The Best Books About Ecology

The Books I Picked & Why

Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity

By Gregory Bateson

Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity

Why this book?

My all-time favourite ecology book, playfully but rigorously exploring complexity, co-evolution, a living systems language, and knowledge itself. “The major problems in the world,”  Bateson warned, “are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.” In Bateson’s world, all divisions of nature are arbitrary. We only witness relationships, not things in themselves. Bateson links our mental process with evolutionary process and urges ecologists to see those patterns that connect the apparent parts of the whole. 


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Tao Te Ching (Translated By Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)

By Lao Tzu, Gia-fu Geng, Jane English, Toinette Lippe

Tao Te Ching (Translated By Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)

Why this book?

Perhaps the world’s first ecological vision, likely compiled between 600 and 300 BC, advocating direct communion with nature and a life lived by an environmental ethic. Taoism trusts and follows natural processes. Effective action starts with a sense of sacredness in the natural world. Legend tells us that the author, a revered sage, fled society for a life of contemplation in the wilderness. A mountain Pass Keeper begged him to record his philosophy, which he did in little more than a thousand characters. This book helps me avoid feeling depressed about the state of the world. My favorite English translations are the Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English updated translation and Ursula Le Guin’s Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way.


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The Limits to Growth

By Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

The Limits to Growth

Why this book?

Written fifty years ago, this book articulated the ecological crisis in which we remain but few understand. The authors vividly show that human numbers, consumption, and economy cannot grow forever. The researchers tracked industrialisation, population, food, energy, material resources, and pollution through 1970, projected out to 2100, and predicted that the early stages of global collapse (depleted soils, global heating, biodiversity collapse, pandemics) would appear about now, early in the 21st century. Our current crises, many studies, and Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, confirm their projections: They nailed it.

If you are interested, in 2003 they published Limits to Growth: The 30-year Update.


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Deep Ecology for the Twenty-First Century: Readings on the Philosophy and Practice of the New Environmentalism

By George Sessions

Deep Ecology for the Twenty-First Century: Readings on the Philosophy and Practice of the New Environmentalism

Why this book?

The best available summary of Deep Ecology. An anthology of seminal essays inspired by Norwegian philosopher and activist Arne Naess, who sought to create an ecological paradigm shift in society – his work influenced the Greenpeace founders. This collection includes essays by Naess, Chellis Glendinning, Gary Snyder, Dolores LaChapelle, Paul Shepard, and others, who examine the ecological tradition from Spinoza and Thoreau to Santayana and ecofeminism. 


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Steady-State Economics

By Herman E. Daly

Steady-State Economics

Why this book?

Want solutions? Start with our failed economic system. Daly, a World Bank senior economist, examines the economic restructuring necessary to live on a finite planet. He corrects the errors of classic economics by showing that a human economy is a subsystem embedded in a finite, fragile ecosystem, maintained by extracting limited resources and exporting waste. A steady-state economy accounts for the limits of both resources and waste. 


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