Read for Earth: 11 Books on Conservation, Climate Change and Sustainability

At a time when the health of the Earth and its people have never felt more urgent, we're spotlighting the books that provoke not just thought but action when it comes to caring for the environment. Covering topics as diverse as pollution and species protection, they offer visions of what our future may look like and the steps we can take to protect our planet.

What does the future hold for our environment? Reach for one of these books.

Silent Spring

by Rachel Carson

This book gave the environmental movement a much-needed push to the top of the global agenda. First published in 1962, it flags the dangers of the indiscriminate use of pesticides, and has since spurred changes in laws that affect our land, air and water, and inspired generations of activists. One of Carson's earlier works, Under the Sea Wind (1941), dives into marine life, from the shores to the depths of the ocean.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert

Over the last half-billion years, five mass extinctions have dramatically diminished the diversity of life on Earth. In this Pulitzer-winning tome, Kolbert (who has also authored Field Notes from a Catastrophe) argues that a sixth is unfolding - and that humans are the cataclysm. Intrigued? Try Jared Diamond's Collapse, which looks at how environmental changes have affected societies past and considers what this means for our future.

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

by David Wallace-Wells

"What does it mean to be entertained by an apocalypse when we stare down the possibility of a real one?" This must-read book on climate change, famine and economic collapse is inspired by Wallace-Wells' article of the same name in New York Magazine. If you thought rising sea levels were the worst thing about global warming, think again.

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference

by Greta Thunberg

Thunberg is the poster child for the fight against climate change - and not just because she's riled up Trump. This timely, pocket-sized polemic gathers 11 of her speeches - including "Our House is on Fire", famously delivered to the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos. If you like this, read Letters to the Earth, which gathers 1,000 missives from big names - Emma Thompson, Yoko Ono, Kate Tempest, Caroline Lucas - and regular joes to paint a provocative snapshot of the human outrage behind the headlines about the climate crisis.

Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

by George Marshall

Why have we been so slow to respond to climate change? Answer: because it has no clear enemy or solution. After consulting Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and Texas Tea Party activists, Marshall argues that as much as we need science right now, the climate crisis also needs an emotionally driven, compelling narrative to capture our collective attention.

Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm

by Isabella Tree

Part ecological experiment, part personal journey, this book documents what happened when Tree and her husband let nature take over their West Sussex farmland. As rare species and once-degraded land thrive, this account paints a hopeful vision about the beauty and resilience of the natural world. Like this? Read A Sand County Almanac, in which ecologist Aldo Leopold advocates for a responsible relationship between people and the land they inhabit.

Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild

by Lucy Jones

At a time when we are more disconnected from the natural world than ever, Jones presents an urgent and uplifting case for connecting with the living world to improve our psychological wellbeing. Travelling between East London's forest schools and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault via eco-therapists' couches, she finds asylum in the soil and joy in the trees.

How to Give Up Plastic

by Will McCallum

There are many down-to-earth guides on the simple changes we can all make to protect the environment. McCallum (Head of Oceans at Greenpeace UK) reveals the individual acts that can help reverse the alarming statistic that, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight. Other books we recommend are: Mike Berners-Lee's There Is No Planet B, the food-focused Eating for Pleasure, People and Planet by Tom Hunt and How to Break Up With Fast Fashion by Lauren Bravo.

On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal

by Naomi Klein

For more than 20 years, Klein has written impassioned dispatches from the frontline of the climate breakdown. In her most recent book - in which she travels between the Great Barrier Reef and post-hurricane Puerto Rico - she presents the crisis as not just a political challenge but a spiritual and intellectual one too.

The World Without Us

by Alan Weisman

What will be humanity's lasting legacy? In this page-turning tour of post-human Earth, Weisman draws on the expertise of scientists, religious leaders and art conservators to speculate how our infrastructure could collapse, what everyday items may become fossils of the future and why some of oldest buildings may be the last to survive.

The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change

by Gleb Raygorodetsky

On a journey that takes him across six continents, Raygorodetsky sheds light on the indigenous communities - including the Altai of Russia, the Karen of Myanmar and the Kuku Nyungkal of Australia - that may hold the answers to coping with climate change. If you enjoy this, reach for botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass next. Drawing on her experience as an indigenous scientist, she embraces the notion that we have much to learn from plants and animals.

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