24 Best Books About Climate Change and the Environment
Charles Noyes | July 19, 2021 | 7 min read
Love Nature and Books? Then This List is For You!
The question of how humanity will address the negative effects of human-caused climate change and global warming is daunting. But could the greatest challenge humanity will face in our lifetime also be an opportunity to reshape our societies into more equitable, humanistic, and environmentally conscious entities?
Thankfully, some of our greatest minds and writers have envisioned what this change may look like, based on current and future climate efforts and technologies. They’ve learned from climate scientists, historical environmentalists, radical activists, and Indigenous populations on the frontlines of the fight for our Earth’s future. The following list of titles includes some of the best books about climate change and the environment, aimed at enlightening and empowering us to take action.
1. This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein – Provocative, insightful, and explosive. Klein sees climate change as the spark that unites humanity to a common cause. She envisions the effects of climate change as humanity’s wake-up call to the environmental dangers of unregulated global capitalism and reimagines the world as we know it. A must read.
2. All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K. Wilkinson – A tableau of essays, poetry, and art by leading women in the climate movement. Through artistic, scientific, and humanitarian excellence, this book not only inspires, but preserves a sense of hope for the future. A perfect way to introduce the topic to a pre-teen or young adult.
3. What Can I Do? My Path from Climate Despair to Action by Jane Fonda – Incorporating her own stories of climate activism with the stories and speeches of other brave activists and scientists, actress Jane Fonda shares her deepest insights and experiences from fighting on the frontlines of change. With 100% of the book’s proceeds going directly to Greenpeace, there’s a lot to learn from this inspirational tale.
4. Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril by Thomas Homer-Dixon – Sometimes a change in perspective can make a world of difference, and that’s exactly what Homer-Dixon hopes to accomplish. In order to enact sweeping changes, we must come together in ways we never have before.
Taking Action for Climate
5. As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker – An entry that seeks to challenge the Euro-centric view of environmentalism, Gilio-Whitaker tells the stories of Indigenous communities on the forefront of climate justice. While Standing Rock put this battle into the public eye, there is a long, storied history of Indigenous peoples contributing to environmental activism.
6. Standing Up for a Sustainable World: Voices of Change Edited by Claude Henry, Johan Rockstrōm, and Nicholas Stern – A roadmap for change, this compilation combines the voices of leading activists, academics, and entrepreneurs. It offers lessons in suitability while leading a call to action against the disastrous potential of our inaction.
7. This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent by Daegan Miller – American naturalism and environmentalism wouldn’t be possible without contributions from across time. From Thoreau’s anti capitalist property maps to an upstate New York antislavery community to subversive messages hidden in commercial photographs to utopian anarchists in California’s sequoias, Miller details an alternative history of the United States framed around dissenting environmentalists.
8. The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet by Michael E. Mann – This powerful decry against the fossil fuel industry’s PR campaigns to push the burden of environmental change onto the individual is scathing as it is empowering. By debunking false narratives and creating a common-sense approach to carbon pricing, Mann provides a rallying cry for those tired of hearing the same tired arguments.
Systems Level Solutions
9. Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warmingby Paul Hawken – One of the most informative and thoroughly researched works on the topic, this book takes a practical and completely attainable attitude towards reversing global warming. Not only will you learn specific solutions to address our collective climate challenges, you’ll also see these ranked from 1 to 100 in terms of greatest benefit, complete with carbon stats and long-term impact.
10. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson – Famed biologist and ecologist E. O. Wilson proposes a radical solution to climate change: dedicate half of the Earth’s land to nature. It’s an ambitious, but absolutely necessary step towards preserving the Earth’s biodiversity and all life on Earth.
11. Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet by Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin with C.J. Polychroniou – Politically and economically, there are many hurdles to overcome for sweeping climate change resolutions, but Chomsky and Pollin, two leading intellectuals, have composed a solution. They argue that a Green New Deal is exactly the kind of blueprint humanity needs to face this crisis head-on.
