Our pick of books, movies and podcasts that will inform and inspire you to get in — or stay in — the fight for a safe climate future.
As we head toward some much-needed time off after two difficult years of COVID, climate and political upheaval, you may find yourself thinking about New Year’s resolutions and what you can do about the issues you care about. Hopefully, with some respite, you can step out of the day-to-day and think big-picture. If you’re alarmed by climate change and wondering what to do about it, the Climate and Capital team has pulled together some inspirational sources for you. It’s a list of 10 great books, podcasts and films, curated to offer new perspectives and hope for how we can step up climate action in 2022.
Thanks for your support this year. We look forward to sharing more in-depth stories about climate challenges, solutions and opportunities in the new year. In the meantime, sit back, put your feet up and feast on this.
An episode with energy guru Amory Lovins by Jared Downing
More than anything in 2021, this podcast interview with veteran clean-energy advocate and expert Amory Lovins taught me about how fast the world is moving out of polluting energy and towards renewables. Give it a listen, or three, and share it with naysayers you know who say it can’t be done. Lovins addresses common criticisms of sustainable power, including the idea that the market can’t sustain growth and that battery storage technology is in its infancy. He says the technology is more robust than people think, it can be used in novel and efficient ways, and that there are more methods to store and distribute green power than simply giant batteries. He also says that Biden’s ambitious power plans are very possible — though we do need to get to work and fast.
A novel by Richard Powers
Struggling to talk to your kids about the seemingly overwhelming challenge of the climate crisis? You’re not alone. In this beautiful Booker Prize-shortlisted novel by Richard Powers (“The Overstory,” “The Echo Maker”), astrobiologist and single father Theo Byrne faces these challenges while raising his son Robin, a nine-year-old, neurodivergent boy struggling to navigate our complex and threatened world. With Powers’ beautiful descriptions of the natural world and a vision of life beyond it, “Bewilderment” is an intimate and moving novel for our time. At its heart lies the important question: How can we tell our children the truth about our incredible but imperiled planet?
A movie opening Dec. 24, by writer/director Adam McKay
Merryl Streep, as U.S. president (and former nude model), Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio as scientists who have discovered that a comet is about to take out planet earth and the media world could care less. It’s a combination that is both hilarious and terrifyingly close to home. Adam McKay (“The Big Short,” “Vice”), has a firm grip on the insanity of the world we live in and has the film cast of the year. As Lawrence’s character — with an incredibly bad haircut — aptly shouts after being ridiculed by morning-show hosts for taking the comet’s global threat to life on earth seriously, “Maybe the destruction of the entire planet isn’t supposed to be fun! Maybe it’s supposed to be terrifying and unsettling and you should stay up all night, every night, crying!” Nonetheless, this one is fun. Don’t miss it.
A nonfiction guide by Paul Hawken
No grass grows under the feet of Paul Hawken, author of seven books and founder of Project Drawdown. His latest endeavor, “Regeneration,” is a book he calls “the world’s largest, most complete listing and network of solutions to the climate crisis and how to do them.” Beyond offering climate solutions, “Regeneration” suggests that the world must approach the crisis by weaving justice, equity and human dignity into a tapestry of action, policy and transformation that can end the climate crisis in one generation. He says an inclusive movement is emerging around the world that can engage the majority of humanity to be part of the effort to save the world from the threat of global warming through climate solutions that directly serve our children, the poor, and the excluded. In addition to the book, Hawken is launching initiatives, a streaming video series, curriculum, podcasts, teaching videos and climate-action software. “Regeneration” is the inspiring and necessary guide to inform the rapidly growing global climate movement.
A movie directed by Eva Orner
This is a challenging, but beautifully made film about the deadly Australian bushfires of 2019 – 2020, known as the “Black Summer,” which took the lives of at least 34 people. Screened at COP26 to outstanding reviews, “Burning” explores the perfect storm of government inaction on climate change, extreme heat and drought and the deadly consequences when fires ripped through 12.6 million hectares — an area the size of South Korea — in just over two months. Across Australia’s east coast, 11.3 million people were affected by smoke and an estimated 1 billion animals died. In “Burning,” the story is told from the perspective of fire victims, activists and scientists who lived through one of the biggest climate change catastrophes to date.
