The best books for the facing climate crisis without losing your shit

Why am I passionate about this?

I love being a college professor, teaching and learning from young adults. In fact, I wrote When Time Is Short in close conversation with my students. As climate crisis and collapse loom ever larger on the horizon, more and more of them are sharing experiences of climate anxiety and even climate trauma. They are not alone. Many of us are almost paralyzed by such feelings. We need help processing and moving through them in order to find hope—deep hope, as opposed to shallow optimism, which easily slides into despair. These books, most of which I've used in my "Religion and Ecology" class, can help show us the way.


I wrote...

Book cover of When Time Is Short: Finding Our Way in the Anthropocene

What is my book about?

This is not another “before it’s too late” book. This is a “what if it’s already too late?” book. What if it’s already too late to stop, let alone reverse, climate collapse? Maybe it’s not, and we should be doing everything we can so that it isn’t. Still, what if it is? Shouldn’t we be talking about that too?

When Time Is Short is a meditation on our denial of death as a species, how religion has contributed to that denial, and how religion might also help us to break through that denial and find hope—deep hope, as opposed to shallow optimism. Because what matters most when time is short is always what matters most.
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis

Timothy Beal Why did I love this book?

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, and environmental activist. Katharine K. Wilkinson is an educator, strategist, and co-founder, with Johnson, of The All We Can Save Project. This thoughtfully curated anthology of poetry, essays, and visual art by women in the environmental movement is a treasure, offering a diverse variety of voices that inspire active hope in the face of climate crisis and potential collapse. These voices don't always harmonize, nor should they, given all the uncertainties we face. The different perspectives offer many different ways to break through what can be paralyzing climate grief and climate trauma in order to engage in action with compassion and justice.

By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (editor), Katharine K. Wilkinson (editor),

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked All We Can Save as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Provocative and illuminating essays from women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward.

“A powerful read that fills one with, dare I say . . . hope?”—The New York Times
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE

There is a renaissance blooming in the climate movement: leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration. While it’s clear that women and girls are vital voices and agents of change for this planet, they…


Book cover of Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy

Timothy Beal Why did I love this book?

Joanna Macy is an environmental activist and a scholar of Buddhism and deep ecology. Her writing is at once direct and gracious, inviting us to explore new ways of understanding ourselves and our world. Central to her message of hope is what she calls the "Great Turning," a revolution in which humankind will turn from industrial capitalism, which seeks infinite growth through extraction, to a sustainable civilization of compassion and interdependence. This new edition of Active Hope, co-authored with Chris Johnstone, acknowledges that the Great Turning may in fact happen in the midst of a massive societal and ecological collapse, a "Great Unravelling." Yet, even in the midst of collapse, we can find deep hope by investing heart, mind, and strength in the Great Turning. "What's the best we can hope for? And how can we be active in making that more likely or even possible?"

By Joanna Macy, Chris Johnstone,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Active Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The challenges we face can be difficult even to think about. Climate change, the depletion of oil, economic upheaval, and mass extinction together create a planetary emergency of overwhelming proportions. Active Hope shows us how to strengthen our capacity to face this crisis so that we can respond with unexpected resilience and creative power. Drawing on decades of teaching an empowerment approach known as the Work That Reconnects, the authors guide us through a transformational process informed by mythic journeys, modern psychology, spirituality, and holistic science. This process equips us with tools to face the mess we’re in and play…


Book cover of The Planet You Inherit: Letters to My Grandchildren When Uncertainty's a Sure Thing

Timothy Beal Why did I love this book?

Larry L. Rasmussen is a scholar of environmental and religious ethics and professor emeritus of Union Theological Seminary in New York. He wrote this book about climate crisis as a series of letters to his two young grandchildren. Infused with love and concern, he anticipates the uncertainties and hardships, known and yet unknown, that they will undoubtedly face in the decades to come. At the same time, and as importantly, he asks that they never lose sight of the astonishing grandeur of the world around us. "What I most want for you and your baby brother is that you let yourselves be overwhelmed by wonder and lose yourselves in the 'kaleidoscope of creation'—not to escape this harsh world but to better inhabit it." He reminds us that "wondering is a way of experiencing truth."

By Larry L. Rasmussen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For the first time ever, love letters consciously written by elders of one geologic epoch to the young of another.