12. The Case for the Green New Deal by Ann Pettifor – By one of the engineers of the landmark US Green New Deal campaign, this book offers a detailed manifesto on radical changes that are necessary to fight the green fight. While Pettifor offers us a roadmap of change, she also includes tangible, realistic explanations on how we can afford to reimagine our economy.
13. Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition by Shalanda H. Baker – Too often, the topic of climate change is framed around its proximity to the Western World. In this amazing book, Baker argues for an energy revolution on behalf of people of color, poor people, and Indigenous communities around the globe. In 200 pages, she outlines how attention to energy justice through key areas of energy policy can reshape the world in incredible ways.
14. A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington – Acknowledging the harmful effects of climate change doesn’t paint the full picture. Americans of color are already experiencing these effects in completely disproportionate numbers. Washington makes a compelling case and offers solutions to help those hurting across the country.
15. Tales of Two Planets: Stories of Climate Change and Inequality in a Divided World Edited by John Freeman – In many parts of the globe, we can see the effects of climate change with our own eyes. This compilation features writing that addresses the inequality of climate change from Lauren Groff, Edwidge Danticat, Margaret Atwood, and many more.
16. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—And How it Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman – In 2007, Friedman became one of the first people to coin the term “Green New Deal,” and he continues his environmental legacy with this scathing overview of America’s history and future. If you want to look ahead to how future generations are going to shape the climate crisis, look no further than this book.
A Sober Eyed Look
17. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway – Do you struggle connecting with friends or relatives who refuse to even acknowledge the reality of climate change? Oreskes and Conway provide a glimpse into the history of scientific disinformation campaigns utilized by political establishments and media conglomerates in order to obscure reality and public understanding.
18. The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go From Here by Hope Jahren – An insightful lesson in how we got where we are and a look toward the many possible solutions awaiting us; Jahren takes the reader on a journey through each highly-readable chapter. It’s a story of missed opportunities, human ingenuity, and the chance to totally reshape the world as we know it.
19. Don’t Even Think About it: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall – The oxymoronic title says it all. Marshall argues that the discomfort we feel when discussing climate change is due to how our brains are wired, our evolution, and our deepest human instincts, just to name a few. This book details how a psychological shift in the way we think about climate change is needed and how it may make the biggest difference in our ability to unite humanity around this shared cause.
20. Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming by McKenzie Funk – Our changing climate will be life-altering for many, but others see it as an opportunity for unparalleled economic profit. Funk details a thru line from Israeli snowmakers to Greenland secessionists to mutant mosquitoes to the Saharan Desert.
The Power of Individual Actions
21. Our House is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter – If you’re looking for a way to explain the debate around climate change to a younger generation, then check out the kid-friendly story of conservationist and TIME Person of the Year Greta Thunberg. Her determined voice has inspired millions, proving the power that one person can have over a global conversation.
22. How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time by Will McCallum – Plastic is abundant, destructive, and unavoidable; so what do we do about it? Greenpeace activist Will McCallum offers us everyday advice for how to remove plastic from our lives, one source at a time. A little can truly go a long way.
23. Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Even Know You Have by Tatiana Schlossberg – By making small, everyday decisions, we can make a huge difference on our personal carbon footprint. Schlossberg’s powerful narrative takes the reader through the effects of our everyday decisions and examines their impact on other communities and the environment.
24. Sustainability is for Everyone by Alan AtKisson –While only 49 pages, this little book has a huge message; sustainability is inspiration. Taking a warm, human tone, AtKisson urges everyone to connect with sustainability in a way that makes sense to them and in a way that heals the world around them.
Hopefully this list has inspired your next round of gifts and reading materials. In the interest of reducing paper waste, try finding these books at your local used bookstore instead of buying them new. But if none of these books are quite right for you, then check out our very own book, full of inspirational and heartwarming tree quotes. For every book sold, one tree will be planted!
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