The best books about how to influence others… to do something about climate change

Who am I?

I am a professor at Cornell University who struggles with the meaning of individual action in the face of looming crises—be they plastics and litter, or climate. The idea of Network Climate Action bubbled up one morning as a way to magnify individual actions, such as eating a plant-rich diet, donating money to a climate organization, or joining in an advocacy group. Network Climate Action helps me achieve my role-ideals as a teacher, volunteer, friend, mom, and grandmother, and it gives meaning and happiness to my life. I live in beautiful Ithaca, NY, with my chosen family, which includes an Afghan artist and a Ukrainian mom and her two kids.


I wrote...

In This Together: Connecting with Your Community to Combat the Climate Crisis

By Marianne E. Krasny,

Book cover of In This Together: Connecting with Your Community to Combat the Climate Crisis

What is my book about?

My book explores how we can harness our social networks to fight the climate crisis. Against notions of the lone environmental crusader, this general audience book demonstrates the power of "Network Climate Action"—how our own ordinary acts can influence those close to us. 

I guide the reader in applying research on norms, moral rebels, and spread of behaviors in networks to kick start your influence on family, friends, and colleagues. Stories of “Network Climate Actors” from Nairobi to Bangalore to Ithaca NY, and cartoons by former New Yorker cartoonist Emily Hopkins show us a practical and hopeful way forward into our shared future.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives -- How Your Friends' Friends' Friends Affect

Marianne E. Krasny Why did I love this book?

If we could just teach about the evils of climate change, people would surely change their behaviors.

I knew this idea was not born up by the facts and was searching for an alternative. This book showed me that if I wanted to get people to eat climate-friendly foods or become a climate advocate, I needed to think about social connections—in particular, what people see their friends and family doing.

Not only do the authors describe how we influence each other’s health, voting, and even happiness—they also argue that social networks provide a middle ground between individual destiny vs structural determinism.

In my work, Network Climate Action is similarly a middle ground between individual behavior change vs government policy in addressing the climate crisis. 

By Nicholas A. Christakis, James H. Fowler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Renowned scientists Christakis and Fowler present compelling evidence for our profound influence on one another's tastes, health, wealth, happiness, beliefs, even weight, as they explain how social networks form and how they operate.


Book cover of How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions

Marianne E. Krasny Why did I love this book?

At first I thought that spreading plant-rich diet or other climate-friendly behaviors would be easy—all my students and I had to do was post photos of enticing meals on Instagram, and hundreds if not thousands would rush to their kitchens.

Then I read Centola’s book and realized that measles spread rapidly with minimal effort, but complex behaviors spread only through repeated exposure in tight networks—through multiple messages from multiple messengers.

Host vegan meals for close friends and family and you might see more plant-rich options when you get invited back. 

By Damon Centola,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Behavior Spreads as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new, counterintuitive theory for how social networks influence the spread of behavior

New social movements, technologies, and public-health initiatives often struggle to take off, yet many diseases disperse rapidly without issue. Can the lessons learned from the viral diffusion of diseases improve the spread of beneficial behaviors and innovations? How Behavior Spreads presents over a decade of original research examining how changes in societal behavior-in voting, health, technology, and finance-occur and the ways social networks can be used to influence how they propagate. Damon Centola's startling findings show that the same conditions that accelerate the viral expansion of an…


Book cover of Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work

Marianne E. Krasny Why did I love this book?

Destination weddings, glamorous McMansions, and luxury cars—this is the result of us seeing what our better-off compatriots do and wanting to have ever more.

In fact, the biggest problem with carbon-intensive behavior is not any one rich person’s carbon footprint. Rather it’s the influence “affluencers” exert on others. But we can turn this around. Solar panels are often clustered in neighborhoods because people also copy each other’s climate-friendly behaviors.

For me, the important thing is not to hide what you are doing—make your sustainable behaviors visible for others to see.

By Robert H. Frank,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Under the Influence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From New York Times bestselling author and economics columnist Robert Frank, bold new ideas for creating environments that promise a brighter future

Psychologists have long understood that social environments profoundly shape our behavior, sometimes for the better, often for the worse. But social influence is a two-way street-our environments are themselves products of our behavior. Under the Influence explains how to unlock the latent power of social context. It reveals how our environments encourage smoking, bullying, tax cheating, sexual predation, problem drinking, and wasteful energy use. We are building bigger houses, driving heavier cars, and engaging in a host of…


Book cover of New Power: How Anyone Can Persuade, Mobilize, and Succeed in Our Chaotic, Connected Age

Marianne E. Krasny Why did I love this book?

