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.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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