Title: Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
Author: Elizabeth Rush
In a book that intertwines climate science with personal observations and interviews collected from across the United States, author Elizabeth Rush takes the reader on a journey to visit communities that are succumbing to rising ocean tides and the increasing intensity of hurricanes. These areas include marshlands in Maine and elsewhere, where the combination of human dams and climate change are leading to the swallowing of entire habitats by the ocean, to places such as Louisiana where homes in indigenous communities are all but abandoned. The book explores the first confirmed American climate refugees in Staten Island, NY, where a whole community was literally paid by the government to vacate to higher ground. Rush also dives into issues of gentrification that are occurring in low-income communities that are not so lucky. In these areas, profit-seeking developers are buying out higher elevation lands, baiting homeowners to move to more vulnerable areas, in turn driving up rental prices as the wealthy moves in as a means of refuge from the rising waters.
For those who are seeking an easy read that tells some of the “story” of climate change, this book is probably right for you. However, if you’re looking for a more factually dense read the spends more time on statistics and numbers, and less on poetic language that pains the scene, then you might be better served elsewhere. The author includes an extensive references section in the back of the book, which is always a “plus” in my eyes. What’s more, the extensive one-on-one interviews that she documents are certainly worth reading, and are something that you won’t find in a textbook.
Detailed Rating: Easy Reading (5), Referencing (4), Educational (3), Engaging (4)
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Title: Beyond Debate: Answers to 50 Misconceptions on Climate Change
Author: Shahir Masri
This book happens to be my own, so of course I give it 5 stars! It was a custom piece, and contains everything I felt the reader should know. Since it doesn't make sense to review my own book, I'll just provide some insight as to its contents and purpose.
I wrote this book as an effort to communicate climate science to the public in a simple and straight forward way, dispelling the misinformation that often surrounds the topic. Conveniently, the book reads like a field guide. That is, while each of the 50 chapters debunks a new climate myth, the chapters do not have to be read in order. It's really the perfect resource for both climate activists as well as those unfamiliar with climate change who wish to learn more. The final two chapters of the book are dedicated to "solutions," to help people identify how they can most effectively contribute to positively address to the issue. Complete with over 270 references, the book also serves as a great reference book.
If you're a person who already "believes" in climate change, you might think that you have little use for this book. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. People who trust science must also be advocates for that science. And such advocacy starts with understanding and knowledge of the facts and details. If a climate skeptic raises a question, one should have an answer. For every conversation that takes place about climate change is an opportunity to raise public awareness and mobilize action to address the climate crisis.
Sneak Peak Inside
Click here to read the preface and table of contents!
Title: Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.
Author: Elizabeth Kolbert. 2006 (updated in 2015).
Year: 2006. Updated in 2015.
Field Notes from a Catastrophe is the first book on climate change that I ever read. It's an excellent read that I would consider non-technical and enjoyable for the greater public, yet replete with essential information. It weaves the science of climate change into an interesting investigatory narrative, told by a journalist with a burning desire to understand and report on the issue. Throughout her book, author Elizabeth Kolbert travels around the world, interviewing climate scientists and visiting places afflicted by climate change. Her observations are very real, and her discussions with scientists compelling.
Kolbert has been a staff writer for The New Yorker for over 20 years. Her book originally stemmed from a groundbreaking, National Magazine Award-winning three-part series in the Newspaper. She expanded on this story to put together this captivating book. Although originally published in 2006, her book was updated in 2015 to include several new chapters. Yes, climate change has only gotten worse, and the impacts more widespread! So I call on Americans and people around the world to please learn about climate change. Get to know the issue and what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and, importantly, to pressure your local politicians to act on the matter. Expand your knowledge by using unbiased, science-based websites, and avoiding corporate or political sites. This book is a great place to start. For other credible websites, and how to avoid junk info, read my previous blog.
Title: Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Author: Michael Pollan
This book not only earns my applause, but was named one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review and The Washington Post following its publication in 2006. Written by U.C. Berkeley Professor of Journalism Michael Pollan, this captivating read chronicles the lengthy and process-intensive journey of food as it travels from the farm to the dinner table. Pollan has also been a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine for about 30 years, and was named one of the top 10 “New Thought Leaders” by Newsweek in 2009, and one of the 100 most influential people by TIME Magazine in 2010.
