is uplifting and poignant. Click here for more.
11. Small is Beautiful
Written by E. F. Schumacher this tiny book packs quite a punch. Published in 1973, it examines the way in which modern society has organized its economic metrics, and questions whether or not this was really the right way of doing things. The environment is obviously being ravaged and depleted, yet people aren’t necessarily happier for it. Furthermore, the distribution of said environmental resources are so skewed as to enormously enrich a small number of elite, while leave behind the vast majority in poverty. Schumacher asks you to think it over.Click here for more.
Edited by Paul Hawken, this collection of climate solutions (there’s a hundred of them), represents a beacon of hope. Yes, there are ways that we can drastically cut our carbon emissions and thereby lessen the threat of climate change. The battle for the future isn’t over yet, and there is still a great deal we can do.
Hawken, an environmental activist and author of the above Ecology of Commerce, encourages you to work for the world you wish to live in, and provides you copious amounts of information to help you figure it out. There are stories and guidelines, considerations, research, science, and of course, inspiration. There is a lot going on in this book. Click here for more.