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

The Books I Picked & Why

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

By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Katharine K. Wilkinson

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

Why 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.”


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Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

By Elizabeth Rush

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

Why 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.


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

By Lee Van Der Voo

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

Why 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.


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

By Tatiana Schlossberg

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

Why 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?”


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The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

By Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

Why 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.


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