Orangutans, Coal, Climate and Resistance: The 13 Best Environmental Books of May
By John R. Platt
Looking for something new to read? We've got you covered. Here are our picks for the best environmentally themed books of May 2019 — and it's quite a collection, with 13 new titles about a pioneering conservationist, the history of water woes in California, the dirty legacy (and future) of coal and even the psychology of climate change.
Check out May's baker's dozen below.
Wildlife and Endangered Species:
Supernavigators: The Astounding New Science of How Animals Find Their Way by David Barrie — Navigate your way to your local bookstore and pick up this fantastic book, which covers everything from migrating birds and sea turtles to ants and dung beetles. Barrie's got the human element covered, too: He's a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation. (He also happens to be the great-great-nephew of Peter Pancreator J. M. Barrie.)
Undaunted: The Wild Life of Biruté Mary Galdikas and Her Fearless Quest to Save Orangutans by Anita Silvey — Galdikas isn't as well-known as her primatologist colleague Jane Goodall, but she should be. This YA biography tells her inspirational story, which becomes more relevant every year as orangutans become ever more endangered.
The Last Fish Swimming: The Global Crime of Illegal Fishing by Gohar A. Petrossian — We don't talk enough about illegal fishing, a problem that threatens to empty our oceans and push many species into extinction. This new book, by a noted criminology professor, hopes to change that. It defines the scope of the problem and offers a toolkit of policy recommendations to help solve it — while there's still time.
The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World by Ziya Tong — Smile, you're on secret surveillance cameras … unless you're working at a factory farm, power plant or garbage dump. In that case, go about your business without anyone seeing. Tong's globetrotting book examines these dangerous parts of the world that remain hidden from public view and reveals how that lack of transparency clouds our vision of the future.
Flint Fights Back: Environmental Justice and Democracy in the Flint Water Crisis by Benjamin J. Pauli — A sadly necessary book putting the activism that emerged during the Flint water crisis into the context of the broader struggle to maintain and protect democracy. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.
Coal by Mark C. Thurber — A detailed examination of why the industry that relies upon this massively polluting substance never seems to pay its full environmental costs. (Hint: Money has something to do with it, but it's a lot more complex than that.)
The Psychology of Climate Change Adaptation by Anne van Valkengoed and Linda Steg — It's time to dig into peoples' brains to help understand how and why they react to the already emerging threats of climate change. This forward-thinking academic book looks at the key psychological theories related to adaptive behavior, examines a few real-world cases, and then sets "an agenda for future psychological research on climate change adaptation behavior."
Climate Psychology: On Indifference to Disaster edited by Paul Hoggett — The flip side of the previous book, this one examines why people fail to respond to climate change, including new results from a series of research projects conducted around the world.
Greenovation: Urban Leadership on Climate Change by Joan Fitzgerald — An in-depth examination of how cities contribute to global warming, and how a handful of metropolises are innovating to help turn things around.
Climate and Society: Transforming the Future by Robin Leichenko & Karen O'Brien — A great book for undergraduates trying to wrap their heads around climate change and what they can do about it on a societal level.
The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California by Mark Arax — The history of drought in California has been building for decades. Arax trekked around the state to examine the historic and ongoing battles over what humans, wildlife and crops get to drink.
Full Spectrum Resistance by Aric McBay — This two-volume series provides a powerful primer for activism on social-justice and environmental issues, using examples from more than 50 resistance movements around the world. The first book discusses how to build movements, while the second examines strategies for change.
That's our list for this month, but there's plenty more to add to your reading lists. For dozens of additional recent eco-books, check out the "Revelator Reads" archive — and come back in just a few weeks for next month's inspiring list.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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