5 Exceptional Environmental Books
Life Needs You To Read
by Kesh Brown
These books are not for the weak of heart.
They will shake you awake, rock your consciousness, and demand your action, both as a member of the human family, and as a responsible member of the greater community of life.
This is a bit of a long post, so we’ll get right to it.
Just one little caveat though:
Please know that we are not merely recommending these books.
We are actually challenging you to read these books… slowly, with an open mind and an open heart.
Do it honestly. Take it all in… and your consciousness will shift.
Your life may shift, too!
1. endgame Volume 1 – The Problem Of Civilization by Derrick Jensen
Derrick Jensen is the acclaimed author of A Language Older Than Words, The Culture Of Make Believe, The Myth Of Human Supremacy, among many others. Author, teacher, activist, small farmer, and most importantly a leading voice of uncompromising dissent, he regularly stirs auditoriums across the country with revolutionary spirit.
Excerpt # 1…
It should be clear to everyone by now–even those with a vested interest in ignorance–that industrial civilization is killing the planet. Its causing unprecedented human privation and suffering. Unless it’s stopped, or somehow stops itself, or most likely collapses under the weight of its inherent ecological and human destructiveness, it will kill every living being on earth. It should be equally clear that the efforts of those of us working to stop or slow the destruction are insufficient. We file our lawsuits; write our books; send letters to editors, representatives, CEOs; carry signs and placards; restore natural communities; and not only do we not stop or slow the destruction, but it actually continues to accelerate. Rates of deforestation continue to rise, rates of extinction do the same, global warming proceeds apace, the rich get richer, the poor starve to death, and the world burns.
Excerpt # 2…
We can’t have it all. The belief that we can is one of the things that has driven us to this awful place. If insanity could be defined as having lost functional connection with physical reality, to believe we can have it all–to believe we can simultaneously dismantle a world and live on it; since we believe we can perpetually use more energy than arrives from the sun; to believe we can take more than the world gives willingly; to believe a finite world can support infinite growth, much less infinite economic growth, where economic growth consists of converting ever larger numbers of living beings to dead objects (industrial production, at its core, is the conversion of the living–trees or mountains–into the dead–two-by-fours and beer cans)–is grotesquely insane. This insanity manifests partly as a potent disrespect for limits and for justice. It manifests in the pretension that neither limits not justice exist. To pretend that civilization can exist without destroying its own land base and the land bases and cultures of others is to be entirely ignorant of history, biology, thermodynamics, morality, and self-preservation. And it is to have paid absolutely no attention to the past six thousand years.
2. Spiritual Ecology – The Cry of the Earth – Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee Essays by Thich Nhat Hanh, Joanna Macy, Wendell Berry, Sandra Ingerman, Richard Rohr, Bill Plotkin, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Brian Swimme, Oren Lyons, Vandana Shiva & Others
Our present ecological crisis is the greatest man-made disaster this planet has ever faced–its accelerating climate change, species depletion, pollution and acidification of the oceans. A central but rarely addressed aspect of this crisis is our forgetfulness of the sacred nature of creation, and how this affects our relationship to the environment. There is a pressing need to articulate a spiritual response to this ecological crisis. This is vital and necessary especially if we are to help bring the world as a living whole back into balance.
Excerpt # 1…
from The Bells of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Bells of Mindfulness are sounding. All over the Earth, we are experiencing floods, droughts, and massive wildfires. Sea ice is melting in the Arctic and hurricanes and heat waves are killing thousands. The forests are fast disappearing, the deserts are growing, species are becoming extinct every day, and yet we continue to consume, ignoring the ringing bells.
All of us know that our beautiful green planet is in danger. Our way of walking on the Earth has a great influence on animals and plants. Yet we act as if our daily lives have nothing to do with the condition of the world. We are like sleepwalkers, not knowing what we are doing or where we are heading. Whether we can wake up or not depends on whether we can walk mindfully on our Mother Earth. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our mindful steps. We have to hear the bells of mindfulness that are sounding all across our planet. We have to start learning how to live in a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren.
Excerpt # 2…
from The Koan of the Earth by Susan Murphy
We live walled off from the earth as far as possible, though we will pay a high price for views of water or mountains. Many of us would by now find it unnatural to lie down to sleep on the earth, gather and cook food where we are, drink water from a creek, defecate in a hole dug in the ground. Our air-conditioned, plugged-in level of material comfort estranges us from the earth and even from the sense of what is natural. And it insulates us from the high cost of this intensely self-centered way of living, leaving that to be borne out of sight by other people, other species, the earth as a whole. We live at maximum distance from the fact that we are only here temporarily, that we will age and die. Not only do we not respect our host and acknowledge the bounty and beauty earth pours out for us, we comprehensively distract ourselves from that by any means available. If pushed to notice it, we reassure ourselves that the mounting tsunami of harm left in our wake is entirely unintentional, not under our control.
3. Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Christian Wahl
This is a ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ for the 21st century: an impressive and wide-ranging analysis of what’s wrong with our societies, organizations, ideologies, worldview and cultures — and how to put them right. It covers agriculture, finance, design, ecology, economy, sustainability, organizations and society.
Excerpt # 1…
To care for the Earth and for life’s common future does not require some form of spiritually motivated altruism once we are conscious of the systemic interdependencies that our survival depends upon. The motivation for intelligent and aware people to transform ‘business as usual’ can simply be a form of enlightened self-interest. Once we start the practice of caring for others (humans and other species) in the same way as we care for ourselves, we begin to realize that the experience of a separate self is a limited perspective and that we are in fact relational beings in a world where everything affects everything else and, as a result, to care for others is to care for ourselves.