This one is for lovers of visuals and maps. It’s a stunning, if heartbreaking, pictorial of what climate change is doing and will do to our world. “The Atlas of Disappearing Places,” makes sea-level rise, melting ice and extreme weather immediately and poignantly visible. With charts, graphs and stunningly rendered maps (made with a unique ink-on-dried-seaweed technique), the book shows two dozen locations across the world, from Shanghai to Houston, that are threatened by the impact of global warming on oceans. The book considers the serious consequences of oceanic change on human culture and looks at the effectiveness of current measures from government policies to grassroots activism to mitigate the effect of climate change on the ocean.
A movie with David Attenborough and scientist Johan Rockström
This movie examines our planet’s alarming biodiversity collapse and the impacts of climate change. David Attenborough takes viewers on an eye-opening journey of impacts with Professor Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Rockström along with other leading scientists came up with the concept of “tipping points” the world can’t exceed if it is to avoid disaster. Creatively shot and approachable, this film is an up-to-date snapshot of the state of our natural world right now.
A nonfiction book by Kate Aronoff
Author and blogger Kate Aronoff looks at the new climate denialism taking root in the halls of power, shaped by a quarter-century of neoliberal policies. Aronoff argues that since the 1980s and 1990s, economists, pro-business Democrats and Republicans in the U.S., and global organizations like the U.N. and the World Economic Forum have all made concessions to the oil and gas industry that they have no intention of reversing. What’s more, she says, they believe that climate change can be solved through the market, that capitalism can be a force for good and that people and corporations are fighting the good fight together. This, she says, will not save the planet. Arnoff lays out a vision for containing the fossil fuel industry, transforming our global economy, reimagining a different kind of future and shifting to an approach that is sustainable, inclusive and just. A must-read for those interested in the economic solutions of climate change.
A movie directed by Sam Eilertsen
This film documents the youth-led movement currently tackling climate change and proposing massive social and economic reforms in the U.S. as they explore strategies to talk to, pressure and, when necessary, take power to demand change. Eilertsen and his team had unparalleled, behind-the-scenes access to the driving forces behind what is one of the biggest political movements of our time. This one’s worth a watch just to see AOC join youth activists in taking over Nancy Pelosi’s office, climb on her desk and shout “This is the fight of our f*^%ing lives!” Check out what the kids are getting up to and be impressed.
A nonfiction book by David Pogue
Call me crazy but I love a real writer taking up the climate change “prepper” agenda! This one’s a practical and comprehensive guide to surviving what many argue will be the greatest disaster of our time — climate change. Pogue is a New York Times bestselling author and CBS Sunday Morning science and technology correspondent who takes on the issues of extreme weather, major evacuations, survival bunkers and coastal residents moving inland. 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 to when the time comes. It is eye-opening and terrifying but fascinating!
Still haven’t read Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson? Read our recommendation of the book from last year and get to it! There are few more important, future-thinking books on our climate-changing world and, amazingly, turning climate financial mechanisms into compelling fiction.
Want to know what the “hedgies” are reading for insight into climate change and its impact on the world and the global economy? Dig out “Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence,” by Christian Parenti. Written in 2012, Parenti was wildly ahead of his time when he wrote about how the era of climate wars has already begun and how extreme weather is breeding banditry, humanitarian crisis and state failure. Presciently, he argues that incipient “climate fascism” – a political hardening of wealthy states — will fail and that the struggling states of the developing world cannot be allowed to collapse because they will take other nations down with them. Parenti argues that we must work to meet the challenge of climate-driven violence with a very different set of sustainable economic and development policies. Insightful is an understatement!
Finally, see what you think of “Unsettled? What Climate Science Tells Us. What It Doesn’t and Why it Matters” by Steven E. Koonin. He argues that when it comes to climate change, the media, politicians and other prominent voices have declared that “the science is settled” but that in reality, the long game from research to reports to the popular media is corrupted by misunderstanding and misinformation. Core questions — about the way the climate is responding to our influence, and what the impacts will be — remain largely unanswered. The climate is changing, but he says the why and how aren’t as clear as we’ve been led to believe. We haven’t read it yet but it’s on the list!