Omnivore’s Dilemma brilliantly wrestles with issues of health, sustainability, the environment, and moral dilemma. It dives into the complexity of the food choices that we must make, while providing an insightful history of the food industry. How some of our most beloved crops came to be so consumed is well explained.
In this book, Pollan goes as far as to demonstrate the difficulty of obtaining a single everyday meal by actually doing it himself…from scratch! That’s right. Hunting, gathering, farming, and even evaporating bay water to get salt; always returning to the theme of today’s food industry and meal choices.
After this book, you will no longer take your food for granted. You will also learn that there are more ingredients in a fast food chicken nugget than an entire burger! This book is a very fascinating must-read. Given Pollan’s background in journalism, he is able to deliver an interesting message while keeping the reader’s attention.
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Title: The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health & Well Being
Author: Nena Baker
Receiving the 2009 Gold Nautilus Book Award, The Body Toxic reads like a personal exposé, chronicling the world of chemical exposure through the lens of journalist Nena Baker, who is a former staff writer for The Arizona Republic, The Oregonian, and United Press International. Mostly focused on BpA exposure from food containers, phthalates in plastic and cosmetics, and fire retardants in your furniture, this book does a good job discussing the toxicity of everyday products without frazzling the non-science reader. It also dives into some of the politics surrounding chemical exposures and regulations, which I think is important.
The Body Toxic is a fairly quick read. I would especially recommend it if you’re seeking to get your feet wet in the world of chemical exposure without getting lost in the complex science. My only criticism is that it is not dense with detail. However, that is my common criticism with many books. I’ve come to realize that most books don’t contain as much detail as I’d like. Perhaps that’s just the academic in me, and explains why I often enjoy college textbooks! In any case, if you’re looking to learn about toxic chemicals and are not looking for a rigorous scientific read then The Body Toxic may be perfect for you!
Title: The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, & Economics for a Warming World Threatens Our Health & Well Being
Author: William Nordhaus
This book is an interesting departure from your average climate change book. The author is an expert in climate modeling, and offers key insights about the inner workings of Yale University's so-called DICE climate models and others. He explains the strengths and limitations of climate models in a way that the everyday reader can understand. What's more, this books discusses the importance of integrated assessment and the use of multiple models for understanding where we're headed in terms of global carbon dioxide emissions. For instance, Nordhaus evaluates how economic growth and policy measures influence carbon emissions.
Despite the value of climate models discussed in The Climate Casino, the author nonetheless points out their inherent uncertainty. In light of these unknowns, Nordhaus explains the importance of adopting the precautionary principle. Rather than stalling climate action until we "know more," Nordhaus points out, "for climate change, waiting for the right answer is a perilous course. It is like driving 100 miles an hour with your headlights off on a foggy night and hoping there are no curves." Personally, I found this book insightful enough to reference it in my own 2018 book Beyond Debate.
Title: Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
Author: Bill McKibben
Co-founder of the major grassroots climate action organization known as 350.org, author Bill McKibben is truly one of the great champions of the climate movement. Having written one of the first books to bring climate change to the general public, McKibben has been active as an environmental journalist, activist, and educator. In Eaarth, McKibben continues this important tradition by showcasing the magnitude of the climate crisis in a way that captivates the everyday reader.
McKibben spells the title Eaarth with an extra "a" to emphasize that we're irreversibly pushing our planet into a transition from the comfortable Earth we've all come to know and adapt to into a new planet—planet Eaarth—that is unfamiliar and extreme. He makes a sound point worthy of our attention.
The first half of Eaarth is an impressive assortment of record-breaking climate statistics and events from around the world, making for one of the most viscerally compelling cases of a "climate crisis" that I've ever read. Citing record-breaking temperatures, hurricanes, floods, species migration, ice melt, and more, I find Eaarth to be a valuable "quick reference to climate impacts" that is worth having on your bookshelf. While the first half of the book was hard to put down, I found the second half to be much less stimulating. This is where McKibben discusses climate solutions, primarily focusing on shifts from agriculture to local farming. It's an important discussion to have, but I felt that it spanned too many chapters. All told, I think the positives of Eaarth most certainly make it a must-read.
Click here to visit the author's website!