BOOKS on the current state of the climate crisis:

The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, by Michael E. Mann (Public Affairs 2021, 368 pages, $29.00) (Editor’s note: A separate book review on this title will be posted soon at this site.)

In The New Climate War, renowned climate scientist Michael Mann shows how fossil fuel companies have waged a thirty-year campaign to deflect blame and responsibility and delay action on climate change. But all is not lost. In his new book, Mann outlines a plan for forcing our governments and corporations to wake up and make real change, by allowing renewable energy to compete fairly against fossil fuels, by debunking the false narratives and arguments that have worked their way into the climate debate, and by combatting climate doomism. The societal tipping point necessary to win the new climate war won’t happen without the active participation of citizens everywhere aiding in the collective push forward.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, by Bill Gates (Penguin Random House 2021, 272 pages, $26.95)

In this urgent, authoritative book, Bill Gates sets out a wide-ranging, practical – and accessible – plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe. Drawing on his understanding of innovation and what it takes to get new ideas into the market, he describes the areas in which technology is already helping to reduce emissions, where and how the current technology can be made to function more effectively, where breakthrough technologies are needed, and who is working on these essential innovations. As Bill Gates makes clear, achieving zero emissions will not be simple or easy to do, but if we follow the plan he sets out here, it is a goal firmly within our reach.

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, by Elizabeth Kolbert (Penguin Random House 2021, 256 pages, $28.00)

In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth. One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a ten-thousand-year exercise in defying nature. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face.

There Is No Planet B, Updated Edition, by Mike Berners-Lee (Cambridge University Press 2021, 321 pages, $12.95 paperback)

Hunger, climate change, biodiversity, antibiotics, plastics, pandemics – the list of concerns seems endless. But what is most pressing, and what should we do first? Do we all need to become vegetarian? How can we fly in a low-carbon world? How can we take control of technology? And, given the global nature of these challenges, what can any of us do as individuals? Mike Berners-Lee has crunched the numbers and plotted a course of action that is full of hope, practical, and enjoyable. He offers a big-picture perspective on the environmental and economic challenges of our day. This updated edition has new material on protests, pandemics, wildfires, investments, carbon targets and of course, on the key question: given all this, what can I do?

How to Prepare for Climate Change: A Practical Guide to Surviving the Chaos, by David Pogue (Simon & Schuster 2021, 624 pages, $24.00 paperback)

In How to Prepare for Climate Change, bestselling self-help author and beloved CBS Sunday Morning science and technology correspondent David Pogue offers sensible, deeply researched advice for how we should start to ready ourselves for the years ahead. Pogue walks readers through what to grow, what to eat, how to build, how to insure, where to invest, how to prepare your children and pets, and even where to consider relocating when the time comes. He also provides wise tips for managing your anxiety. Timely and enlightening, How to Prepare for Climate Change is an indispensable guide for anyone who read The Uninhabitable Earth or The Sixth Extinction and wants to know how to make smart choices for the upheaval ahead.Report Advertisement

 The Story of CO2: Big Ideas for a Small Molecule, by Geoffrey A. Ozin and Mireille F. Ghoussoub (University of Toronto Press 2020, 280 pages, $34.95)

The climate crisis requires that we drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions across all sectors of society. The Story of CO2 contributes to this challenge by highlighting the cutting-edge science and emerging technologies that can transform carbon dioxide into a myriad of products such as feedstock chemicals, polymers, pharmaceuticals, and fuels. This approach allows us to reconsider CO2 as a resource, and to add “carbon capture and use” to our other tools in the fight against catastrophic climate change. The Story of CO2 seeks to inspire readers with the latest carbon utilization technologies and explain how they fit within the broader context of carbon mitigation strategies in the shift towards a sustainable energy economy.

