14 Books to Read in 2017

For environmentalists, naturalists, or anyone really

1. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

“From the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe, a powerful and important work about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a compelling account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes.” Interesting and informing account of past cycles and incidents the Earth has gone through.

2. The Incidental Steward: Reflections on Citizen Science by Akiko Busch, Debby Cotter Kaspari

Helped me appreciate my immediate surroundings and helped me be more observant of my own local ecosystem. “A search for a radio-tagged Indiana bat roosting in the woods behind her house in New York’s Hudson Valley led Akiko Busch to assorted other encounters with the natural world — local ecological monitoring projects, community-organized cleanup efforts, and data-driven citizen science research.”

3. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben

Alarmist at times but a very interesting account of what we can expect in the coming years due to our recent actions.

“We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.

That new planet is filled with new binds and traps. A changing world costs large sums to defend — think of the money that went to repair New Orleans, or the trillions it will take to transform our energy systems. But the endless economic growth that could underwrite such largesse depends on the stable planet we’ve managed to damage and degrade. We can’t rely on old habits any longer.”

4. The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century by Dickson D. Despommier

In my opinion, this book could have been shortened to about 50 pages but the length of this work really shows the passion of Despommier on local food systems. He has some great ideas on revolutionizing local foods for urban centers around the world. “Imagine a world where every town has their own local food source, grown in the safest way possible, where no drop of water or particle of light is wasted, and where a simple elevator ride can transport you to nature’s grocery store — imagine the world of the vertical farm.”

5. Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence by Stefano Mancuso, Alessandra Viola

“Are plants intelligent? Can they solve problems, communicate, and navigate their surroundings? Or are they passive, incapable of independent action or social behavior? Philosophers and scientists have pondered these questions since ancient Greece, most often concluding that plants are unthinking and inert: they are too silent, too sedentary — just too different from us. Yet discoveries over the past fifty years have challenged these ideas, shedding new light on the extraordinary capabilities and complex interior lives of plants.”

6. A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros

“In A Philosophy of Walking, a bestseller in France, leading thinker Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B — the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble — and reveals what they say about us.

Gros draws attention to other thinkers who also saw walking as something central to their practice. On his travels he ponders Thoreau’s eager seclusion in Walden Woods; the reason Rimbaud walked in a fury, while Nerval rambled to cure his melancholy. He shows us how Rousseau walked in order to think, while Nietzsche wandered the mountainside to write. In contrast, Kant marched through his hometown every day, exactly at the same hour, to escape the compulsion of thought.”

7. How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do by Linda Chalker-Scott

“In How Plants Work, horticulture expert and contributor to the popular blog The Garden Professors, Linda Chalker-Scott brings the stranger-than-fiction science of the plant world to vivid life. She uncovers the mysteries of how and why plants do the things they do, and arms the home gardener with fascinating knowledge that will change the way they garden.”

8. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan

“Pollan proposes a new answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.”

9. Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben

“McKibben puts forward a new way to think about the things we buy, the food we eat, the energy we use, and the money that pays for it all. Our purchases, he says, need not be at odds with the things we truly value.”

10. The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos by Karen Piper

I found this work to be a bit saddening especially with the current state we are in but definitely made me more informed and aware of water politics and privatization.

“There’s Money in Thirst,” reads a headline in the New York Times. The CEO of Nestlé, purveyor of bottled water, heartily agrees. It is important to give water a market value, he says in a promotional video, so “we’re all aware that it has a price.” But for those who have no access to clean water, a fifth of the world’s population, the price is thirst. This is the frightening landscape that Karen Piper conducts us through in The Price of Thirst — one where thirst is political, drought is a business opportunity, and more and more of our most necessary natural resource is controlled by multinational corporations.

In visits to the hot spots of water scarcity and the hotshots in water finance, Piper shows us what happens when global businesses with mafia-like powers buy up the water supply and turn off the taps of people who cannot pay: border disputes between Iraq and Turkey, a “revolution of the thirsty” in Egypt, street fights in Greece, an apartheid of water rights in South Africa. The Price of Thirst takes us to Chile, the first nation to privatize 100 percent of its water supplies, creating a crushing monopoly instead of a thriving free market in water; to New Delhi, where the sacred waters of the Ganges are being diverted to a private water treatment plant, fomenting unrest; and to Iraq, where the U.S.-mandated privatization of water resources destroyed by our military is further destabilizing the volatile region. And in our own backyard, where these same corporations are quietly buying up water supplies, Piper reveals how “water banking” is drying up California farms in favor of urban sprawl and private towns.”

11. Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg

A quick account looking at the four main fish we consume (cod, trout, salmon, and tuna) and why we consume them. He looks at whether these fish should be our top four and what we can expect in the future of aquaculture.

“Our relationship with the ocean is undergoing a profound transformation. Whereas just three decades ago nearly everything we ate from the sea was wild, rampant overfishing combined with an unprecedented bio-tech revolution has brought us to a point where wild and farmed fish occupy equal parts of a complex and confusing marketplace.”

12. Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity by Lester Russell Brown

“With food scarcity driven by falling water tables, eroding soils, and rising temperatures, control of arable land and water resources is moving to center stage in the global struggle for food security.”

13. The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business by Christopher Leonard

A detailed look into the current meat industry of the US.

“In The Meat Racket, investigative reporter Christopher Leonard delivers the first-ever account of how a handful of companies have seized the nation’s meat supply. He shows how they built a system that puts farmers on the edge of bankruptcy, charges high prices to consumers, and returns the industry to the shape it had in the 1900s before the meat monopolists were broken up. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the greatest capitalist country in the world has an oligarchy controlling much of the food we eat and a high-tech sharecropping system to make that possible.”

14. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

“Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.”

All quotes are taken from goodreads.com descriptions of the books listed.

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