With sincere respect to my colleagues across the Atlantic (this is all a matter of opinion, after all), I’m dismayed by some of the choices on their list of most important environmental books. Hoary tomes like The Lorax, an analysis of the impact of pesticides on the environment that’s nearly a half-century old (I shake in my boots to criticize La Carson thus) … if the list were of books that had a big impact in their time, or books that will bolster the sentiments of the already-sympathetic, then it would be enough.
But the “small is beautiful,” “earth as organism,” “pursue simplicity” approach to eco-reform reflected in most of these choices has not proven a big winner in Western mass culture. Right or wrong, converting Western mass culture is the task at hand today, if we’re going to solve the problems addressed by these authors over the decades.
What are the books that speak to more recent science, contemporary events, and our evolving understanding of the intersections of environment with economy, culture, and human rights?
Here are some titles I’d consider:
The End of Nature, by Bill McKibben
A Whale Hunt, by Robert Sullivan
Heavy Weather, by Bruce Sterling (fiction)
The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson (fiction): Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars
Collapse, by Jared Diamond
Field Notes from a Catastrophe, by Elizabeth Kolbert
Silent Snow: The slow poisoning of the Arctic, by Marla Cone
For the quasi-kid’s book perch (currently occupied by that good ol’ Lorax), how about Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind?
And for the solutions-oriented section of the shelf, how about:
WorldChanging: A User’s Guide to the 21st Century
Design Like You Give A Damn, by Architecture for Humanity
Cradle to Cradle, by Bill McDonough (as noted in the comments to the first list)
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, by Janine Benyus
(Disclosure: I contributed to the WorldChanging book, and DLYGAD was co-written by one of my WorldChanging colleagues.)
What suggestions do others have? And what ought to be on this list from places other than the United States?