 To Know the World: A New Vision for Environmental Learning, by Mitchel Thomashow (The MIT Press 2020, 288 pages, $30.00 paperback)

How can we respond to the current planetary ecological emergency? In To Know the World, Mitchell Thomashow proposes that we reinvigorate how we think about our residency on Earth. Mixing memoir, theory, mindfulness, pedagogy, and compelling storytelling, Thomashow discusses how to navigate the Anthropocene’s rapid pace of change without further separating psyche from biosphere; how to achieve constructive connectivity in both social and ecological networks; and why we should take a cosmopolitan bioregionalism perspective that unites local and global. Throughout, Thomashow invites readers to participate as explorers, encouraging them to better understand how and why environmental learning is crucial to human flourishing.

 Deep Time Reckoning: How Future Thinking Can Help Earth Now, by Vincent Ialenti (The MIT Press 2020, 208 pages, $25.00)

We live on a planet careening toward an environmental collapse that will be largely brought about by our own actions. And yet we struggle to grasp the scale of the crisis, barely able to imagine the effects of climate change just ten years from now, let alone the multi-millennial timescales of Earth’s life span. In this book, political economist Vincent Ialenti takes on two overlapping crises: the Anthropocene, our current moment of human-caused environmental transformation, and the deflation of expertise – today’s popular mockery and institutional erosion of expert authority. The second crisis, he argues, is worsening the effects of the first. Hearing out scientific experts who study a wider time span than a Facebook timeline is key to tackling our planet’s emergency. This is the kind of time literacy we need if we are to survive the Anthropocene.

 The Untold Story of the World’s Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty, by Maria Ivanova (The MIT Press 20201, 384 pages, $30.00 paperback)

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) was founded in 1972 as a nimble, fast, and flexible entity at the core of the UN system – a subsidiary body rather than a specialized agency. In this book, Maria Ivanova offers a detailed account of UNEP’s origin and history and a vision for its future. Ivanova counters the common criticism that UNEP was deficient by design, arguing that UNEP has in fact delivered on much (though not all) of its mandate. UNEP’s fiftieth anniversary, Ivanova argues, presents an opportunity for reinvention. She envisions a future UNEP that is the go-to institution for information on the state of the planet, a normative vision of global environmental governance, and support for domestic environmental agendas.

How Are We Going to Explain This? Our Future on a Hot Earth, by Jelmer Mommers (Simon & Schuster 2020, 224 pages, $16.95 paperback)

If climate change is the biggest threat humanity has ever faced, then why are we doing so little about it? Journalist Jelmer Mommers knows most people prefer not to talk or even think about climate change, and that is exactly why he wrote this book. Denial and despair are not the only possible responses to the current crisis. Drawing on the latest science, Mommers describes how we got here, what possible future awaits us, and how you can help make a difference. Five years in the making, How Are We Going to Explain This was an instant bestseller in the Netherlands. This updated translation, which includes responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, brings Mommers’ unique blend of realism and hope to the wider world.

The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long-Term Thinking, by Roman Krznaric (The Experiment 2020, 288 pages, $25.95)

“Are we being good ancestors?” asked Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine in 1953 but refused to patent it – forgoing profit so that more lives could be saved. Salk’s generosity to future generations should inspire us. But when philosopher Roman Krznaric examines society today, he sees just the opposite: Our short term mindsets have “colonized the future.” In The Good Ancestor, Krznaric reveals six practical ways we can retrain our brains to think of the long view, including Deep-Time Humility (recognizing our lives as a cosmic eyeblink) and Cathedral Thinking (starting projects that will take more than one lifetime). He aims to inspire more “time rebels” like Greta Thunberg – to shift our allegiance from this generation to all humanity.

 Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis, by Elin Kelsey (Greystone Books 2020, 240 pages, $22.95 paperback)

We are at an inflection point: today, more people than ever before recognize that climate change and biodiversity loss are urgent and existential threats. Yet constant reports of climate doom are fueling an epidemic of eco-anxiety. Hope Matters boldly breaks through the narrative of doom and gloom that has overtaken conversations about our future to show why hope, not fear, is our most powerful tool for tackling the planetary crisis. Award-winning author, scholar, and educator Elin Kelsey describes effective campaigns to support ocean conservation and species resilience, and rewinding. And she shows how we can build on these positive trends and harness all our emotions about the changing environment into effective personal and political action.

 Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History by Ted Steinberg

Down to Earth is a history of North America from an environmental perspective. It’s an easy read, and very interesting. One chapter explains how we used to know where our food came from, but eventually we pushed agriculture out to the sidelines of our cities, causing many other problems. Down to Earth made me realize that this country was founded on exploitation and that everything we do has an impact.” —Natalie Blackwelder, commissioner of sustainability, Santa Barbara City College

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken

Drawdown is a handbook for how to stop and then reverse climate change. It lists dozens of actions to not just avoid putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but to draw carbon dioxide down out of the atmosphere. When you combine ‘family planning’ and ‘educating girls’ from the top 10 actions list, they draw down more CO2 from the atmosphere than anything else on the list. Feminism literally saves humanity from climate catastrophe.” —Cassian Lodge, LGBTQ+ and environmental activist, U.K.

“When I felt overwhelmed at the big challenge of stopping climate change, this book broke things down to something manageable. It’s like a playbook of climate solutions. I was fascinated to learn about marine permaculture, which is one of the proposed solutions. It’s a method of growing seaweed on floating platforms that not only removes carbon from the atmosphere, but can also restore life to the oceans and provide an economic boon to coastal communities. I’ve since learned a lot about it, and I even helped lead a fundraiser that will help build some platforms off the coast of Tasmania.” —Mark Abersold, software developer and Citizens’ Climate Lobby member; moderator for Reddit’s Climate Offensive

Frontlines: Stories of Global Environmental Justice by Nick Meynen

“Nick Meynen’s storytelling is personal, powerful, and inspiring. Every unpacked frontline is one cutting edge of an economic system and political ideology that is destroying life on earth. Revealing our ecosystems to be under a sustained attack, Meynen finds causes for hope in unconventional places. He reminds us that it is up to each and every one of us to play our role in the fight to achieve the radical changes necessary to save the planet.” —Paola Hernández Olivan, food project and policy officer, Health Care Without Harm, Brussels

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg


No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference contains the speeches made by the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg — in climate rallies across Europe, to audiences at the U.N., the World Economic Forum, and the British Parliament. Greta inspires me because she says it like it is. She doesn’t wrap the truth up in pretty paper to make it easier to take. Among millions of activists, Greta has one of the most powerful voices because she occupies the moral and ethical high ground of someone from the next generation whose life is being destroyed.” —Christine Essex, coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Newbury

Favorite quote: And we will never stop fighting, we will never stop fighting for this planet, and for ourselves, our futures, and for the futures of our children and our grandchildren.

The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change by Danny Chivers

“This is the clearest and most succinct book I have ever read about the nature of climate change, the forces that are blocking action on it, and the forces that have arisen to confront it. I teach classes on this subject, and this book works year after year to bring everyone up to speed on the problem and potential actions we can take. It’s funny, readable, engaging, and powerful.” —John Foran, professor of sociology and environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Favorite passage: This is going to be the most amazing, inspiring, and unifying social movement that the world has ever seen. It’s going to be difficult, and frustrating at times, but it’s also going to massively enrich the lives of everyone who’s a part of it. This includes you.… [You can] be part of the most exciting and important social uprising of our lifetimes.

 The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

“By the author of The Windup Girl, The Water Knife is a fictional portrayal of the effects of climate change on the western United States. It includes scenes of trying to get by in Phoenix when it’s basically a desert. It’s a powerful, well-written story that emphasizes the impacts of climate-induced social collapse on women.” —D. Kempton, Climate Reality Canada, Drawdown Newmarket-Aurora

As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, From Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

