Monday, 22 July 2013

Reading list: Environmental Literature

An Annotated Bibliography
Environmental Literature
By Richard Reble-Volunteer 

To broaden your awareness about the need for a new environmental ethic, about the social and environmental pressures impacting us globally, and about the appropriate responses they demand from us, here is an annotated bibliography of environmental literature. Please use it to help guide your reading. The works included are suitable for beginners but will likely have appeal to academics as well. The list will be frequently updated. If you have read works you think should be added to the list, please add to comments.

            The following books are listed alphabetically by author or, in the case of multiple books by the same author, by date of publication from oldest to most recent. Each title is accompanied by an author quote that best reflects the central theme of the book:

Diamond, Jared, Collapse, 2005, Penguin Books.
ISBN  0-670-03337-5
ISBN  0 14 30.3655 6
Author quote: “Are the parallels between the past and present sufficiently close that the collapse of the Easter Islanders, Anasazi, Maya, and Greenland Norse could offer any lessons for the modern world?....It is not a question for open debate whether the collapses of past societies have modern parallels and offer any lesson to us. That question is settled, because such collapses have actually been happening recently, and others appear to be imminent. Instead, the real question is how many more countries will undergo them….Today’s larger population and more potent destructive technology, and today’s interconnectedness (pose) the risk of a global rather than a local collapse….If we don’t make a determined effort to solve (the problems) facing us, the world as a whole within the next few decades will face a declining standard of living, or perhaps something worse.”

Flannery, Tim, The Weather Makers2005, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.
ISBN  13: 978-0-00-200751-1
ISBN  10: 0-00-200751-7
Author quote: “(This) is my best effort, based on the work of thousands of colleagues, to outline the history of climate change, how it will unfold over the next century, and what we can do about it….The best evidence indicates that we need to reduce our CO2 emissions by 70% by 2050….The transition to a carbon-free economy is eminently achievable because we have all the technology we need to do so. It is only a lack of understanding and the pessimism and confusion generated by special interest groups that is stopping us from going forward.”

Gore, Al, An Inconvenient Truth, 2006, Rodale Books, Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
ISBN  13: 978-1-59486-567-1
ISBN  10: 1-59486-567-1
Author quote: “ I have learned that, beyond death and taxes, there is at least one absolutely indisputable fact: Not only does human-caused global warming exist, but it is also growing more and more dangerous, and at a pace that has now made it a planetary emergency….The climate crisis …offers us the chance to experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing: a generational mission; the exhilaration of a compelling moral purpose; a shared and unifying cause; the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict that so often stifle the restless human need for transcendence; the opportunity to rise.”

Heinberg, Richard, Power Down, 2004, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, B.C.
ISBN  0-86571-510-6
Author quote: “….the purpose of this book is not to provide yet another cheerful manual on how to save the world. But neither is it my goal to helplessly bemoan our inevitable collective fate. Rather, it is my goal to explore realistically our options for the next century. When I say ‘realistically’, I mean that I take as my starting point the belief, arrived at reluctantly after years of reflection and study, that we have already advanced so far in certain directions as to have foreclosed possibilities that we would all prefer were available….I take it as a given that we have already overshot Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans and that some form of societal collapse is now inevitable.” 

Homer-Dixon, Thomas, The Ingenuity Gap2001, Vintage Canada (division of Random House of Canada Ltd.
ISBN  0-676-97296-9 Gore, Al, An Inconvenient Truth, 2006, Rodale Books, Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
Author quote: “In this book I’ll argue that the complexity, unpredictability, and pace of events in our world, and the severity of global environmental stress, are soaring. If our societies are to manage their affairs and improve their well-being they will need more ingenuity – that is, more ideas for solving their technical and social problems. But societies, whether rich or poor, can’t always supply the ingenuity they need at the right times and places. As a result, some face an ingenuity gap: a shortfall between their rapidly rising need for ingenuity and their inadequate supply….There is still time, I believe, to muster the ingenuity and the will, but the hour is late.”

Homer-Dixon, Thomas, The Upside of Down, 2006, Alfred A. Knoph, Canada.
ISBN  13: 978-0-676-97722-6
ISBN  10: 0-676-97722-7
Author quote:  “These days, lots of people have the intuition that the world is going haywire and an extraordinary crisis is coming….I think that the non-experts’ intuition is actually largely right. Some kind of real trouble does lie ahead. That trouble doesn’t have to be calamitous in its ultimate results, though. If we’re smart and a bit lucky, we have a good chance of avoiding a terrible outcome….Catastrophe could create a space for creativity that helps us build a better world for our children, our grandchildren, and ourselves.”

Jacobs, Jane, Eark Age Ahead, 2005, Vintage Canada (a division of Random House of Canada).
ISBN  0-679-31310-9
Author Quote: “A culture is unsalvageable if stabilizing forces themselves become ruined and irrelevant. This is what I fear for our own culture, and why I have written this cautionary book in hopeful expectation the time remains for corrective actions….I single out five pillars of our culture that we depend on to stand firm, and discuss what seem to me ominous signs of their decay….These five jeopardized pillars are: community and family, higher education, the effective practice of science and science-based technology, taxes and governmental powers directly in touch with needs and possibilities, and self-policing by the learned professions.”

