From what makes things work and how to make trouble to climate change’s impact on the global economy and a novel about one woman’s journey to a better future, here are our top picks for summer reading.
As the August vacation time heats up in the Northern Hemisphere, the Climate & Capital team has pulled together our favorite summer reading for your downtime. Here’s a list of what we consider the best books, mostly new and a range of fiction and nonfiction, on the climate crisis and related topics. We’ve included books that we hope will educate, inspire and give you new ideas on how you can join the action on the issue that, right now, the whole world is talking about.
We start with a book that speaks to the core of Climate & Capital: Climate change has become an economic issue and has changed everything from business to politics to the outlook for the future. Bob Keefe’s Climatenomics shows readers how this new reality will impact their industries, businesses, jobs and communities and transform the world’s economy.
We also love Todd Kashdan’s The Art of Insubordination. That’s Climate & Capital’s mission. We resist the allure of complacency. We champion ideas that run counter to traditional thinking. We love people who stop conforming and start deviating. And we believe change comes when you unlock the benefits of being in a group of diverse people holding divergent views.
So this book list is here to cultivate your curiosity, inspire courage and fuel independent, critical thinking.
The economic impact of climate change is rattling the foundation of our economy to its very core. It’s blowing up centuries-old industries from automobiles to oil and gas, creating new opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs. Bob Keefe is the executive director of E2 — Environmental Entrepreneurs – a national, nonpartisan group of 11,000 investors, business owners and professionals. He outlines recent history in a journalistic read about how the climate crisis affects global economies and how finance, business and policy can work together to create a new economic growth story. Keefe is a former White House reporter with a Washington insider’s view of the issue. He includes a number of good suggestions for how we can successfully address climate change which, given the U.S. government’s utter failure to pass legislation on the issue, is greatly needed.
As a multiple recipient of the Hugo and Nebula awards, Octavia Butler is one of the first African American women to gain popularity as a science-fiction futurist writer. This dystopian novel is set in a Los Angeles suburb as the fallout from climate change rips social society to shreds. Its protagonist is a teenage girl living in a small community surrounded by high walls. Its inhabitants are poor, scraping by with home-grown foods and just enough water to survive. Outside the walls is a complete breakdown of order where violent crime, drugs and weapons are the tools for survival. Many of the inhabitants within the walls are focused on making it through the day, but the main character faces the undeniable reality — soon, the walls protecting them will be breached. The story is her odyssey to cope with the crisis and bring change while working around those living in denial. This novel – Butler’s tenth – is a great read and remarkably prescient, given that it was written in 1993 and envisioning a future set in 2024-25. Fortunately, in 2022 though many elements of societal breakdown described in this book are indeed already with us, the degree of collapse is not yet as dire. Parable is about moving forward in the face of the threat – embracing a faith Butler describes as “positive obsession.” It is both inspiring and instructive decades after its first publication.
Climate-related anxiety is on the rise everywhere. As with any type of stress, eco-aggro can lead to burnout, avoidance or a disturbance of daily functioning, says Britt Wray, the Canadian author of Generation Dred. The postdoc fellow at Stanford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has written a timely primer for all of us living in a climate-changed world that she says will require more compassion than ever. With global temperatures hitting unlivable levels, extreme weather occurring everywhere and governments failing to take much-needed action, Wray suggests that most of us are already experiencing some level of climate- and eco-anxiety. She presents scientific information and psychological insights into why this response is human, important and can be a strong motivator for actively getting involved in the solutions. Wray has tapped into the thinking of climate-focused therapists who offer coping strategies with a view to an uncertain future. If you like her book, you can dip into her related newsletter, Gen Dred, at gendread.substack.com.
Hey readers, Steal this Book! Don’t actually, but this one harkens back to Abbie Hoffman’s anarchist classic call to action, albeit with a polite 21st-century vibe. According to Professor of Psychology Todd Kashdan, now’s the time to tap your inner rebel. In The Art of Insubordination, he argues that for ideas to evolve and societies to progress, we need revolutionaries to challenge the status quo. We’ll also need insurgents to have the skills to deliver change. He provides insights from those in the trenches as well as the science that will arm you for the fight. Learn how to resist complacency, get comfortable hanging out with agitators, communicate effectively, build strong alliances and cultivate curiosity and courage. Read up and plan your attack.
As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization To Standing Rock
The constant battle between indigenous tribes and the American government is the focus of indigenous author and academic Gilio-Whitaker. Her book provides a comprehensive overview of water and food insecurity, the destruction of sacred land and the treaty violations that are the daily realities for indigenous communities. Gilio-Whitaker examines how this reality has been largely unknown to most Americans until the 2016 shale oil access protests at Standing Rock. This book is a great place to start learning about indigenous perspectives on environmental justice, land and leadership from those who have been protecting and respecting land more effectively than the American government for hundreds of years.
As the prolific chronicler of the ebbs and flows within global energy, materials and human systems, Professor Vaclav Smil offers yet another readable, succinct and numbers-grounded masterpiece about our world. In topics ranging from energy and food production to risks and the environment, he takes us on a journey in which we are educated about our present situation, then confronted with a concluding chapter about the future and left to wonder, doubt, ponder and maybe even step up to act.
It is worth reading this lush 2004 novel if only to get a snapshot of a biosphere that has all but disappeared because of human development and overpopulation. The book is set in the easternmost corner of India, the Bay of Bengal, in an immense labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans. Settlers live in fear of drowning tides and man-eating tigers. Piya Roy, a young American marine biologist of Indian descent, arrives in this dense, treacherous landscape searching for a rare species of river dolphin. To aid in his quest, Roy enlists a local fisherman and a translator. Together the three of them launch into the elaborate backwaters, drawn unawares into the powerful political undercurrents of this isolated corner of the world that exact a personal toll as fierce as the tides.
Elizabeth Popp Berman
Want to know what happened to the bold New Deal economic thinking of Democratic progressives in the late half of the 20th century? Easy answer, says Elizabeth Popp, Associate Professor of Organizational Studies at the University of Michigan: They started “Thinking like an Economist.” “Economic reasoning,” not ambitious change, became the mantra of a generation of Democratic politicians. Economic horizons shrunk, much to the delight of the Republican Party. Sound familiar? It is precisely what has happened with progressive climate policy in 2022. Senator Joe Manchin was not born into a vacuum.
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Robin Wall Kimmerer’s background in botany and indigenous identity enables her to seamlessly weave together rigid scientific concepts with indigenous wisdom and perspectives. Ultimately, the book acts as a poetic call for a change in perspective, an understanding of our reciprocal relationship with plants and a general respect for nature as an elder rather than a commodity.
Philosopher Elizabeth Cripps approaches climate justice not just as some woke, abstract idea but as something that should motivate us all. Cripps, a senior lecturer of political theory at the University of Edinburgh, explores our responsibilities to fight climate change with a clear call to action. The first half of the book explores the nuances of morality, racism and how disproportionate wealth impacts climate justice. Cripps’s exploration of human responsibility shifts in the second half of her writing and provides solutions for the issues she has laid out. She makes a clear case that climate activism is a moral duty held by each and every one of us.