“This book covers the 500-year history of Native American resistance to colonialism and ecocide. It contextualized my environmental work as part of a struggle that has been taking place in the Americas since European contact, and it made me feel more connected to the larger Native American environmental movement as a cohesive whole both over time and across cultures and places. For Native people, this book is a reminder of how connected and similar our environmental justice struggles have been. This is especially important because the climate crisis requires cooperation across cultures and locations in an unprecedented way.” —Shaylon Stolk, Indigenous (Scottish/Wayúu) renewable energy scientist and organizer with Extinction Rebellion justice; based in occupied Duwamish land (Seattl

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

“This book offers specific, science-based predictions about the effects of unchecked global warming. It scared me silly, and it inspired me to reflect and act.” —Gregg Long, high school English teacher, Illinois

Favorite quote: It is worse, much worse, than you think.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything makes the case that the climate crisis is a consequence of capitalism, but it is a crisis that offers an opportunity to organize a new political system. It convinced me that we won’t invent or grow our way out of this problem, but that it can be solved by political organizing. It’s sobering and empowering, which is a difficult tightrope to walk.” —Evan, Climate Justice committee coordinator, Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles chapter

Favorite passage: And that is what is behind the abrupt rise in climate change denial among hard-core conservatives: They have come to understand that as soon as they admit that climate change is real, they will lose the central ideological battle of our time — whether we need to plan and manage our societies to reflect our goals and values, or whether that task can be left to the magic of the market.

This Is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook by Extinction Rebellion

This Is Not a Drill is a handbook on nonviolent civil disobedience for the challenges of the 21st century. Only a mass social movement will save us. This book provides the tools for that.” —George, youth climate activist, U.K.

Favorite passage: We may or may not escape a breakdown. But we can escape the toxicity of the mindset that has brought us here. And in doing so we can recover a humanity that is capable of real resilience.

Silent Spring & Other Writings on the Environment by Rachel Carson

The book that sparked the modern environmental movement gets an archival collection from the Library of America, edited by acclaimed ecologist Sandra Steingraber.

Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall and Alice Waters Changed Our World by Andrea Barnet

How these four influential women helped shape the modern progressive movement and our understanding of nature and the environment.

This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent by Daegan Miller

A history of 19th century “radical thinkers, settlers, and artists who grounded their ideas of freedom, justice, and progress” (and who remain relevant today).

Cane Toad Wars by Rick Shine

The true tale of the ecological nightmare caused by the introduction of this toxic species to Australia.

Small Town, Big Oil: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the Richest Man in the World—and Won by David W. Moore

How Nancy Sandberg, Dudley Dudley and Phyllis Bennett stood up to Aristotle Onassis and his planned mega-scale oil refinery.

Return of the Sea Otter: The Story of the Animal That Evaded Extinction on the Pacific Coast by Todd McLeish

The true story of how otters almost disappeared and eventually came back to woo us all with their almost-unbearable cuteness.

The Monarchs are Missing: A Butterfly Mystery by Rebecca E. Hirsch

A book offering grade schoolers insight into why monarch butterflies are in trouble and what they can do to help.

Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife by Sarah Grace Tuttle

Poetic glimpses of life in the concrete places.

Far From Land: The Mysterious Lives of Seabirds by Michael Brooke

Tales of albatrosses, frigatebirds, cormorants and other seabirds from every corner of the planet.

Eat for the Planet: Saving the World One Bite at a Time by Nil Zacharias and Gene Stone

An indemnification of the industrialized food system.

Food Is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World by Matthew Prescott

More than 80 plant-based recipes “for a greener planet and a healthier you.”

Sustainable Nation: Urban Design Patterns for the Future by Douglas Farr

How sustainable design of cities and buildings can help solve the humanitarian, population and climate crises.

Going Wild: Helping Nature Thrive in Cities by Michelle Mulder

Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life: A Tar Sands Tale by Matt Hern and Am Johal

A horror-filled road trip through the polluted tar sands of northern Alberta. Features art and additional material by journalist/cartoonist Joe Sacco.

River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics, and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster by Jonathan P. Thompson

How 150 years of mining, energy development and fracking led to the infamous 2015 disaster, and how the people who live nearby are working to make amends for the past.