Kingsolver, Barbara, Small Wonder, Harper-Collins Publishers Inc., New York, N.Y.
ISBN  0-06-050407-2
Author quote: “There must be limits, somewhere, to the human footprint on this earth. When the whole of the world is reduced to nothing but human product, we will have lost the map that can show us how we got here, and can offer our spirits an answer when we ask why. Surely we are capable of declaring sacred some quarters that dare not enter or possess.”

Kunstler, James Howard, The Long Emergency, 2005, Grove Press, New York, N.Y.
ISBN  10: 0-8021-4249-4
ISBN  13: 978-0-8021-4249-8
Author quote: “Above all and most immediately, we face the end of the cheap fossil fuel era….The American way of life, which is now virtually synonymous with suburbia, can run only on reliable sources of dependably cheap oil and gas. Even mild to moderate deviations in either price or supply will crush our economy and make the logistics of daily life impossible….I believe that we face a dire and unprecedented period of difficulty in the twenty-first century, but that humankind will survive and continue further into the future, though not without taking some severe losses in the meantime, in population, in life expectancies, in standards of living, in the retention of knowledge and technology, and in decent behaviour. I believe we will see a dramatic die-back, but not a die-off.”

Lovelock, James, The Revenge of Gaia, 2007, Penguin Books, London, England.
ISBN  978-0-141-02597-1
Author quote: “Humanity, wholly unprepared by its humanist traditions, faces its greatest trial. The acceleration of the climate change now under way will sweep away the comfortable environment to which we are adapted….The prospects are grim, and even if we act successfully in amelioration, there will still be hard times, as in any war, that will stretch us to the limit. We are tough and it would take more than the predicted climate catastrophe to eliminate all the breeding pairs of humans; what is at risk is civilization….There is a small chance that the skeptics are right, or we might be saved by an unexpected event such as a series of volcanic eruptions severe enough to block out sunlight and so cool the Earth. But only losers would bet their lives on such poor odds.”

Monbiot, George, Heat, 2006, Doubleday Canada (a division of Random House of Canada).
ISBN  13: 978-0-385-66221-5
ISBN  10: 0-385-66221-1
Author Quote: “This book has an overtly political purpose. It aims to encourage people not only to change the way they live but also to force their governments to make such changes easier….(A) ninety-four per cent (reduction in our use of fossil fuels) sounds like a ridiculous target, but I have sought in this book to show that, thanks to new technologies and a few cunning applications, it is compatible with the survival of an advanced industrial civilization.” 

Wilson, Edward, O., The Future of Life, 2003, Vintage Books.
ISBN  0-679-76811-4
Author quote: “Stretched to the limit of its capacity, how many people can the planet support? A rough answer is possible, but it is a sliding one contingent on three conditions: how far into the future the planetary support is expected to last, how evenly the resources are to be distributed, and the quality of life most of humanity expects to achieve….What humanity is inflicting on itself and Earth is, to use a modern metaphor, the result of a mistake in capital investment. Having appropriated the planet’s natural resources, we chose to annuitize them with a short-term maturity reached by progressively increasing payouts….Meanwhile, two collateral results of the annuitization of nature, as opposed to its stewardship, are settling in to beg our attention. The first is economic disparity: in relative terms the rich grow richer and poor poorer….The second collateral result, and the principal concern of the present work, is the accelerating extinction of natural ecosystems and species.”

Roberts, Paul, The End of Oil, 2004, a Mariner Book, Houghton Mifflin Company.
ISBN  0-618-56211-4
ISBN  0-618-56211-5 (pbk.)
Author quote: “We live today in a world completely dominated by energy….It is the bedrock of our wealth, our comfort, and our largely unquestioned faith in the inexorability of progress, implicit in every act and artifact of modern existence….Yet even a cursory look reveals that, for all its great successes, our energy economy is fatally flawed, in nearly every respect. The oil industry is among the least stable  of all business sectors….Worse, it is now clear….that our steadily increasing reliance on fossil fuels is connected in some way to….significant changes in our climate….While climatologists and environmentalists fret about the quality of energy we produce, most other experts worry far more about the quantity of energy we can make and , more specifically, whether we can produce enough of any kind or quality to satisfy the world’s present and future needs.”

Simmons, Matthew R., Twilight in the Desert, 2005, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.
ISBN  13: 978-0-471-79018-1
ISBN  10: 0-471-79018-4
Author quote: “The book asserts that every oilfield, whether super-giant or ordinary, will begin to decline at some reasonably predictable time. The risk that the oil-consuming world faces is that Saudi Arabia’s oilfields will begin declining sooner rather than later….Given reasonable political stability, world oil production will not plummet, but fade gradually through a twilight. Unfortunately, the world economy is not synchronized to the principles of petroleum geology. A growing gap between energy supply and demand will cause acute, convulsive disruption greatly disproportionate to the actual size of the shortfall.”
Here's another one:
Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis by Alanna Mitchell

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