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Summer is a time for big projects, especially those that involve fixing or upgrading the exteriors of our dwellings or the landscapes that surround them. Summer is also a time for getting in shape. Consider also including climate change in your summer reading plans. The books gathered here offer ways to improve one’s health and well-being while reducing one’s impacts on the planet’s climate. They also show how climate change can effectively be addressed by businesses, community groups, corporations, cities, and governments. Make a list … and then make a difference.

The descriptions of the 12 books listed below are drawn from copy provided by the publishers. Whenever two dates of publication are listed, the second is for the paperback edition of the book.

Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, by Peter Kalmus (New Society Publishers 2017, 384 pages, $21.99 paperback)

Alarmed by drastic changes now occurring in the Earth’s climate systems, Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist and suburban father of two, embarked on a journey to change his life and the world. He began by bicycling, growing food, meditating, and making other simple, fulfilling changes. Ultimately, he slashed his climate impact to under a tenth of the U.S. average and became happier in the process. Being the Change explores the connections between our individual daily actions and our collective predicament. It merges science, spirituality, and practical action to develop a satisfying and appropriate response to global warming. The core message is deeply optimistic: living without fossil fuels is not only possible, it can be better.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power: Your Action Handbook to Learn the Science, Find Your Voice, and Help Solve the Climate Crisis, by Al Gore (Rodale / Penguin-Random House 2017, 320 pages, $25.99 paperback. Now available as $4.99 remainder)

The companion to former Vice President Al Gore’s most recent documentary, this new book is a daring call to action. It explains how humankind has aided in the destruction of our planet and delivers hope through groundbreaking information on what you can do now. An Inconvenient Sequel follows Gore around the globe as he connects the dots of Zika, flooding, and other natural disasters we’ve lived through in the last 10+ years. Then it offers a comprehensive how-to guide on exactly how we can change course. With concrete, actionable advice on topics ranging from how to run for office to how to talk to your children about climate change Sequel will empower you to make a difference – and lets you know how exactly to do it.

Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living, by The Union for Concerned Scientists (Island Press 2012, 336 pages, $22.00 paperback)

Cooler Smarter is based on an in-depth, two-year study by the experts at The Union of Concerned Scientists. While other green guides suggest an array of tips, Cooler Smarter offers proven strategies to cut carbon, with chapters on transportation, home energy use, diet, personal consumption, as well as how best to influence your workplace, your community, and elected officials. The book explains how to make the biggest impact and when not to sweat the small stuff. It also turns many eco-myths on their head. The advice in Cooler Smarter can help save you money and live healthier. But its central purpose is to empower you, through low carbon-living, to confront one of society’s greatest threats.

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 2010/2014, 336 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.

The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientist, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet, by Kristin Ohlson (Rodale / Penguin-Random House 2014, 256 pages, $23.99)

In The Soil Will Save Us, journalist and bestselling author Kristin Ohlson makes an elegantly argued, passionate case for “our great green hope.” As the granddaughter of farmers and the daughter of avid gardeners, Ohlson has long had an appreciation for the soil. A chance conversation with a local chef led her to the crossroads of science, farming, food, and environmentalism and the discovery of the only significant way to remove carbon dioxide from the air – an ecological approach that tends not only to plants and animals but also to the vast population of underground microorganisms that fix carbon in the soil. Her vivid storytelling will revolutionize the way you think about food, landscapes, plants – and our relationship to Earth.

See also 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 2016, 512 pages, $75.00)

Burn: Using Fire to Cool the Earth, by Albert Bates and Kathleen Draper (Chelsea Green 2019, 288 pages, $24.95)

The indigenous custom of converting organic materials into long lasting carbon has enjoyed a reawakening in recent decades as the quest for more sustainable farming methods has grown. Yet the benefits of this carbonized material, now called biochar, extend far beyond the soil. Pyrolyzing carbon has the power to restore a natural balance. Employed to its full potential, it can run the carbon cycle in reverse and remake Earth as a garden planet. Fully developed, this approach costs nothing – to the contrary, it can save companies money or provide new revenue streams. Biochar can serve as the foundation for a new, circular economy in which energy, natural resources, and human ingenuity enter a virtuous cycle of improvement.

