As I mention in my blog's sidebar, my sister, a scientist and professor currently working for the Army Corps of Engineers, inspired me to learn more about sustainability and climate change. However, to be frank, at first I was too frightened to delve into the situation. It felt as if, just by opening the covers of books like The Sixth Extinction, I could hear a sepulchral voice shouting from a street corner, "The end of the world is nigh! Repent, ye sinners!"
For my part, I've been easing myself into the world of sustainability via ethical fashion and, to my surprise, the more I learn about the world of sustainability as a whole, the more optimistic I feel about the future and our power to change the world, our world, for the better. Here are me and my sister's five picks geared towards others who want to strike a similar balance between activism and optimism:
1. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
Our first pick is pretty obvious*. Published in 2014, it was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and named one of the New York Times Book Reviews best books of the year. I haven't read it yet myself, but I know Stanford is now asking incoming Freshmen to read it. For all those reasons, it's high on my TBR list. For those with less time, my sister mentions that Kolbert has also written a more feel-good(ish) essay about a Danish community's victory over carbon emissions. You can read it here: www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/07/07/the-island-in-the-wind.
*The Sixth Extinction is available on kindle for $9.99, although for some reason it's listed as an e-textbook.
2. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein
Ugh, I haven't read this one, either. My sister gave me a copy. I started reading it and became terrified when Naomi Klein began scolding people (like me) for looking away. However, we don't have the luxury to look away any longer, not with category 5 hurricanes becoming more commonplace. Not to mention the devastating effects of climate change staring us in the face. (On a related note, please consider giving a few dollars to Puerto Rico. Donors are experiencing fatigue after Texas and Florida and people haven't been as galvanized to help Puerto Rico, which suffered mind-boggling destruction).
Again, on a happier note, as I've been around the people who are dealing, I've become more and more optimistic, not less so. So I feel like I can deal now! I can read this book now. (I'll still be starting with number one on this list first, however.)
*If this pick, still strikes you as too scary, my sister also suggested Climate/ Energy: Hot: Living the Next 50 Years on Planet Earth by Mark Hertsgaard. She describes it as "hopeful" and a "solutions-driven book on climate change."
3. To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World by Lucy Siegle
My third pick is one I have read* and can only describe as life-changing. Lucy Siegle presents an expose of the fashion world's environmental devastation and its all-too-ubiquituous ill treatment of workers along with a vision of how green truly can be the new black. She's the Observer's "Ethical Living" columnist, and her book reads like a well-informed friend describing both a horrifying reality alongside an inspiring alternative.
Siegle believes ethical fashionistas can exist, and I know from personal experience beginning to shop ethically has NOT meant giving up on style. I have not had to don sackcloth and ashes but rather have changed my mindset and my expectations from the fashion world and for myself. I buy far fewer things now, yes, but those things are far more beautiful. The more I learn about what goes into creating a garment, the more I treasure what I have as well. See my post on not shopping for a month for more on the subject.
*Some other books on this subject on my TBR list are Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan and Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline.
4. American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Its Food and What We Can Do About It by Jonathan Bloom
Another rec from my sister. I'm eager to read this one myself as this topic is a cultural fight in my own household. I'm French-American and the French half of me dominates when it comes to food as in: "Why throw food out just because it's past its expiration date? Especially if it smells all right?"
My American husband will proceed to look at me like I'm nuts. "You eat rotten cheese if you want."
"Aargh! But it's not rotten!" I'll shout, frustrated that he's being so obtuse. However, nothing I said convinced him one iota, until I pointed out that France had become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying perfectly good food.
Now, he at least doesn't throw my food out, although I still can't quite convince him to ignore expiration dates and smell the food himself. I can't wait to read more about this difference in mentalities and where it comes from.
5. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben
Okay, if you've read this far, you're probably pretty tough and you can take this one. Bill McKibben was one of the first to warn about global warming over twenty years ago. Now he claims, not only is global warming upon us but the Earth has been so fundamentally changed it might as well be referred to by a new name: Eaarth. "Our hope depends, McKibben argues, on scaling back — on building the kind of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community (in the neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that will allow us to weather trouble on an unprecedented scale. Change — fundamental change — is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance."
Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It by Robert Glennon
-An easy-to-read, hopeful book about water crisis.
Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner.
-A famous book, written in the '80s about water. Very controversial in tone.
Water: Adapting to a New Normal by S. Postel
-There's also a shorter essay by this author that you can read here: www.scribd.com/document/63678768/WATER-Adapting-to-a-New-Normal-by-Sandra-Postel
The Last Drop by M. Specter
Omnivores Dilemma and Botany of Desire by Micahel Pollan
-Also Pollan wrote a really great essay in the New York Times to then president-elect Obama: michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/farmer-in-chief/
Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal by Tristram Stuart
-He also gave a Ted Talk:
On the Climate/ Energy/ Sustainable Living
Hot: Living the Next 50 Years on Planet Earth by Mark Hertsgaard
Farewell, My Subaru by Doug Fine
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Sleeping Naked is Green: How An Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days by Vanessa Farquharson
The Sustainability Revolution by Andres R. Edwards and David W. Orr
A Slow Fashion Diary