As chilly weather seeps into Berkeley, there’s nothing more pleasurable than curling up under a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. Looking for the perfect book that will be the ideal combination of both edifying and enjoyable? This fall, reading is a great way to introduce yourself, or dive further in, to understanding the global climate crisis. Below are five books, both fiction and nonfiction, to get your thoughts of environmental activism flowing.
“Arctic Dreams” by Barry Lopez
“Arctic Dreams” is a sweeping nonfiction description of the natural beauty of the Arctic Circle in Canada and Alaska. Author Barry Lopez spent time in the Arctic and dives into in depth accounts of plants, animals and scenes from such a perilous and inaccessible landscape. I read this book while spending time in the Alaskan Arctic 35 years after it was published, and the awe of such a remote land still held true. However, the commentary also made me aware of how much has changed over the past few decades, as well as how close this fragile ecosystem is to the brink of catastrophic environmental collapse.
“Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward
This novel is one of the best literary depictions of the importance of intersectionality in climate justice. Taking place over the course of two weeks, “Salvage the Bones” follows a middle class African American family through the preparation for and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In an age where catastrophic natural disasters are occurring with alarming frequency, it’s essential to understand that minority communities bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change. Ward describes the disparities seen in environmental racism and puts forth the unignorable fact that the voices of oppressed communities must be centralized in environmentalism.
“My Family and Other Animals” by Gerald Durrell
“My Family and Other Animals” is a hilariously entertaining tale of the author, Gerald Durrell, as a young boy with his family and their vast array of animals on the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s. Although this book doesn’t directly address the matter of environmentalism, the close relationships that Durrell and his family build with the animals and environment of Corfu demonstrate the importance of living in harmony with your ecosystem. Bonus points for also watching the TV show, “The Durrells in Corfu,” for its stunning filming of the natural beauty of the Greek island.
“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” by Naomi Klein
In “This Changes Everything,” Naomi Klein articulately lays out the argument of why capitalism is the driving force behind climate change. This is the most analytical book on the list. I believe that every person should read this book to fully understand the depth in which capitalist economies manipulate our perception of global warming to divert blame away from industries. Klein calls for the radical worldwide changes needed to prevent civilization from, quite literally, bursting into flames.
“Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey
Although I haven’t read this book, “Desert Solitaire” comes highly recommended by my dad, who seems to be constantly rereading it. Edward Abbey writes in autobiographical form about his experiences as a park ranger and lover of the wilderness in Arches National Park in Utah during the 1950s. Abbey is well known for his book “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” which outwardly calls for climate protest through sabotage.The accounts in “Desert Solitaire” also inspire environmental action as Abbey poetically describes the process of coping with the future of a changing environment and the efforts taken to protect the natural beauty of the world.
Understanding the intricacies of environmental justice can seem like a daunting task, but it’s really just as simple as reading an entertaining book. Pick up one of these for your next read and who knows, maybe it’ll inspire you to pick up the fight against climate change.