You “know” that climate change exists. But how much do you really know? How current is your information? How deep is your understanding?
Because climate change is terrifying, we have the tendency to purposefully not learn more about it, to avoid new information. I believe it is a moral, and strategic, obligation to fight this tendency.
I highly recommend making learning about climate change a social endeavor. Ask friends or family to read and discuss a few books with you. Start a book group. Ask your current book group to focus on climate for a few books. Read alone, if you must, but be prepared for some sleepless nights.
What to read? Here are the top 5 books to become educated, empowered, and ready to fuel a social movement.
#1: The Most Important Book on Climate Change:
The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding
Gilding manages a terrific feat: he is grimly realistic about the extent and immediacy of the climate crisis, while being optimistic about the outcome. Gilding’s hope comes from having a plan: the “One Degree War,” a WWII level effort, which requires a full societal mobilization. This book is approachable yet comprehensive, well-argued and exciting.
I have only one major disagreement with Gilding: he believes humanity will have a great awakening, likely after a major climatic event, when humanity will, almost spontaneously, realize how much danger we are in, and engage a war-like response. Here, Gilding underestimates the power of individual and cultural denial– the forces that hold us back from living in climate truth. Though I believe that such an awakening can occur, it will only occur through a social movement that fights denial while containing anxiety.
You can read the One Degree War plan here, but the book is outstanding. If you read one book about climate change, make it this one. And then join me in trying to build a social movement that brings the great awakening, and the Climate War about!
#2: The best book on the societal affects of climate change
Eaarthby Bill McKibben
This book will stop you in your tracks. McKibben is a powerful writer, and he pulls no punches describing the ravages of climate change.
McKibben is particularly effective in discussing how climate change will affect American society. He argues that our new planet, cannot sustain the global capitalism that we have built— that sea level rise, and increasing severe weather and its damage to infrastructure, and other destabilizing forces simply will render it in-feasible: “It you get sucker-punched by one storm after another, you don’t have time to recover; you spend your insurance payout reproofing your house, and then the roof blows off again next year. Maybe your insurance company cancels your policy…after the next storm or two your town starts looking less like America and more like Haiti.” After 200 years of American expansion and grand projects, such as the interstate highways, its time to think about localization, durability, and community. Its time to about battening down the hatches, and weathering the storms, which will just keep getting bigger.
#3 The best Primer on climate change
The Rough Guide to Climate Change (3rd Edition), by Robert Henson
Rough Guide primarily makes travel guides; so they are used to distilling large amounts of information into readable, relatable reference books. The Rough Guide provides an overview of how climate change works (greenhouse gasses, particularly Co2 and Methane, trap heat in the very-thin atmosphere), and the many symptoms that climate change is already causing (heat waves, droughts, floods, glacial melt, sea level rise, damaged ecosystems, and threatened agriculture) resulting from climate change. Further, it discusses how this information is gathered and measured, and explores various controversies around climate change. Reading this book will make you feel climate change competent, empowering you for advocacy!
#4 The best book for understanding the psychology of the climate controversy
States of Denial by Stanley Cohen
States of Denial is a dense, academic read, but wow, it is worth it! You should definitely read this book if you have a background in psychology, sociology or other social science. Cohen analyzes the social and psychological processes that allow atrocities to happen; he details the variety of ways that people avert their eyes and ignore the horrors happening around them, and explores ways that deniers can be jolted into facing reality. Reading this book will greatly expand your understanding of climate change denial, even though Cohen doesn’t topic directly (it seems that the author himself was in denial about the scope, immediacy, and moral imperative of climate change!).
#5 The book that best illustrates how the US can mobilize and achieve victory
No Ordinary Time By Doris Kearns Goodwin
How is a biography of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during WWII relevant to climate change? Because this beautifully written book demonstrates what the United States is capable of when united by a common purpose. After Pearl Harbor, there was no denying that the United States had to fight with everything we had. We turned this country into a factory, producing more planes, tanks and ships than had previously been imaginable. Every citizen was involved in the war effort, often turning their lives upside down to go to war, or to go to work for the first time. Citizens also contributed tin and rubber and other necessary materials, accepted rations on gas, meat and sugar, and grew 40% of the Nations produce in “Victory gardens.” Recommended by climate blogger Joe Romm, this book will raise your spirits, get your patriotic juices pumping, and remind you of what the United States, and humanity, is capable of!