13 Best Books About The Environment Update 05/2022

Books About The Environment

Many parts of the world are getting ready to go back to school and work after their vacations. A little refresher course might be in order to keep up with the times.

Earlier this month, we told you about our favorite books for young environmentalists. If your tastes are a little older, we’ve got you covered as well. Earth Day Network asked its staff for their favorite books about the environment, and these are the ones they’re recommending this season. This is what they said.

The ones below are some of our favorites, and they cover a wide range of topics, from sea-level rise and species protection to plastics pollution and the climate refugee crisis. Hey, we didn’t say they were beach reads.

Rising | Elizabeth Rush

Dispatches from the New American Shore


She takes her readers to the physical and cultural edges of America in “Rising.” She shows them places like Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, and the glass castles of Facebook and Google. High tide and huge storms are going to become more and more common. People who live near the coast, especially those with low incomes, are going to be at the most risk of flooding and all that comes with it. Coastal areas aren’t the only thing at risk. Whole communities could lose their homes and way of life because of climate change, becoming the first of many climate refugees. How do we deal with the fact that these lands are going to be lost? That’s the subject of Rush.

The Ends of the World | Peter Brannen

Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions

Scientist Pete Brannen takes us on a journey back in time over millions of years to look at the planet’s five mass extinctions. Using fossil records from all over the world, “The Ends of the World” looks back at our five mass extinctions and sees what the future holds for us. Paleontologists are our main characters. Brannen’s wit may make you laugh out loud from the Ordovician to the Cretaceous, so you can call it “rock and droll.”

How to Give Up Plastic | Will McCallum

A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time

The problem with plastic is that it affects everyone, and unless we all take responsibility for it, we won’t be able to solve it. If you want to know what’s going on with plastic pollution around the world and how it’s hurting the environment, this book is for you. Will McCallum, the head of oceans at Greenpeace UK, writes it. People who read “How to Give Up Plastic” can learn about their addiction to plastic while taking steps to fix it.

Storming the Wall | Todd Miller

Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security

Time to see the effects of climate change on our economies and politics. In Storming the Wall, Todd Miller tells the story of people who have been forced to leave their homes because of climate change. He also paints a bigger picture of how rich countries like the United States are building walls, militarizing borders, and expanding detention centers to keep people from coming and keep the status quo of the haves and have nots.

The Uninhabitable Earth | David Wallace-WellsLife After Warming

The Uninhabitable Earth David Wallace-WellsLife After Warming

Need to get up to speed on what’s going on with our climate? It could be the book for you. David Wallace-Wells, a columnist and editor, has written a book that covers the past, present, and future of life in the era of anthropogenic global warming in 200-odd pages. He does this very well. Amazingly, Wallace-writing Wells’s shows both the urgency and anxiety of our environmental crisis, but it also shows that we still have a chance to turn things around. First, you’ll be scared to death. Then, you’ll get right to work.

Losing Earth | Nathaniel Rich

A Recent History

Lost Earth is about the environmental decade that never happened: 1979–89, when we knew everything we needed to know about global warming in order to stop it. This is the decade that never happened. Nathaniel Rich talks about how the public, with the help of scientists, lined up to fight climate change until a coordinated campaign by lobbyists, corporations, and politicians made people doubt the whole thing. All of us know what happened after that, so don’t say anything. Look back at your mistakes from the past to understand how you got where you are now. “Losing Earth” does what it says it will do.

Don’t Even Think About It | George Marshall

Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

Because our response to climate change has been so bad. George Marshall talks about how we make decisions about whether to act or not. When it comes to climate change, it’s usually the other way around. Climate change is a “wicked problem,” says Marshall. It’s a difficult problem with no clear enemy and no easy way to solve it. “Don’t Even Think About It” says that to solve this problem and get people to act, we need both science and emotional, compelling stories.

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? | Frans de Waal

People have thought for a long time that complex thought and emotion were unique to humans. Frans de Waal, a primatologist and ethologist, says that this isn’t true. He talks about how humans have learned about animal cognition over time, and he looks at examples of animal problem solving, tool use, and social structures. In this book, you’ll find interesting research findings, a history and critique of the field, and a personal account of how de Waal’s own career has changed over time. This causes people to think about what it means to be intelligent in a new way, while also making them appreciate the unique and diverse skills that animals have across the world.

Salvage the Bones | Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the Bones Jesmyn Ward

People don’t get moved by facts and figures the way they do when they hear stories from real people. It’s the only book on this list that’s not true, but the author Jesmyn Ward comes from a place of great truth when she tells the Batiste family’s story. The Batistes are a family that is bolstered by their community, defined by their pride, and threatened by extreme heat and ever-stronger hurricanes. Ward, like the book’s main character, Esch, was born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He lived through Hurricane Katrina, a category-5 storm that hit communities already at risk because of wetland damage, local land use, and flooding. For Ward, the prose is more than just a simple summary of the news at the time. It tells the story with dignity and intensity, which shows how much we can make together and how much we could lose because of climate change.

Where the Water Goes | David Owen

Life and Death Along the Colorado River

A river called the Colorado River provides water for about 40 million people. With climate change and growing populations, this river’s tap is almost dry. He takes us on a tour of this beautiful river, from the snowy Rocky Mountains to dry deserts in Mexico. People have divided the Colorado River for almost 100 years, used it too much for farming or city needs or directed it in a different way. The river is now less able to withstand these things. People have made this mess, but Owen says we can get out of it before the tap runs dry.

This Radical Land | Daegan Miller

A Natural History of Dissent

When most people thought the natural world was a resource that could be taken, early environmentalists saw an ideal where humans could live together with the natural world instead of exploiting it, which they thought was better. Daegan Miller has written a series of essays about how environmental justice, conservation, and sustainable development came together at a time when American progress was seen through the lens of unrestricted extraction and expansion, which was not how the world saw us. This journey into the history of environmentalism is a reminder that radical, new ideas have always been a part of the work to live in harmony with our world.

Merchants of Doubt | Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway

They say that the tobacco industry’s first response to secondhand smoke and how we think about science today are very similar. This is what they call “Merchants of Doubt.”

As the book says, a few industry-backed scientists worked together to make people doubt science by picking out the best facts, misrepresenting their views, and celebrating unregulated capitalism as an American trait.

If you look back at our history, you’ll see a lot of the same things happening again and again. A few very powerful people have made it easier for people to be misled about the truth and support unregulated, corporate-friendly projects. Global warming has been getting worse, and so has our own doubt about it.

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes | Dan Egan

The Great Lakes have changed a lot since they were first settled in the 1800s because of pollution and invasive species, which were both caused by engineering projects in the 20th century. Egan talks about how these environmental problems started and how they’ve changed over time. He also talks about the dangerous social, economic, and political problems that they’ve caused. What’s at stake is the world’s largest body of freshwater, which is home to a variety of ecosystems and is used by hundreds of thousands of people. It’s our job to keep it safe.

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