All books collage

Food – all things food – is commanding an increasing slice of public attention when it comes to addressing options for managing climate change-related risks and opportunities. The subject of a week-long radio series produced by Yale Climate Connections, the food/climate nexus is drawing attention from filmmakers and book authors alike. An upcoming Part 2 will provide links to PDFs of freely available major reports on food and climate change. The descriptions of the books below are drawn from copy provided by the publishers.

Book collage 1

The Great Climate Robbery, edited by Henk Hobbelink (New Internationalist 2016, 224 pages, $16.95)

In The Great Climate Robbery, the highly respected non-profit Grain connects analysis of the food system to larger issues affecting the planet, and links peoples’ struggles over food to climate change. The articles collected in this book will help readers understand the ways corporations seek to control the food system, and will provide the information needed to challenge this control. Henk Hobbelink is a member of the Grain collective, an international non-profit that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. The Great Climate Robbery has been endorsed by Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, and Vandana Shiva.

The Five Horsemen of the Modern World, by Daniel Callahan (Columbia University Press 2016, 416 pages, $35.00)

In recent decades, we have seen five perilous and interlocking trends dominate global discourse: irreversible climate change, extreme food and water shortages, rising chronic illnesses, and rampant obesity. Why can’t we make any progress in counteracting these problems, despite vast expenditures of intellectual, institutional, and societal capital? What makes these global emergencies the “wicked problems” that resist our best efforts and only grow more daunting?

Daniel Callahan, the nation’s preeminent scholar in bioethics, takes a cross-cutting look at these global problems and shines a light on the institutions, practices, and actors that block major change. We see partisan political and ideological forces, old fashioned hucksters, and trumped up scientific disagreements, but also the problem of modern progress itself. Obesity, anthropogenic climate change, wasting illnesses, ecological degradation, and global famine are often the unintended consequences of unchecked industrial growth, reckless eating habits, and artificially extended lifespans. Only through well-crafted political, regulatory, industrial, and cultural counterstrategies can we change enough minds to check these threats.

Soil Not Oil: Climate Change, Peak Oil, and Food Insecurity 2nd Revised Edition, by Vandana Shiva (Zed Books 2016, 176 pages, $25.00)

A classic of the environmental movement, Soil Not Oil envisions a world beyond our current dependence on fossil fuels and globalization, and makes the compelling case that food crises, oil dependency, and climate change are all inherently interlinked. Any attempt to solve one without addressing the others is therefore doomed to failure. Condemning industrial agriculture and biofuels as recipes for ecological and economic disaster, Vandana Shiva instead champions small independent farmers. What is needed most, in a time of hunger and changing climates, are sustainable, biologically diverse farms that are better able to resist disease, drought, and flooding. Calling for a return to local economies and small-scale agriculture, Shiva argues that humanity’s choice is a stark one: we can either continue to pursue a market-centered approach; or we can instead strive for a people-centred, oil-free future that offers a decent living for all. This edition features a new introduction by the author, in which she outlines recent developments in ecology and environmentalism, and offers new prescriptions for the environmental movement.

Book collage 2

The Water, Food, Energy and Climate Nexus: Challenges and an Agenda for Action, edited by Felix Dodds and Jamie Bartram (Earthscan Books 2016, 292 pages, $56.95 paperback)

Global trends of population growth, rising living standards and the rapidly increasing urbanized world are increasing the demand on water, food and energy. Added to this is the growing threat of climate change which will have huge impacts on water and food availability. It is increasingly clear that there is no place in an interlinked world for isolated solutions aimed at just one sector. In recent years the “nexus” has emerged as a powerful concept to capture these inter-linkages of resources and is now a key feature of policy-making. This book provides a broad overview of both the science behind the nexus and the implications for policies and sustainable development. It represents a major synthesis and state-of-the-art assessment of the Nexus by major players – governments, industry, scientists, and other stakeholders – in light of the adoption by the United Nations of the new Sustainable Development Goals and Targets in 2015.

The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security, by Eric Toensmeier (Chelsea Green Publishing 2016, 516 pages, $75.00)

Agriculture is rightly blamed as a major culprit of our climate crisis. But in this groundbreaking new book, Eric Toensmeier argues that agriculture – specifically, the subset of practices known as “carbon farming” – can, and should be, a linchpin of a global climate solutions platform.

Combined with a massive reduction in fossil fuel emissions, carbon farming – a suite of agricultural practices and crops that sequesters carbon in the soil – has the potential to bring us back from the brink of disaster and return our atmosphere to the “magic number” of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. . . . With The Carbon Farming Solution, Toensmeier wants to change the discussion, impact policy decisions, and steer mitigation funds to the research, projects, and people around the world who can envision a future where agriculture becomes the protagonist in this fraught, urgent, and unprecedented drama of our time.

