It may be that people talk about the environment and climate change even more than about politics. Newspapers and electronic media run feature articles with vivid photography, and new titles show up on book lists, it seems, every day. Which should we read? How can we develop a point of view and course of action that make sense and offer hope? In connection with a seminar on this topic at my church, I developed a short reading list. These books are keyed to what I, along with many others, believe to be one of the most persuasive publications on this subject in recent years, which is the book that tops the list below. The books that follow are happily consistent with the “integral ecology” that is key to Pope Francis’ book.
On Care for Our Common Home: Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality by Pope Francis (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2015). Pope Francis describes the crisis now facing creation and outlines a biblical doctrine of creation to point to a new future. He says that wisdom from many sources is needed and he describes the future we should develop as an “integral ecology,” a world in which both people (especially the poor) and the natural world prosper.
Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017). An “unrepentant capitalist” and the former executive director and chairman of the Sierra Club write paired essays on seven topics and a unified conclusion in which they state their belief that a better future can be achieved as people everywhere, and especially in cities, take doable action now.
Stitching the West Back Together: Conservation of Working Landscapes, edited by Susan Charnley, Thomas E. Sheridan, and Gary Nabham (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). It includes essays by ranchers, environmentalists, and government officials in the southwest who discuss “community-based collaborative conservation” that protects land and waterways from abuse while making it possible for people to live in these regions and prosper.
Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization, by Steven Solomon (New York: HarperCollins, 2010). The availability, utilization, and control of water has from ancient times until now been one of the most important factors in human life, both of individuals and the larger communities in which they live. Solomon presents a detailed history of this history and of the current state of affairs. He believes that the societies that find the most innovative responses to the crises related to water now facing the world will most likely come out as winners, while the others will fall behind.
Green Living: The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the Earth, by the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine (New York: Plume, 2005). The book consists of thirteen chapters on topics ranging from “smart food choices, natural-fiber clothing, socially responsible investing, the healthy home, planet-friendly cars, using transit and bikes, and the rewards of reuse and recycling. Each chapter is arranged in short discussions of basic ideas, practical suggestions, and further reading. The book focuses on what people can do rather than on what they should do.