So many science fiction novels depict humans of the future seeking out new worlds after having nearly destroyed the earth. But where is the fiction set in the present showing people attempting to save the earth today? If there isn’t much fiction, at least there’s nonfiction, written by top notch scholars and journalists, that can help us better understand what we’re doing to the planet and its atmosphere, analyze possible solutions, and lead us in the right direction.
On the Edge: The State and Fate of the World’s Tropical Rainforests is the 34th report to the Club of Rome, an NGO think tank whose conservation recommendations play a major role in the global environmental movement. This is peer-reviewed science that “contributes vital new elements to an important global debate.” Refocusing attention on tropical rain forests, Claude Martin’s exposé reveals the extent to which these forests are impacted by climate change.
“We’ve known what needs to be done for a long time,” Wagner and Weitzman write. So why haven’t we done anything to combat climate change? The answer is simple: money. Rather than geoengineering, which has numerous risks, the authors suggest taxing carbon emissions, and many other economic methods of preventing the planet from heating up. They discuss what’s happening, what will happen if we do nothing, and what we can do to bail out the planet in this eye-opening book.
This comprehensive scientific analysis of alternative energy solutions advocates for the speeding up of an energy revolution and explains the math and science of climate change in everyday language. From electric cars to photosynthesis to political problems, this book covers a variety of topics that influence the way we think about solar power.
Editors George Wuerthner, Eileen Crist, and Tom Butler deliver a powerful collection of environmental essays in this companion book to Keeping the Wild. Their focus is a response to the New Conservation Science (NCS), a movement against the tradition of conservation of wildland areas, since the American Wilderness Act of 1964. This in-depth analysis of environmental conservation shows how seeking new responses to decreasing biodiversity can offer hope.
“In the realm of human interaction with the environment, we are clamoring for sustainable conservation models that maintain forests while supplying vital human needs. Herein lays a tremendous opportunity—and challenge—for the Forest Service.” Describing his experiences in his thirty-four year career in the USDA Forest Service, Jim Furnish addresses how the human drive both gain sustenance from the earth and to protect it can work together. His analysis of public land use is thought-provoking for environmentalists, policymakers, and Forest Service workers alike.
Using the city of Dongtan, China, as an example, Julie Sze explores the structure and layout of what a true eco-city would look like, from architecture to agriculture to transportation, and more. She charts how climate change discussions in China and the US reveal the motives of political powers, and she considers the financial issues involved in moving from wasteful mega-suburbs to environmentally positive cities.
The rapid industrialization of the world’s most populous nation has far-reaching effects for the world’s environment and economy, and in The People’s Republic of Chemicals, journalists William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs detail how extreme China’s pollution problem has become. The authors do a nice job of mixing firsthand journalism with history and using a reporting style that thoroughly explains an important but potentially wonkish in a way that should make it accessible and interesting to a large audience.
When she inherits the lease to her father’s land, which has been used for mining and fracking for four generations, Lisa Westberg Peters investigates the history, engineering developments, and environmental impact of the processes for which she now receives royalties. Interviews and plenty of research help her learn about how she personally can make the world a safer place.
The costs of climate change are often talked about in terms of the loss of human life and environmental degradation, but the unprecedented amount of carbon in the atmosphere also has massive implications for the world economy. And when it comes to large companies that pollute and the governments that have the responsibility to regulate them, economic factors like those Mark Schapiro documents in Carbon Shock shouldn’t be overlooked.
Woe is Earth. Drilled silly, dumped on, farmed out, fished out, and cloaked in a burka of carbon—who does the planet have to thank for this dire state of affairs? Only its most highly evolved species, of course. Enter Christian Schwägerl’s The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How It Shapes Our Planet, in which he justifies use of the term “Anthropocene” to designate a new human geological era based on the changes we’ve caused and our vital role as planetary stewards. Schwägerl and others (Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen, for instance) are championing the relationship between humans and nature as a revolutionary science-driven force.
Aimee Jodoin is deputy editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow her on Twitter @aimeebeajo.