Excerpt # 2…
By caring for the Earth and all of life, we care for ourselves. By embracing our own nature as an expression of nature at large, humanity can become a conscious force of healing. Keeping the limits of our own knowing in mind, we can begin to humbly contribute to the flourishing rather than the impoverishment of life. Overcoming the pain and the isolation of the narrative of separation means learning to love ourselves in order to love life more fully. By co-creating regenerative cultures we are saving our species from an untimely, tragic extinction. Let’s give our young species its opportunity to fulfill its wonderful potential.
4. eaarth – Making A Life On A Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, Deep Economy, and numerous other books. He is the founder of the environmental organizations Step It Up and 350.org, and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, and their daughter.
Bill McKibben has a stark and sobering message about our world: We’ve waited too long to stop the advance of global warming, and massive change is not only unavoidable but already underway. Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.
McKibben shows that we can’t rely on old habits and the false promise of endless economic growth to address the binds and traps that characterize this new planet. Instead, our hope depends on building the kind of societies and economies that can hunker don, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community that will allow us to weather trouble on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance.
Excerpt # 1…
So let’s review. The planet we inhabit has a finite number of huge physical features. Virtually all of them seem to be changing rapidly: the Arctic ice cap is melting, and the great glacier above Greenland is thinning, both with disconcerting and unexpected speed. The oceans, which cover three-fourths of the earth’s surface, are distinctly more acid and their level is rising; they are also warmer, which means the greatest storms on our planet, hurricanes and cyclones, have become more powerful. The vast inland glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas, and the giant snowpack of the American West, are melting very fast, and within decades the supply of water to the billions of people living downstream may dwindle. The great rainforest of the Amazon is drying on its margins and threatened at its core. The great boreal forest of North America is dying in a matter of years. The great storehouses of oil beneath the earth’s crust are now more empty than full. Every one of these things is completely unprecedented in the ten thousand years of human civilization. And some places with civilizations that date back thousands of years–the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, Kiribati in the Pacific, and many other island nations–are actively preparing to lower their flags and evacuate their territory.
Excerpt # 2…
I’ll spend the rest of this book explaining how we might make that very different world workable–how we might keep the lights on, the larder full, and spirits reasonably high. These are all difficult tasks; the transition from a system that demands growth to one that can live without it will be wrenching. But the most wrenching part will be the simple idea of decline. We don’t like aging as individuals, and it frightens us as a society. Ever since Jimmy Carter first hinted at it in 1970’s, we’ve been desperate to flog our economy back to life. We deregulated, never mind the pollution. We cut taxes, never mind the gross inequality it created. We handed out cheap mortgages, never mind the headache we knew was coming. We have, in short, goosed our economy with one jolt of Viagra after another, anything to avoid facing the fact that our reproductive days were past and hence constant and unrelenting thrust was no longer so necessary. (I suspect global warming is the planetary equivalent of the dread “erection lasting more than four hours” that we’re warned about on the TV commercials.)
5. The Myth of Human Supremacy by Derrick Jensen
Human history has largely been built upon a single assumption: that the earth belongs to humanity and we are, for better or worse, its stewards.
In this work of fiery argumentation, Derrick Jensen–considered by many to be the philosopher-poet of the environmental movement–disagrees. Noting the mind-boggling complexity of nonhuman life–from the nuanced social interactions of pigs to the manipulation of tools by elephants to the sheer ingenuity of fungi–Jensen proposes a radical new definition of intelligence, based not on human dominance, but rather on the intricacy–and, very often, the sense of community–with which various life forms articulate themselves. Salvos are directed not only at the industries that are denuding the earth, but also at the mainstream scientists who too often frame the costs of ecological degradation solely in human terms. The Myth of Human Supremacy is a work of unceasing admiration for the diversity of intelligences that grace the natural world–and an urgent call to liberate it, and them, from human domination.
Excerpt # 1…
Human supremacism is killing the planet. Human supremacists–at this point, almost everyone in this culture–have shown time and again that the maintenance of their belief in their own superiority, and the entitlement that springs from this belief, are more important to them than the well-being or existences of everyone else. Indeed, they’ve shown that the maintenance of this self-perception and entitlement are more important than the continuation of life on the planet.
Until this supremacism is questioned and dismantled, the self-perceived entitlement that flows from this supremacism guarantees that every attempt to stop this culture from killing the planet will fail, in great measure because these attempts will be informed and limited by this supremacism, and thus will at best be ways to slightly mitigate harm, with the primary point being to make certain to never in any way question or otherwise endanger the supremacism or entitlement.
In short, people protect what’s important to them, and human supremacists have shown time and again that their sense of superiority and the tangible benefits they receive because of their refusal to perceive others as anything other than inferiors or resources to be exploited is more important to them than not destroying the capacity of this planet to support life, including, ironically, their own.
Excerpt # 2…
What I want from this book is for readers to begin to remember what it is to be human, to begin to remember what it is to be a member of a larger biotic community. What I want is for you–and me, and all of us–to fall back into the world into which you–and me, and all of us–were born, before you, too, like all of us were taught to become a bigot, before you, too, like all of us were taught to become a human supremacist, before you, too, like all of us were turned into a servant of this machine culture like your and my parents and their parents before them. I want for you–and me, and all of us–to fall into a world where you–like all of us–are one among many, a world of speaking subjects, a world of infinite complexity, a world where we each depend on the others, all of us understanding that the health of the real world is primary.
The world is being murdered. It is being murdered by actions that are perpetrated to support and perpetuate a worldview. Those actions must be stopped. Given what is at stake, failure is no longer an option. The truth is that it never was an option.
So where do we begin? We begin by questioning the unquestioned beliefs that are the real authorities of this culture, and then we move out from there. And once you’ve begun that questioning, my job is done, because once those questions start they never stop. From that point on, what you do is up to you.