The Urban Fix: Resilient Cities in the War Against Climate Change, Heat Islands, and Overpopulation, by Douglas Kelbaugh (Routledge 2019, 308 pages, $39.95 paperback)

Cities are one of the most significant contributors to global climate change. The rapid speed at which urban centers use large amounts of resources adds to the global crisis and can lead to extreme local heat. The Urban Fix addresses how urban design, planning and policies can counter the threats of climate change, urban heat islands and overpopulation, helping cities take full advantage of their inherent advantages and new technologies to catalyze social, cultural and physical solutions to combat the epic, unprecedented challenges humanity faces. The book fills a void in the dialogue on climate change and heat islands by examining both the environmental benefits in developed countries and the population benefit in developing countries.

Greenovation: Urban Leadership on Climate Change, by Joan Fitzgerald (Oxford University Press 2020, 320 pages, $29.95)

In Greenovation, the eminent urban policy scholar Joan Fitzgerald argues that too many cities are only implementing random acts of greenness that will do little to address the climate crisis. She instead calls for “greenovation” – using the city as a test bed for adopting and perfecting green technologies for more energy – efficient buildings, transportation, and infrastructure more broadly. Drawing on interviews with practitioners in more than 20 North American and European cities, she identifies the strategies and policies they are employing and shows how regional and national governments have supported or thwarted their efforts. Greenovation helps us understand the increasing impact of anthropocentric climate change on modern social life.

Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses and Citizens Can Save the Planet, by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope (St. Martin’s Press 2017, 272 pages, $26.99)

The 2016 election left many people who are concerned about the environment fearful that progress on climate change would come screeching to a halt. But not Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope. In Climate of Hope, Bloomberg, an entrepreneur and former mayor of New York City, and Pope, a lifelong environmental leader, offer an optimistic look at the challenge of climate change, the solutions they believe hold the greatest promise, and the practical steps that are necessary to achieve them. They provide a road map for tackling the most complicated challenge the world has ever faced. Along the way, they turn the usual way of thinking about climate change on its head: from top down to bottom up, from costs to benefits, and from fear to hope.

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken (Penguin Books 2017, 256 pages, $23.00 paperback)

In this book, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here. These solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities are currently enacting them with skill and determination. If deployed collectively on a global scale over the next thirty years, they represent a credible path forward, not just to slow the earth’s warming but to reach drawdown, that point in time when greenhouse gases in the atmosphere peak and begin to decline. These measures promise cascading benefits – giving us every reason to see this planetary crisis as an opportunity to create a just and livable world.

The Climate Solutions Consensus: What We Know and What To Do About It, by National Council for Science and the Environment 2009 (336 pages, $35.00 paperback)

Climate Solutions Consensus provides specific recommendations for federal policies, for state and local governments, for businesses, and for colleges and universities that are preparing future generations who will be dealing with a radically changed climate. The book draws upon the recommendations developed by more than 1200 scientists, educators and decision makers who participated in National Council for Science and the Environment’s 8th annual conference. Climate Solutions Consensus presents 35 practical, results-oriented approaches; it spells out options for technological, societal, and policy actions; and it deals head-on with controversial topics, including nuclear energy, ocean fertilization, and atmospheric geoengineering.

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy, by Hal Harvey with Robbie Orvis and Jeffrey Rissman (Island Press 2018, 376 pages, $25.00 paperback)

Designing Climate Solutions is an accessible resource on lowering carbon emissions for policymakers, activists, philanthropists, and others in the climate and energy community. In Part I, the authors deliver a roadmap for understanding which countries, sectors, and sources produce the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions. In Part II, they break down each type of policy, from renewable portfolio standards to carbon pricing, offering key design principles and case studies where each policy has been implemented successfully. We can’t afford to wait for new technologies or strategies to create a low carbon future. Designing Climate Solutions gives us the tools we need to put us on the path to a livable climate future.

Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is a professor in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he has taught since 2005. Before completing his interdisciplinary...