An important Network Climate Action is raising money for environmental and women’s health NGOs.

Although our fundraising efforts don’t all go viral, design principles derived from successful campaigns—such as the Ice Bucket Challenge—help us exploit the way power is leveraged over the internet.

In addition to connectivity or creating a feeling of community, “new power” campaigns encourage participants to customize ideas for their own context.

Arising in opposition to consumerist Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday is about donating money to nonprofits. Its heart-shaped logo is designed to be adapted for different causes, including climate. 

By Jeremy Heimans, Henry Timms,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Shortlisted for the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award

“The best window I’ve seen into this new world.” —David Brooks, The New York Times
 
In this indispensable guide to navigating the twenty-first century, two visionary thinkers reveal how “new power” is reshaping politics, business, and life to be more open, participatory, and peer-driven. Here, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms reveal a new and compelling lens on the biggest stories of our age—from the out-of-nowhere victory of Donald Trump to the rise of mega-platforms like Facebook. They show the strength of new power—movements like #MeToo; platforms like…


Book cover of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

Marianne E. Krasny Why did I love this book?

Trudging up Ithaca’s steep hills in the morning, I asked myself: what are the most effective climate actions I can take?

Then I came upon the drawdown.org website, which constantly updates the information in the book of the same name. Project Drawdown lists over 80 climate “solutions” ranked in terms of their effectiveness in drawing down greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Among the top five most effective are reducing food waste, plant-rich diet, and health and education—solutions that can be realized in one’s daily life, by donating money, or through volunteering for an advocacy organization.

By applying research in the above books, these actions also can be intentionally spread through close social networks—that, in a nutshell, is Network Climate Action.

By Paul Hawken (editor),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Drawdown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

• New York Times bestseller •

The 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world

“At this point in time, the Drawdown book is exactly what is needed; a credible, conservative solution-by-solution narrative that we can do it. Reading it is an effective inoculation against the widespread perception of doom that humanity cannot and will not solve the climate crisis. Reported by-effects include increased determination and a sense of grounded hope.” —Per Espen Stoknes, Author, What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming…


You might also like...

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

Book cover of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

Christina Ward Author Of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

New book alert!

Who am I?

For me, history is always about individuals; what they think and believe and how those ideas motivate their actions. By relegating our past to official histories or staid academic tellings we deprive ourselves of the humanity of our shared experiences. As a “popular historian” I use food to tell all the many ways we attempt to “be” American. History is for everyone, and my self-appointed mission is to bring more stories to readers! These recommendations are a few stand-out titles from the hundreds of books that inform my current work on how food and religion converge in America. You’ll have to wait for Holy Food to find out what I’ve discovered.

Christina's book list on the hidden history of America

What is my book about?

Does God have a recipe? Independent food historian Christina Ward’s highly anticipated Holy Food explores the influence of mainstream to fringe religious beliefs on modern American food culture.

Author Christina Ward unravels how religious beliefs intersect with politics, economics, and, of course, food to tell a different story of America. It's the story of true believers and charlatans, of idealists and visionaries, and of the everyday people who followed them—often at their peril.

Holy Food explains how faith pioneers used societal woes and cultural trends to create new pathways of belief and reveals the interconnectivity between sects and their leaders.

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

What is this book about?

Does God have a recipe?

"Holy Food is a titanic feat of research and a fascinating exploration of American faith and culinary rites. Christina Ward is the perfect guide – generous, wise, and ecumenical." — Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams

"Holy Food doesn't just trace the influence that preachers, gurus, and cult leaders have had on American cuisine. It offers a unique look at the ways spirituality—whether in the form of fringe cults or major religions—has shaped our culture. Christina Ward has gone spelunking into some very odd corners of American history to unearth this fascinating collection of stories…


Genres
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5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in social networks, peer pressure, and global warming?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about social networks, peer pressure, and global warming.

Social Networks Explore 18 books about social networks
Peer Pressure Explore 11 books about peer pressure
Global Warming Explore 61 books about global warming