Overshadowed though it is by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released on February 28th, still made news – and not just for its updated, and grimmer, forecast regarding Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

The report also highlighted, with new clarity, the injustice of these consequences. Those least responsible for damaging the climate will experience the worst effects. True adaptation requires redressing these climate injustices, between, among, and within nations. 

This bookshelf feature highlights 12 titles that address racial, gender, and other manifestations of environmental/climate injustice.

The list begins with a conceptual overview, The Intersectional Environmentalist, and ends with Form and Flow, a concrete assessment of the differential impacts of major adaptation projects in New York, Rotterdam, and Jakarta. In between are autobiographies, manifestos, social agenda platforms, collective-help books, and an update on the demographic makeup of green organizations.

As always with this feature, descriptions of the titles are drawn from copy provided by their publishers. 


The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect the People + Planet, by Leah Thomas (Voracious Books/Little Brown 2022, 208 pages, $25.00)

The Intersectional Environmentalist examines the inextricable link between environmentalism, racism, and privilege, and promotes awareness of the fundamental truth that we cannot save the planet without uplifting the voices of its people – especially those most often unheard. Activist Leah Thomas’s book is simultaneously a call to action and a pledge to work towards the empowerment of all people and the betterment of the planet. She shows how not only are people of color unequally and unfairly impacted by environmental injustices, but she argues that the fight for the planet lies in tandem with the fight for civil rights; in fact, one cannot exist without the other. An essential read, this book gives voice to a movement that will define a generation. 

Integrating Ecology and Justice in a Changing Climate, edited by Sam Mickey (University of San Francisco Press 2020, 88 pages, $14.00 paperback)

As unprecedented changes are happening around the planet, the climate emergency poses an existential threat to humankind and to all life on Earth. This is a problem of survival and sustainability, but it also raises questions about justice. Ecological destruction cannot be adequately understood without addressing the systemic inequalities of social systems. Engaging with a wide range of topics, from Pope Francis to Zen Buddhism, from the Global North to the Global South, from personal practice to systemic change, Integrating Ecology and Justice in a Changing Climate provides tools for thinking through these complex issues and facilitating the emergence of healthy, convivial, contemplative, and just ways of being in the world. 

Green 2.0: 2021 NGO and Foundation Transparency Report Card, by Chandler Puritty (Green 2.0 2021, 157 pages, free download available here)

For the fifth year in a row, Green 2.0 presents data on diversity in staff from non-profit organizations (“NGOs”) and data on diversity in grant-making from foundations. The 2021 report card reflects data collected from NGOs on (a) the number of people of color (POC) on their full-time staff, boards, senior staff, and heads of organizations, (b) staff retention rates, and (c) diversity, equity, and inclusion practices. There are also several new components of the 2021 NGO report card, including a detailed breakdown of racial and ethnic demographics, data on heads of organizations, retention rates of staff, and data on diversity, equity, and inclusion practices of individual NGOs for the period of January 1, 2020-December 31, 2020.

White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism, by Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective (Verso Books 2021, 576 pages, $29.95 paperback)

What does the rise of the far right mean for the battle against climate change? In the first study of the far right’s role in the climate crisis, White Skin, Black Fuel presents an eye-opening sweep of a novel political constellation, revealing its deep historical roots. Fossil-fuelled technologies were born steeped in racism. No one loved them more passionately than the classical fascists. Now right-wing forces have risen to the surface, some professing to have the solution – closing borders to save the nation as the climate breaks down. Epic and riveting, White Skin, Black Fuel traces a future of political fronts that can only heat up.

Climate Change Is Racist: Race, Privilege and the Struggle for Climate Justice, by Jeremy Williams (Icon Books 2021, 208 pages, $16.95 paperback) 

When we talk about racism, we often mean personal prejudice or institutional biases. Climate change doesn’t work that way. It is structurally racist, disproportionately caused by majority White people in majority White countries, with the damage unleashed overwhelmingly on people of color. In this eye-opening book, writer and environmental activist Jeremy Williams takes us on a short, urgent journey across the globe – from Kenya to India, the USA to Australia – to understand how White privilege and climate change overlap. We’ll look at the environmental facts, hear the experiences of the people most affected on our planet and learn from the activists leading the change. It’s time for each of us to find our place in the global struggle for justice.

The Black Agenda: Bold Solutions for a Broken System, edited by Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman (St. Martin’s Press 2022, 272 pages, $28.99)

Edited by Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman, The Black Agenda is the first book of its kind – a bold and urgent move towards social justice through a profound collection of essays featuring Black scholars and experts across economics, education, health, climate, and technology. It speaks to the question “What’s next for America?” on the subjects of policy-making, mental health, artificial intelligence, climate movement, the future of work, the LGBTQ community, the criminal legal system, and much more. In its essays, readers will encounter groundbreaking ideas ranging from Black maternal and infant health to reparations to AI bias to inclusive economic policy, ideas with the potential to uplift and heal not only Black America, but the entire country.

