The best books to inspire climate action

Lauren E. Oakes Author Of In Search of the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World
By Lauren E. Oakes

Who am I?

I’m a conservation scientist and a writer. I’ve always thought of human and environmental health as deeply intertwined, but as a scientist in the environmental field, I get to study how those links play out in various contexts and help people implement solutions to create a more sustainable future. At heart, I am a storyteller. I write mainly about forest and climate-related issues, but I have a broader interest in the complex relationships between people and the natural world. I hold a dual degree in Environmental Studies and Visual Art from Brown University, and I earned my Ph.D. from the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program for Environment and Resources at Stanford University.

I wrote...

In Search of the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World

By Lauren E. Oakes,

Book cover of In Search of the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World

What is my book about?

In 2010, ecologist Lauren E. Oakes set out from California for Alaska’s old-growth forests to hunt for a dying tree: the yellow-cedar. With climate change as the culprit, the death of this species meant loss for many Alaskans. Oakes and her research team wanted to chronicle how plants and people could cope with their rapidly changing world. Amidst the standing dead, she discovered the resiliency of forgotten forests, flourishing again in the wake of destruction, and a diverse community of people who persevered to create new relationships with the emerging environment. Eloquent, insightful, and deeply heartening, In Search of the Canary Tree is a case for hope in a warming world.

One of Science Friday’s Best Science Books of 2018; Second-Place Winner, 2019 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award; Finalist, 2019 National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Communications Award.

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The books I picked & why

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

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

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

Why did I love this book?

All We Can Save is an anthology of about sixty essays, written by female activists, scientists, artists, policymakers, writers, and thinkers. Together, they offer an eclectic mix of styles and topics, coming from writers with a range of expertise. Wilkinson, a climate change activist, has noted that an impetus for the book was frustration with the fact that much of the public discourse on climate change has been dominated “by the same small cabal of white men.” But to adequately address the crisis at hand, the climate movement needs to expand its coalition, with ultimately everyone on board.

The diversity of essays in this book means there’s really something for everyone here. The voices of these women offer many entry points into climate change as well as pathways forward. As contributor Favianna Rodriquez writes in her essay, “We need our storytellers—a mighty force—to help us…imagine a future where together we thrive with nature.”

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

Why should I read it?

8 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

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 Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

Why did I love this book?

Rigorously reported and beautifully written, Rising takes readers to some of the places in the United States where sea level rise has been most dramatic, from the Gulf Coast to Miami, and New York City to the Bay Area. For many of the plants, animals, and people living in these periled places, the options are limited: migrate elsewhere, or perish. Rush gives voice to the people in such heavily impacted communities; she weaves firsthand accounts from those experiencing such rapid change in their shoreline communities and profiles biologists, activities, and other members of vulnerable communities.

She exposes the many inequitable impacts of climate change through the lives of the people who are already at the frontlines. This poetic and precise story is not a direct call to action. Yet, Rush somehow leaves her readers feeling acutely aware of the most vulnerable populations and wondering what we, as a society, could do differently to avoid more catastrophe.

By Elizabeth Rush,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?





Hailed as "deeply felt" (New York Times), "a revelation" (Pacific Standard), and "the book on climate change and sea levels that was missing" (Chicago Tribune), Rising is both a highly original work of lyric reportage and a haunting meditation on how to let go of the places we love.

With every passing day, and every record-breaking hurricane, it grows clearer that climate change…

Book cover of As the World Burns: The New Generation of Activists and the Landmark Legal Fight Against Climate Change

Why did I love this book?

Climate- and environmental activist Greta Thunberg is often most recognized as the voice of the youth climate movement. However, there are many children around the world, standing up to fight climate change as older generations sit idle. In 2015, twenty-one young people from across America sued the federal government over climate change, arguing that actions promoting the fossil fuel economy violate their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.

Journalist Lee van der Voo brings the experiences of children living in our rapidly changing world to light, as the plaintiffs describe their experiences with floods, fire, drought, and disappearing coastlines. As the World Burns reveals the deep concerns that the next generation holds about the climate crisis and their justified demands for government action.

By Lee Van Der Voo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Award-winning investigative journalist Lee van der Voo reports on Juliana v. the United States. Combining unparalleled access to the plaintiffs and reporting on the natural disasters that form an urgent backdrop to the story, van der Voo shares a timely and important story about the environment, the law, and the new generation of activists. In 2015, a group of kids sued the federal government over climate change. Their case has the potential to be the civil rights trial of our century, but it hasn't happened yet. Instead, both the Obama and Trump Administrations have deployed legal tactics to stymie the…

Book cover of Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don't Know You Have

Why did I love this book?

When it comes to the massive issue of climate change, even citizens who are very concerned often wonder, “What can I really do to help?” The scale of the problem requires global action, but often people are left feeling like their actions alone can’t begin to make a difference. In Inconspicuous Consumption, former New York Times science writer Tatiana Schlossberg opens our eyes to the fact that our everyday choices in such a convenience-driven society contribute to the climate crisis.

Schlossberg unveils the hidden environmental impacts behind the Internet and technology, food, fashion, and fuel and traces the far-reaching effects of our daily living in a super-connected world. But, even more importantly, she shows us that our choices, such as what we eat or what we wear, could also be a part of the many solutions needed, too. In terms of a carbon footprint, I finally got a great answer to the plaguing question, “Is it worse to order something for delivery or to drive into town to find it?”

By Tatiana Schlossberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inconspicuous Consumption as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As we become a more digital society, the gains that have been made for the environment by moving toward a paperless world with more and more efficient devices will soon be or already have been offset by the number of devices in our lives that are always using energy. But many don't think about the impact on the environment of the "Internet of things." Whether it's a microwave connected to the internet, use of Netflix, or online shopping, these technological advances have created new impacts that the people who are most well-versed in these issues haven't considered.


Book cover of The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

Why did I love this book?

Talk about a shift in perspective! In the Collapse of Western Civilization, the year is 2393, and the world is almost unrecognizable. A scholar looks back in time on all that went ignored for decades based upon what we already know today about climate change, its causes, and potential solutions. In science-based fiction, we get a glimpse into the “Great Collapse of 2093,” triggered by soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread drought; it is the collapse of Western civilization as we know it.

Written by a pair of world-renowned experts in the history of science, this book reads like a brilliant glimpse into the fictionalized future. But it’s not written in a dogmatic way that tells us, “This is what will happen if society stays on the same trajectory.” Instead, it invites us to look at the history of the Great Collapse, from three hundred years later, and to see how much we could have done differently with the knowledge we have today.

By Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Collapse of Western Civilization as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The year is 2393, and the world is almost unrecognizable. Clear warnings of climate catastrophe went ignored for decades, leading to soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread drought and-finally-the disaster now known as the Great Collapse of 2093, when the disintegration of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet led to mass migration and a complete reshuffling of the global order. Writing from the Second People's Republic of China on the 300th anniversary of the Great Collapse, a senior scholar presents a gripping and deeply disturbing account of how the children of the Enlightenment-the political and economic elites of the so-called advanced…

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