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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Eight books that make you think about how you treat the earth

The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the climate that makes our planet livable all comes from nature. Yet, most that live here treat our planet superfluously, rather than something to be admired. During this COVID-19 pandemic, nature seems to be sending us a message: To care for ourselves we must care for nature. It’s time to take notice. This week we celebrate World Environment Day. We have compiled a list of important books that explore political issues related to the environment.

  1. Greenovation: Urban Leadership on Climate Change by Joan Fitzgerald
    Collectively, cities take up a relatively tiny amount of land on the earth, yet emit 72% of greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly, cities need to be at the center of any broad effort to reduce climate change. This book argues that too many cities are only implementing random acts of greenness that will do little to address the climate crisis. Fitzgerald has a solution. Read a chapter here
  2. Climate Change and the Nation State by Anatol Lieven
    The climate emergency is intensifying, while international responses continue to falter. Lieven outlines a revolutionary approach grounded in realist thinking. This involves redefining climate change as an existential threat to nation states – which it is – and mobilizing both national security elites and mass nationalism. Learn more here.
  3. Why Good People do Bad Environmental Things by Elizabeth DeSombre
    No one sets out to intentionally cause environmental problems. All things being equal, we are happy to protect environmental resources; in fact, we tend to prefer our air cleaner and our species protected. But despite not wanting to create environmental problems, we all do so regularly in the course of living our everyday lives. Why do we behave in ways that cause environmental harm? Read a chapter here.
  4. Beyond Greenwash by Hamish Van der Ven
    When eco-labels are credible, they can lead to dramatic change in environmental practices broadly and quickly by leveraging the purchasing power of corporate to influence global supply chains. But despite the existence of established practices for eco-labeling, many labels remain little more than superficial exercises in “greenwash.” How can consumers separate greenwash from genuine attempts to address environmental challenges? Read a chapter here.
  5. The Politics of Anthropocene by John S. Dryzek and Jonathan Pickering
    This book, winner of the 2019 Clay Morgan Award Committee for Best Book in Environmental Political Theory, envisages a world in which humans are no longer estranged from the Earth system but engage with it in a more productive relationship. We can still pursue democracy, social justice, and sustainability – but not as before. Read a chapter here.
  6. A Good Life on a Finite Earth by Daniel J. Fiorino
    Over the last decade, the concept of green growth has become central to global and national debates and policy due to the financial crisis and climate change. Will a strategy of unguided growth above all cause ecological catastrophe? Read a chapter here.
  7. Food Citizenship by Ray A. Goldberg
    Over the last decade, the concept of green growth has become central to global and national debates and policy due to the financial crisis and climate change. Will a strategy of unguided growth above all cause ecological catastrophe? Read a chapter here.
  8. Governing the Rainforest by Eve Bratman
    Looks at development and conservation efforts in the Brazilian Amazon, where the government and corporate interests bump up against those of environmentalists and local populations. It asks why sustainable development continues to be such a powerful and influential idea in the region, and what impact it has had on various political and economic interests and geographic areas. Read a  chapter here.

World Environment Day offers a global platform for inspiring positive change. We recognize that global change requires a global community. Global change requires people to think about the way they consume, for businesses to develop greener models, for farmers and manufacturers to produce more sustainably, for governments to safeguard wild spaces, and for youth to become fierce gatekeepers of a green future.  It requires all of us.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

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