The best books for transitioning to a sustainable society

The Books I Picked & Why

Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World

By Jason Hickel

Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World

Why this book?

Less is More identifies the fundamental driver of both environmental destruction and human poverty as the capitalist economic system. It argues cogently that high-income countries must turn away from the impossible notion of endless economic growth on a finite planet and instead aim for a feasible post-growth future that seeks a high quality of life for all. Its vision emphasizes abundant public affluence, while still seeing a role for a market economy. The book has breadth and depth, and is very readable. The author, Dr. Jason Hickel, is an economic anthropologist, Professor at the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Associate Editor of the journal World Development.


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The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy

By Stephanie Kelton

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy

Why this book?

Governments frequently claim that they haven’t enough money to protect the environment, provide social housing, fund public education or provide high-quality public health services. The Deficit Myth refutes the notion that a national economy has to be run like a household, with expenditure balanced by revenue. Drawing upon Modern Monetary Theory, economics professor Stephanie Kelton argues cogently that governments with monetary sovereignty – such as the USA, UK, Japan, China, and Australia – can create debt-free money with no constraints apart from ensuring that money retains its value. In particular, they can fund a job guarantee for everyone who wants to work. These insights open up the possibility of transitioning to a better society and economy for all. 


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Resilient Cities: Overcoming Fossil Fuel Dependence

By Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley, Heather Boyer

Resilient Cities: Overcoming Fossil Fuel Dependence

Why this book?

What does it mean to be a resilient city in the age of a changing climate and growing inequity? As urban populations grow, how do we create efficient transportation systems, access to healthy green space, and lower-carbon buildings for all citizens? Resilient Cities responds to these questions, revealing how resilient city characteristics have been achieved in communities around the world. A resilient city is one that uses renewable and distributed energy; has an efficient and regenerative metabolism; offers inclusive and healthy places; fosters biophilic and naturally adaptive systems; is invested in disaster preparedness; and is designed around efficient urban fabrics that allow for sustainable mobility. 


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Energy Democracy: Germany's Energiewende to Renewables

By Craig Morris, Arne Jungjohann

Energy Democracy: Germany's Energiewende to Renewables

Why this book?

Energy Democracy is a history of Germany’s continuing energy transition, its Energiewende. It’s an inspiring case study of how German citizens got their government to support a policy that the public wanted: to transition from fossil fuels and nuclear power to renewable energy. Energy Democracy gives me hope while faced with the situation in my own country, Australia, where the national government is working hand in glove with the fossil fuel industry to slow the transition, against the public wishes as expressed in numerous opinion polls. 


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Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life

By Edward O. Wilson

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life

Why this book?

Alongside climate change, one of the greatest environmental crises is the loss of biodiversity. Not only are the Earth’s plants, animals, and other organisms intrinsically valuable. We humans are totally dependent upon them for the air we breathe, the food we eat and digest, and a climate suitable for human society. Yet we are rapidly destroying our biodiversity. Biologist Edward O. Wilson suggests a radical solution: that we reserve half the Earth to restore its biodiversity.


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