The best books that will change the way you look at climate change

David Schweickart Author Of After Capitalism
By David Schweickart

Who am I?

I have a certain degree of scientific expertise deriving from the education leading to my Ph.D. in mathematics and a deep interest in ethical issues, which led to my pursuing a second Ph.D. in philosophy. I am passionate about the issue of climate change, because (among other reasons) I have four grandchildren who will be living in the new world that is being created now. As I often said to my students during my last few years of teaching, “You are living at the time when the most momentous event in human history is unfolding. Historians of the future—if there are any remaining—will write extensively about this period, about what happened and why, about what those of us alive today did or did not do.”

I wrote...

After Capitalism

By David Schweickart,

Book cover of After Capitalism

What is my book about?

After Capitalism has offered students and political activists alike a coherent vision of a viable and desirable alternative to capitalism. David Schweickart calls this system Economic Democracy, a successor-system to capitalism which preserves the efficiency strengths of a market economy while extending democracy to the workplace and to the structures of investment finance. In the second edition, Schweickart recognizes that increased globalization of companies has created greater than ever interdependent economies and the debate about the desirability of entrepreneurship is escalating. The new edition includes a new preface, completely updated data, reorganized chapters, and new sections on the economic instability of capitalism, the current economic crisis, and China. Drawing on both theoretical and empirical research, Schweickart shows how and why this model is efficient, dynamic, and applicable in the world today.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

Why did I love this book?

The book that really changed the way I looked at the issue, a book at once terrifying and hopeful. I was already convinced that climate change was real and serious, but this deeply personal book galvanized me—leading to my own arrest at a protest against the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, not far from Chicago, where I was living at the time. Klein talks to people, some of the leading climate-change denialists and leading scientists on the other side; she interviews “the new climate warriors” and participates in some of their actions; she digs deep into the causes of climate-change denial, then ends with a chapter subtitled, “Just Enough Time for the Impossible.”

Klein is a deeply engaging writer. I began assigning this book in both my undergraduate and graduate courses, whenever appropriate—which was often.

By Naomi Klein,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked This Changes Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Naomi Klein, author of the #1 international bestsellers, The Shock Doctrine and No Logo, returns with This Changes Everything, a must-read on how the climate crisis needs to spur transformational political change

Forget everything you think you know about global warming. It's not about carbon - it's about capitalism. The good news is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better.

In her most provocative book yet, Naomi Klein, author of the global bestsellers The Shock Doctrine and No Logo, tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the…

Book cover of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

Why did I love this book?

This is a brilliant book by a professor of history holding an endowed chair at Duke University, a scholar who took a year off from her academic duties to tour the country, giving talks about this book. It is the other book that has most affected me since the publication of my last book, After Capitalism. It’s a very readable scholarly study, not explicitly focused on climate change, but which explains more compellingly than any other book I’ve read, as to why, given what we know about the causes of, and solutions to, climate change, we are not doing what needs to be done. This book goes well beyond my own long-held belief that we don’t really live in a democracy, focusing on specific elements I’d never thought about, but which are causally implicated in so much of the systemic disfunction that we observe today in our political and economic institutions.

By Nancy MacLean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Democracy in Chains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Finalist for the National Book Award
The Nation's "Most Valuable Book"

"[A] vibrant intellectual history of the radical right."-The Atlantic

"This sixty-year campaign to make libertarianism mainstream and eventually take the government itself is at the heart of Democracy in Chains. . . . If you're worried about what all this means for America's future, you should be."-NPR

An explosive expose of the right's relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, stop action on climate change, and alter the Constitution.

Behind today's…

Book cover of Small Is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered

Why did I love this book?

My rekindled interest in climate change took me back to a book that had influenced me significantly decades ago, which now seems more relevant than ever before—a fact attested to by the fact that the most recent edition features a new forward by Bill McKibben. Of course, Schumacher was not discussing climate change in 1973, but he was already calling attention to ethical, economic, and environmental issues associated with economic growth and thinking about solutions. This is a collection of articles by an economist whom John Maynard Keynes once suggested might be his worthy successor. It includes his provocative “Buddhist Economics.”

By E.F. Schumacher,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Small Is Beautiful as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This New York Times bestselling “Eco Bible” (Time magazine) teaches us that economic growth must be responsibly balanced with the needs of communities and the environment.

“Embracing what Schumacher stood for--above all the idea of sensible scale--is the task for our time. Small is Beautiful could not be more relevant. It was first published in 1973, but it was written for our time.” — Bill McKibben, from the Foreword

Small Is Beautiful is Oxford-trained economist E. F. Schumacher’s classic call for the end of excessive consumption. Schumacher inspired such movements as “Buy Locally” and “Fair Trade,” while voicing strong opposition…

The Ecological Rift: Capitalism's War on the Earth

By Richard York, Brett Clark, John Bellamy Foster

Book cover of The Ecological Rift: Capitalism's War on the Earth

Why did I love this book?

I was drawn to this powerful, contemporary, Marxian analysis, which fits so well with After Capitalism. It opens with a section on “Capitalism and Unsustainable Development,” followed by “Ecological Paradoxes,” then “Dialectical Ecology,” (which includes evidence of Marx’s own concern with what we now call “ecology”). It concludes with “Ways Out.” It’s a long read, but well worth the effort.

By Richard York, Brett Clark, John Bellamy Foster

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ecological Rift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Humanity in the twenty-first century is facing what might be described as its ultimate environmental catastrophe: the destruction of the climate that has nurtured human civilization and with it the basis of life on earth as we know it. All ecosystems on the planet are now in decline. Enormous rifts have been driven through the delicate fabric of the biosphere. The economy and the earth are headed for a fateful collision—if we don’t alter course.
In The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth environmental sociologists John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York offer a radical assessment of both…

Book cover of A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow

Why did I love this book?

I read this book to stay true to my commitment, inspired by John Stuart Mill, to always make an effort to understand the strongest against your own convictions (a key reason for always including Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom in my political philosophy courses). Like most progressives in the 70s, I was part of the anti-nuclear movement, not just opposition to nuclear weapons, but to nuclear power as well. I did not expect this book to radically shift these commitments—but it did. Not the first one, but the second. I realized on reading this book that I had not thought seriously about these issues in decades. The issue of climate change was not on the table in those days, and I had not paid much attention to the development of nuclear power since then. The issue today is too urgent to ignore. Looking at the evidence presented in this book will likely change the anti-nuclear-power reader’s mind. It certainly did mine, and reading further materials on the topic, pro and con, have reinforced this shift.

By Staffan A. Qvist, Joshua S. Goldstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Bright Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As climate change begins to take a serious toll on the planet--with much more damage yet to come--a solution to our warming problems is hiding in plain sight. We need to commit to de-carbonizing our economy, and do so immediately, but so far we have lacked the courage to really try.

Our fears of nuclear energy have grown irrationally large, even as our fears of climate change are irrationally small.

In this clear-sighted and compelling book, Joshua Goldstein and Steffan Qvist come bearing good news: a real solution, one that is fast, cheap, and provably works. Based on Sweden's success…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in climate change, capitalism, and democracy?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about climate change, capitalism, and democracy.

Climate Change Explore 159 books about climate change
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Democracy Explore 96 books about democracy

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