Our children's and grandchildren's generation will face a different world, one affected by climate instability, mass uncertainty, and breathtaking extinction. In fact, the next generation will face the reality that human activity is changing the planet from one geological epoch to another.

From this vantage point--two generations across two geological epochs facing a fundamentally changing planet--Larry Rasmussen writes to his grandchildren. As a grandfather invested in a green earth and climate justice as well as a scholar of faith-based earth…


Book cover of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Timothy Beal Why did I love this book?

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a professor of environmental and forest biology, director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. This book is a beautifully written, deeply thoughtful meditation on her own experiences and perspectives as a scientist, a mother, and a person of Potawatomi heritage. She graciously brings us to a deeper awareness of our ecological crisis, inviting us to let go of our delusions of mastery and dominion and to learn fresh, new ways of living in an interdependent relationship with other beings, living and nonliving. 

By Robin Wall Kimmerer,

Why should I read it?

48 authors picked Braiding Sweetgrass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Called the work of "a mesmerizing storyteller with deep compassion and memorable prose" (Publishers Weekly) and the book that, "anyone interested in natural history, botany, protecting nature, or Native American culture will love," by Library Journal, Braiding Sweetgrass is poised to be a classic of nature writing. As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer asks questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces indigenous teachings that consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take "us on a journey that is…


Book cover of Parable of the Sower

Timothy Beal Why did I love this book?

Octavia Butler was an award-winning science fiction writer and formative influence on Afrofuturism. First published in 1993 and set in the mid-2020s, this dystopian novel tells the story of Lauren Olamina, a Black teenager learning to survive and thrive amid ecological and societal collapse. Between journal reflections on her life in a world of pandemics, urban wildfires, and rampant violence, she writes verses of Earthseed, a new religion in which "God is Change" and the living must learn to work with that change, to go with its flows, in order to participate in positive transformations. Raised by a Baptist minister, her story and her religious vision remind us that there are always things we can do, no matter how dire our situation, and that working toward change in a broken world often calls on us to reimagine our inherited traditions in fresh ways.

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked Parable of the Sower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The extraordinary, prescient NEW YORK TIMES-bestselling novel.

'If there is one thing scarier than a dystopian novel about the future, it's one written in the past that has already begun to come true. This is what makes Parable of the Sower even more impressive than it was when first published' GLORIA STEINEM

'Unnervingly prescient and wise' YAA GYASI

--

We are coming apart. We're a rope, breaking, a single strand at a time.

America is a place of chaos, where violence rules and only the rich and powerful are safe. Lauren Olamina, a young woman with the extraordinary power to…


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By Jim Brown,

Book cover of Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

Jim Brown Author Of Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my entire professional life quietly patrolling the frontiers of understanding human consciousness. I was an early adopter in the burgeoning field of biofeedback, then neurofeedback and neuroscience, plus theory and practices of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, plus steeping myself in systems theory as a context for all these other fields of focus. I hold a MS in psychology from San Francisco State University and a PhD from Saybrook Institute. I live in Mount Shasta CA with Molly, my life partner for over 60 years. We have two sons and two grandchildren.

Jim's book list on brain, mind, and consciousness

What is my book about?

In this thoroughly researched and exquisitely crafted treatise, Jim Brown synthesizes the newest understandings in neuroscience, developmental psychology, and dynamical systems theory for educators and others committed to nurturing human development.

He explains complex concepts in down-to-earth terms, suggesting how these understandings can transform education to engender optimal learning and intelligence. He explores the nature of consciousness, intelligence, and mind.

Brown then offers a model of optimal human learning through lifelong brain development within a supportive culture--drawing on the work of Piaget, Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg, and Steiner--and how that work is being vastly expanded by neuroscience and dynamical systems thinking.

Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

By Jim Brown,

What is this book about?

In this thoroughly-researched and exquisitely crafted treatise, Jim Brown synthesizes the newest understandings in neuroscience, developmental psychology, and dynamical systems theory for educators and others committed to nurturing human development. He explains complex concepts in down-to-earth terms, suggesting how these understandings can transform education to truly engender optimal learning and intelligence. He explores the nature of consciousness, intelligence, and mind. Brown then offers a model of optimal human learning through life-long brain development within a supportive culture--drawing on the work of Piaget, Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg, and Steiner--and how that work is being vastly expanded by neuroscience and dynamical systems thinking.


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