September’s Best Environmental Books: The Green New Deal, Vanishing Species and Effective Activism
September has arrived, summer vacation season is over and it's time to get stuff done — not just for the month ahead but for the future of the planet.
With that in mind, this month sees the publication of an amazing array of books on a wide range of environmental issues, covering everything from climate change to burning rainforests to protecting our water. We've combed through the catalogs to pick the 13 best new eco-books coming out in September, including titles from an impressive team of experts and award-winning authors. Check out our list below, pick the ones that are best for you or your family, and read up on new ideas for fixing what we've broken — then get to work.
The Green New Deal:
To start off our list, this month brings not one but two books about the need for a Green New Deal.
First up, Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein offers us On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. This collection of new and previously published reports examines the state of the environment around the world, ranging from the Great Barrier Reef to the Vatican. And as you'd expect from a firebrand like Klein, this impassioned, justice-oriented book presents a call for immediate transformation of the systems that have produced the climate crisis (and so many other crises along the way).
Taking a slightly different path, economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin brings us The Green New Deal, a cautionary tale that warns the world economy (if not the world itself) will fall apart in under ten years if we don't take immediate action to mothball extractive energy technologies. Subtitled "Why the Fossil Fuel Civilization Will Collapse by 2028, and the Bold Economic Plan to Save Life on Earth," Rifkin's book serves as a call for world governments to decarbonize their economies, post-haste.
Wildlife and Conservation:
The Missing Lynx: The Past and Future of Britain's Lost Mammals by Ross Barnett — Eurasian lynx were wiped out in Britain 1,300 years ago, but there's now an effort to bring them back to their old stomping grounds. Could other species, even megafauna, soon follow? Barnett look at the lynx and other extinct British species to see what we've lost following their disappearance from the ecosystem and what we might gain from rewilding projects. Along the way, he asks if these types of projects should even be conducted at all. That's a timely, important question in this era when we're even talking about brining extinct species like the mammoth back to life.
Gone Is Gone: Wildlife Under Threat by Isabelle Groc — Aimed at teenage readers, this profusely illustrated and thoroughly researched book looks at endangered species around the world — and what we can do to help them. Conservation icon Jane Goodall provides the foreword. (For juvenile readers, check out a similarly themed book out this month: Survival by artist Louise McNaught and writer Anna Claybourne.)
Vanishing: The World's Most Vulnerable Animals by Joel Sartore — Critically endangered and extinct-in-the-wild species get the spotlight in this stunning, 400-page photography book, the latest in Sartore's "Photo Ark" project for National Geographic. This could be your last chance to see many of these species, so take some time to linger on each image and reflect on the very real faces of impending extinction.
We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer — If we want to fight climate change, we (individually and collectively) need to put down the breakfast sausages and rethink many of our other agricultural products. A stylishly written and thought-provoking book from the author of Everything Is Illuminated and Eating Animals.
The Geography of Risk: Epic Storms, Rising Seas, and the Cost of America's Coasts by Gilbert M. Gaul — Hoo boy, the coastal destruction coming our way due to climate change and sea-level rise is going to be expensive…and taxpayers will carry the costs. Gaul, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, recounts the history of coastal development (or over-development, to be precise) and lays out the case for changing the way we regulate and subsidize risky construction.
Activism and Environmental Justice:
Whose Water Is It, Anyway? Taking Water Protection Into Public Hands by Maude Barlow — One of the world's most notable water-justice activists provides a step-by-step guide to help communities keep themselves from going dry due to the actions of irresponsible companies and governments. (Check out our interview with Barlow.)
Unearthing Justice: How to Protect Your Community From the Mining Industry by Joan Kuyek — Covering everything from how to stop a new mining project to figuring out how to clean up an abandoned mine, this important book offers activists a primer for taking on all manner of extractive industries that can harm human health and the environment.
Salmon and Acorns Feed Our People: Colonialism, Nature and Social Action by Kari Marie Norgaard — A sociological look at North American colonialism, focusing on the Karuk Tribe of northern California and their political struggles for environmental justice and food sovereignty.
And Two More for Good Measure:
Waste by Kate O'Neill — A simply titled book about a very complex issue: What do we do with all of our stuff? From food waste to plastic recycling to the remnants of our ubiquitous electronics, O'Neill examines the politics and future of what we throw away.
Rainforest: Dispatches From Earth's Most Vital Frontlines by Tony Juniper — A gorgeous, thoughtful and increasingly necessary book examining the roles that rainforests around the world play in regulating our planetary systems. Juniper, a noted environmentalist who has spent decades working on rainforest conservation, devotes a good portion of this book to the threats that human-caused fires pose to these essential ecosystems — a timely topic, to say the least.
That's our list for this month, but don't stop here: You can find dozens of other recent eco-books in the "Revelator Reads" archive.
John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
- What Happens to Recycled Plastic? Researchers Lift the Lid ... ›
- This Eco-Village Is Being Built From More Than 1 Million Recycled ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Brett Wilkins
Despite acknowledging that the move would lead to an increase in the 500 million to one billion birds that die each year in the United States due to human activity, the Trump administration on Friday published a proposed industry-friendly relaxation of a century-old treaty that protects more than 1,000 avian species.
- Hundreds of Thousands of Migratory Birds 'Falling Out of the Sky' in ... ›
- Scientists at Work: Sloshing Through Marshes To See How Birds ... ›
Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.
- Are We Doomed If We Don't Curb Carbon Emissions by 2030 ... ›
- California Winery Cuts Carbon Emissions With Lighter Bottles ... ›
- Wealthy One Percent Are Producing More Carbon Emissions Than ... ›
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
- 14 States On Track to Meet Paris Targets - EcoWatch ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
- Biden Names John Kerry as First-Ever Climate Envoy - EcoWatch ›
By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.