The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World, by Joel K. Bourne, Jr. (W.W. Norton & Co. 2016, 416 pages, $16.95 paperback)

In The End of Plenty, award-winning environmental journalist Joel K. Bourne Jr. puts our race to feed the world in dramatic perspective. With a skyrocketing world population and tightening global grain supplies spurring riots and revolutions, humanity must produce as much food in the next four decades as it has since the beginning of civilization to avoid a Malthusian catastrophe. Yet climate change could render half our farmland useless by century’s end. . . .Writing with an agronomist’s eye for practical solutions and a journalist’s keen sense of character, detail, and the natural world, Bourne takes readers from his family farm to international agricultural hotspots to introduce the new generation of farmers and scientists engaged in the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. . . . Part history, part reportage and advocacy, The End of Plenty is a panoramic account of the future of food, and a clarion call for anyone concerned about our planet and its people.

Book collage 3

Food Foolish: The Hidden Connection Between Food Waste, Hunger, and Climate Change, by John M. Mandyck and Eric B. Schulz (Carrier Corp. 2015, 198 pages, $9.95 paperback)

One-third or more of the food we produce each year is never eaten. Food Foolish details the sources and consequences of this often unintended but ultimately foolish waste of one of the world’s most precious resources. Some 800 million people remain chronically hungry and more than 2 billion malnourished even though we produce enough food today to feed everyone. The carbon footprint of food waste totals 3.3 billion metric tons, enough to rank as the third largest country in the world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, behind China and the United States. Wasted food means wasted fresh water, threatened national security and increased competition for land. The $1 trillion global financial loss is staggering. Despite these challenges, Food Foolish paints an optimistic future [and seeks] to strengthen a global dialogue around unlocking solutions that feed the world and preserve its resources in the context of climate mitigation.

A Diet of Austerity: Class, Food and Climate Change, by Elaine Graham Leigh (Zero Books 2015, 250 pages, $22.95 paperback)

Received wisdom is increasingly that we all have to eat less to save the planet, but received wisdom is wrong. A Diet of Austerity argues that, just as the poor are blamed for the economic crisis, Malthusian conceptions about food and ecology are being used to hold the working class responsible for climate change and global hunger. Challenging existing dogmas about overconsumption and personal responsibility, it shows that what we need to stop climate change is system change.

Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate, by Laura Lengnick (New Society Publishers 2015, 288 pages, $19.95 paperback)

Resilient Agriculture [blends] the latest science on climate risk, resilience, and climate change adaptation with the personal experience of farmers and ranchers to explore the “strange changes” in weather recorded over the last decade, the associated shifts in crop and livestock behavior, and the actions producers have taken to maintain productivity in a changing climate. The climate change challenge is real and it is here now. To enjoy the sustained production of food, fiber, and fuel well into the twenty-first century, we must begin now to make changes that will enhance the adaptive capacity and resilience of North American agriculture. The rich knowledge base presented in Resilient Agriculture [can] serve as the cornerstone of an evolving, climate-ready food system.

Book collage 4

Eating Planet: Food and Sustainability: Building Our Future, Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (Editione Ambiente 2012, 381 pages, $13.50 Kindle Ed.)

Published for the first time in 2012, Eating Planet illustrates Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s suggestions to win the sustainability challenge facing the global agribusiness system. It is a complex scenario characterized by three paradoxes – food waste, coexistence of malnutrition and obesity and distortion of resource use – that must be urgently addressed.

Written with the contributions of a panel of world-renowned experts, members of the BCFN Advisory Board, and young researchers of the BCFN, Eating Planet illustrates the most recent developments in food and nutrition debate and research. Moreover, this new edition of Eating Planet presents a series of initiatives that decision makers, business people and citizens alike [can use when dealing with vested interests].

Comfortably Unaware: What We Choose to Eat Is Killing Us and Our Planet, by Richard A. Oppenlander (Beaufort Books 2012, 200 pages, $14.95)

What you choose to eat is killing our planet, says noted lecturer and author Dr. Richard Oppenlander. In Comfortably Unaware, he reveals the truth about food choice and its impact on our world. He doesn’t stop at merely identifying the problem; he describes, with clarity, its cultural and political origins and then offers a viable solution. We should all be committed, he tells us, to understanding the reality and consequences of our diet and the footprint it makes on our environment. Dr. Oppenlander breaks down the necessary information in easy-to-read chapters that touch on issues ranging from the rainforests, to water and oceans, to world hunger, to the air we breathe. . . . Essential reading, Comfortably Unaware provides new perspectives on our culture, on how this global crisis reached such startling proportions, and, most importantly, on how to solve the problem.

Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It, by Anna Lappe (Bloomsbury Books 2011, 352 pages, $17.00 paperback)

Nearly four decades after her mother, Frances Moore Lappé, published Diet for a Small Planet, sparking a revolution in our thinking about the social and environmental impact of our food choices, Anna Lappé picks up the conversation, examining another hidden cost of our food system: the climate crisis. From raising cattle in industrial-scale feedlots to razing rainforests to make palm oil for Pop-Tarts, the choices we make about how we put food on our plates, and what we do with the waste, contribute to as much as one third of total greenhouse-gas emissions. Lappé exposes the interests resisting this crucial conversation while she educates and empowers readers and eaters committed to healing the planet.

Also see: Climate Changing the Menu (Pt. 2) (posted June 7, 2016)

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is the Yale Climate Connections books editor. He is a professor in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he has taught since...