A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New Africa Voice to the Climate Crisis, by Vanessa Nakate (Mariner Books 2021, 240 pages, $22.00) 

In January 2020, while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Vanessa Nakate was cropped out of a photo of five young climate activists; the other four activists were all white. The incident highlighted the message Nakate has been delivering all along: those who have been omitted from the climate discussion and are now demanding to be heard. In A Bigger Picture, Nakate shares her story as a young Ugandan woman who sees that her community bears disproportionate consequences from the climate crisis. Tracing her journey from a shy girl in Kampala to a leader on the world stage, her book is a rousing manifesto and a poignant memoir; it presents a vision for the climate movement based on resilience, sustainability, and equity. 

How Women Can Save the Planet, by Anne Karpf (Hurst Publishers 2021, 392 pages, $26.00)

Here’s a perverse truth: from New Orleans to Bangladesh, women – especially poor women of color – are suffering most from a crisis they have done nothing to cause. Our highest-profile climate activists are women and girls; but at the top table it’s men deciding the earth’s future. We’re not all in it together – but we could be. Instead of expecting individual women to save the planet, what we need are global climate policies that promote gender inclusion and equality. Sociologist Anne Karpf shines a light on the radical ideas, compelling research and tireless campaigns, led by and for women, that have inspired her to hope. And faced with the most urgent catastrophe of our times, she offers a powerful vision: a Green New Deal for Women.

Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science, by Jessica Hernandez (North Atlantic Books 2022, 256 pages, $17.95 paperback)

Despite the undeniable fact that Indigenous communities are among the most affected by climate devastation, Indigenous science is nowhere to be found in mainstream environmental policy or discourse. In her new book, Jessica Hernandez – Maya Ch’orti’ and Zapotec environmental scientist and founder of environmental agency Piña Soul – introduces and contextualizes Indigenous environmental knowledge and proposes a vision of land stewardship that heals rather than displaces, that generates rather than destroys. Through case studies, historical overviews, and stories that center the voices of Indigenous Latin American women and land protectors, Hernandez shows that if we’re to recover the health of our planet – for everyone – we need to stop ravaging Indigenous lands and restore our relationship with Earth to one of harmony and respect. 

Gonna Trouble the Water: Ecojustice, Water, and Environmental Racism, edited by Miguel A. De La Torre (The Pilgrim Press 2021, 160 pages, $24.95 paperback) 

Gonna Trouble the Water considers the sacred nature of water and the ways in which it is weaponized against non-white communities. Firmly grounded at the intersection of environmentalism and racism, Gonna Trouble the Water makes clear the message: to deny water is to deny life. With compelling contributions from scholars and activists, politicians and theologians – including former Colorado governor Bill Ritter, global academic law professor Ved P. Nanda, Detroit-based activist Michelle Andrea Martinez, and many more – Gonna Trouble the Water de-centers the concept of water as a commodity in order to center the dignity of water and its life-giving character. 

Climate Justice and Feasibility: Normative Theorizing, Feasibility Constraints, and Climate Action, edited by Sarah Kenehan and Corey Katz (Rowman & Littlefield 2021, 260 pages, $45.00 ebook)

The contributors to this interdisciplinary collection reflect on how we should understand the relationship between principled theorizing about climate justice and feasibility constraints on climate action. Some explore the usefulness of theories for guiding policymaking and action on climate change. Others draw important parallels and distinctions between the feasibility constraints that were tackled in order to address the COVID-19 pandemic and those that need to be tackled in order to respond to global climate change. Employing a wide range of approaches and frameworks, the international contributors to this volume re-think the ways that climate justice should be considered on the policy level – by students, researchers, and policymakers.

Form and Flow: The Spatial Politics of Urban Resilience and Climate Justice, by Kian Goh (The MIT Press 2021, 298 pages, $35.00 paperback)

Cities around the world are formulating plans to respond to climate change and adapt to its impact. Often, marginalized urban residents resist these plans, offering “counterplans” to protest unjust and exclusionary actions. In this book, Kian Goh examines climate change response strategies and the mobilization of community groups to fight the perceived injustices and oversights of these plans. Looking through the lenses of urban design and socioecological spatial politics, Goh reveals how contested visions of the future city are produced and gain power. She explores such initiatives as Rebuild By Design in New York, the Giant Sea Wall plan in Jakarta, and Rotterdam Climate Proof, and interprets their competing narratives. Then she proposes a theoretical framework for designing equitable and just urban climate futures.

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...