As you might have noticed, our climate is in crisis. Odds are, if you browse any popular news site — or step outside your front door — you’re confronted with the reality that our earth is warming at an alarming rate and the once-speculative effects of climate change are already here.
Environmental disasters, displaced communities and largely inactive global leaders are enough to make even the most optimistic among us weary about the future. Fortunately, amid the bleakness of the present times, a responsive class of scientists, activists and environmental thought leaders are emerging. Emboldened by the will to defend and preserve the hope of a restorative climate future, their collective work helps us to navigate the political, interpersonal and global realities of one of the most important issues of our time.
From personalized accounts of communities mobilizing to protect their own regional biodiversity to detailed post-capitalist manifestos about how to organize beyond the Anthropocene, we’ve compiled a list of books centered on the very real ways individuals — and nations — can pitch in to help re-direct the course of our global climate, keeping people and the planet safe.
Descriptions of each book have been amended from their respective websites.
1. Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change
Why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, do some still ignore climate change? George Marshall’s search for the answers brings him face to face with the world’s leading climate scientists and those who denounce them. Drawing on years of his own research, Marshall argues that the answers do not lie in the things that make us different, but rather in what we share: how our human brains are wired — our evolutionary origins, our perceptions of threats, our cognitive blind spots, our love of storytelling, our fear of death, and our deepest instincts to defend our family and tribe.
Once we understand what excites, threatens, and motivates us, we can rethink climate change, for it is not an impossible problem. In the end, Don’t Even Think About It is both about climate change and about the qualities that make us human and how we can deal with the greatest challenge we have ever faced.
2. All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis
All We Can Save illuminates the expertise and insights of dozens of diverse women leading on climate in the United States — scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, innovators, wonks, and designers, across generations, geographies, and race — and aims to advance a more representative, nuanced, and solution-oriented public conversation on the climate crisis. These women offer a spectrum of ideas and insights for how we can rapidly, radically reshape society.
Intermixing essays with poetry and art, this book is both a balm and a guide for knowing and holding what has been done to the world, while bolstering our resolve never to give up on one another or our collective future. We must summon truth, courage, and solutions to turn away from the brink and toward life-giving possibility. Curated by two climate leaders, the book is a collection and celebration of visionaries who are leading us on a path toward all we can save.
3. Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World
The world has finally awoken to the reality of climate breakdown and ecological collapse. Now we must face up to its primary cause. Capitalism demands perpetual expansion, which is devastating the living world. There is only one solution that will lead to meaningful and immediate change: degrowth.
If we want to have a shot at halting the crisis, we need to change how we see nature and our place in it, shifting from a philosophy of domination and extraction to one that’s rooted in reciprocity and regeneration. But what does such a society look like? What about jobs? What about health? What about progress? This book tackles these questions and traces a clear pathway to a post-capitalist economy. An economy that’s more just, more caring, and more fun. An economy that enables human flourishing while reversing ecological breakdown. An economy that will not only lift us out of our current crisis, but restore our sense of connection to a world that’s brimming with life. By taking less, we can become more.
4. Taking the Heat: How Climate Change Is Affecting Your Mind, Body, and Spirit and What You Can Do about It
From meteorologist and Peabody Award-winning journalist Bonnie Schneider, an innovative look at how climate change is already threatening our mental and physical health and practical tips for you to tackle these challenges head on. Schneider provides crucial advice from science experts and medical professionals to help you cope with “eco-anxiety”, identify health hazards caused by extreme heat and air pollution and more.
Anchored in the latest scientific research and filled with relatable first-person stories, this book is the one guide you need to navigate the future of your own health–mind, body, and spirit, in a rapidly changing environment.
5. Planet on Fire: A Manifesto for the Age of Environmental Breakdown
In the age of environmental breakdown, we urgently need an alternative to the political status quo that brings about the rapid transformation of our social and economic systems. As we rebuild our lives in the wake of Covid-19 and face the challenges of ecological disaster, how can the left win a world fit for life?
An urgent manifesto for a fundamental reimagining of the global economy, Planet on Fire offers a clear, practical and achievable road map for a future that is democratic and sustainable by design. Laurie Laybourn-Langton and Mathew Lawrence argue that it is not enough merely to spend our way out of the crisis; we must also rapidly reshape the economy to create a new way of life that can foster a healthy and flourishing environment for all.
6. This Book Will Save the Planet: A Climate-Justice Primer for Activists and Changemakers
A rousing and radical investigation into the climate crisis, its causes, and how to fight for the most vulnerable people affected by it, This Book Will Save the Planet is a vibrantly illustrated study of one of humanity’s most significant threats.
Through the lens of intersectionality, author Dany Sigwalt lays out the framework for how we can come together to fight climate change, and how we can work to put people over profit. At the end of each chapter, there are activities and calls to action to get you thinking and to grow your knowledge. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper. With kaleidoscopic and vibrant illustrations by artist Aurélia Durand, this book is written for everyone who lives on planet Earth. By the end, you’ll have the tools you need to go out and make a difference.
7. Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency: War Communism in the Twenty-First Century
What does the COVID 19 tell us about the climate breakdown, and what should we do about it?
The economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented. Governments have spoken of “being at war” and find themselves forced to seek new powers in order to maintain social order and prevent the spread of the virus. This is often exercised with the notion that we will return to normal as soon as we can. But, what if that is not possible? And secondly, if the state can mobilize itself in the face of an invisible foe like this pandemic, shouldn’t it also be able to confront visible dangers such as climate destruction with equal force?
In Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency, leading environmental thinker, Andreas Malm demands that this war-footing state should be applied on a permanent basis to the ongoing climate front line. He offers proposals on how the climate movement should use this present emergency to make that case and asserts that the time to enact these changes is now.
8. Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future
In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth.
One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a ten-thousand-year exercise in defying nature. In The Sixth Extinction, she explored the ways in which our capacity for destruction has reshaped the natural world. Now she examines how the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face.
9. How to Blow Up A Pipeline
The science on climate change has been clear for a very long time now. Yet despite decades of appeals, mass street protests, petition campaigns, and peaceful demonstrations, we are still facing a booming fossil fuel industry, rising seas, rising emission levels, and a rising temperature. With the stakes so high, why haven’t we moved beyond peaceful protest?
In this lyrical manifesto, noted climate scholar (and saboteur of SUV tires and coal mines) Andreas Malm makes an impassioned call for the climate movement to escalate its tactics in the face of ecological collapse. Offering a counter-history of how mass popular change has occurred, Malm argues that the strategic acceptance of property destruction and violence has been the only route for revolutionary change. How to Blow Up A Pipeline is an incisive discussion of the politics and ethics of pacifism and violence, democracy and social change, strategy and tactics, and a movement compelled by both the heart and the mind.
10. The Conservation Revolution: Radical Ideas for Saving Nature Beyond the Anthropocene
Heated debates about the rise of the afore-mentioned Anthropocene and the current ‘sixth extinction’ crisis demonstrate an urgent need and desire to move beyond mainstream approaches. Yet the conservation community is deeply divided over where to go from here.
Building a razor-sharp critique of current conservation proposals and their contradictions, Büscher and Fletcher argue that the Anthropocene challenge demands something bigger, better and bolder. Something truly revolutionary, proposing a convivial conservation as the way forward. Theoretically astute and practically relevant, The Conservation Revolution offers a post-capitalist manifesto for conservation in the twenty-first century–a clarion call that cannot be ignored.
11. Advocating for the Environment: How to Gather Your Power and Take Action
What can any one of us ordinary citizens really do about climate change? A lot!
Advocating for the Environment is based on a vision where all life is respected, revered, and nurtured. The shifts we need to achieve our vision of climate justice are profound — from how we do business to how we educate, govern, and care — for all people and life on the planet. Written by environmental policy expert Susan B. Inches, Advocating for the Environment is an easy-to-understand, empowering guide to help you take action and enact environmental change.
Part I begins with how we must learn to think differently in order to achieve this vision and heal the planet. Part II of the book is all about action. How to use power for good, work with decision-makers, organize events, manage a coalition, communicate with the public, and work with the media are all laid out in an easy-to-read and easy-to-reference format.
12. As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock
Through the unique lens of “Indigenized environmental justice,” Indigenous researcher and activist Dina Gilio-Whitaker explores the fraught history of treaty violations, struggles for food and water security, and protection of sacred sites, while highlighting the important leadership of Indigenous women in this centuries-long struggle. As Long As Grass Grows gives readers an accessible history of Indigenous resistance to government and corporate incursions on their lands and offers new approaches to environmental justice activism and policy.
Throughout 2016, the Standing Rock protest put a national spotlight on Indigenous activists, but it also underscored how little Americans know about the longtime historical tensions between Native peoples and the mainstream environmental movement. Ultimately, Gilio-Whitaker argues, modern environmentalists must look to the history of Indigenous resistance for wisdom and inspiration in our common fight for a just and sustainable future.
13. Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition
In Revolutionary Power, Shalanda Baker arms those made most vulnerable by our current energy system with the tools they need to remake the system in the service of their humanity. She argues that people of color, poor people, and indigenous people must engage in the creation of the new energy system in order to upend the unequal power dynamics of the current system.
A playbook for the energy transformation complete with a step-by-step analysis of the key energy policy areas that are ripe for intervention, the book asserts climate change will force us to rethink the way we generate and distribute energy and regulate the system. But how much are we willing to change the system? Baker argues that this unique moment in history provides an unprecedented opening for a deeper transformation of the energy system, and thus, an opportunity to transform society.
14. Climate Stewardship: Taking Collective Action to Protect California
California is uniquely positioned to develop and implement novel solutions to widespread climate challenges, owing to the state’s remarkable biogeographic diversity and robust public science programs. Produced in collaboration with the UC California Naturalist Program, Climate Stewardship focuses on replicable, regenerative approaches to energy, agriculture, and land and water use across forested, agricultural, and urban landscapes.
Showcasing the stories of everyday people whose sustained actions enhance the resilience of communities and ecosystems across ten distinct bioregions, the book invites readers on a journey to discover that all life is interconnected and deeply shaped by the state of our climate, demonstrating how they too can empower their communities to act.
See any must-reads that we missed? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Check out previous book round ups and other related articles:
- The Response: Reimagining Paradise in an age of climate disruption
- Climate adaptation: resilience, self-sufficiency and systems change
- Commoning our way through the climate crisis
- 11 books to read before you read Bill Gates’ new book
- 20 social change books to read in the New Year
- 21 inspiring, must-read books for 2021