A college student 40 years ago might encounter climate change only in an environmental or Earth sciences major – and probably only in an upper level course. Now a student could, and arguably should, encounter climate change in just about any discipline – and fairly early on.
To demonstrate the latter point, for September, the month students generally are returning to classrooms, Yale Climate Connections has pulled together a multi-disciplinary curriculum on climate change, with 12 titles from 12 different disciplines. Each book in this month’s bookshelf has been published within the last year, some within the last few weeks.
The disciplines range from communication (Advocating for the Environment) to zoology (Sweet in Tooth and Claw). In between, the collection covers the Green New Deal from three angles: economics, environmental science, and labor studies. And it addresses the deeper, existential implications of climate change from another three: philosophy, religious studies, and rhetoric. Other authors approach climate change from the disciplines of education, gender and women’s studies, history, and Native American studies.
Unexpectedly, zoology offers one of the more optimistic takes on the human condition under climate change. Cutthroat competition isn’t as hard wired as previously thought, the author of Sweet in Tooth and Claw finds. Informed and encouraged by the examples provided by their fellow Earthlings, humans might find better ways to change those climate causes and consequences they can and to better adapt to the ones they can’t. Like a paired bookend, Advocating for the Environment prescribes upbeat strategies for promoting such cooperative problem-solving.
As always, the descriptions of the titles listed below are adapted from copy provided by their publishers.
Advocating for the Environment: How to Gather Your Power and Take Action, by Susan B. Inches (North Atlantic Books 2022, 368 pages, $19.95 paperback)
What can ordinary citizens really do about climate change? A lot! Written by environmental policy expert Susan B. Inches, Advocating for the Environment is an empowering guide to help you enact environmental change. Part I explains how we must learn to think differently. It discusses storytelling, empathy, worldviews, and how effective communication can help us collaborate with others. Part II of the book is all about action: how to use power for good, work with decision-makers, organize events, manage a coalition, communicate with the public, and work with the media. The book also includes case studies and templates to deepen learning. Teachers, students, and community activists will find useful ideas and strategies on every page.
Climate Nomics: Washington, Wall Street, and the Economic Battle to Save Our Planet, by Bob Keefe (Rowman & Littlefield 2022, 256 pages, $19.95 paperback)
The economic impact of climate change is rattling the foundation of our economy. It’s blowing up centuries-old industries from automobiles to oil and gas, creating new opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs. It’s costing Americans billions of dollars each and every year. And most importantly, it’s forcing politicians to pass long-overdue policies that will transform our businesses and our lives. The good news about this economic earthquake is that it just might be the thing that saves our planet. Written by the director of an organization that provides business perspectives on environmental issues, Climatenomics is essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of our planet.
Miseducation: How Climate Change Is Taught in America, by Katie Worth (Columbia University Press 2022, 184 pages, $16.00 paperback)
Investigative reporter Katie Worth reviewed scores of textbooks, built a 50-state database, and traveled to a dozen communities to talk to children and teachers about what is being taught about climate change in America’s public schools. She found a red-blue divide in climate education. More than one-third of young adults believe that climate change is not man-made – and no wonder, that’s what they are taught in school. Worth connects the dots: oil corporations, state legislatures, school boards, conservative think tanks and lobbyists, and textbook publishers are deliberately sowing uncertainty, confusion, and distrust about climate science. Miseducation is the alarming story of how climate denialism is being implanted in millions of school children.
Science for a Green New Deal: Connecting Climate, Economics, and Social Justice, by Eric A. Davidson (John Hopkin University Press 2022, 264 pages, $27.95)
Since it was first proposed in the US House of Representatives, the Green New Deal has been hotly debated. In Science for a Green New Deal, Eric Davidson shows how green new deal thinking offers a framework for a much-needed convergence of the natural sciences, social science, economics, and community engagement to develop holistic policy solutions to the most pressing issues of our day. Davidson reveals the linkages among multiple global crises, including a pandemic that has reversed progress on fighting poverty, an acceleration of climate change that has exacerbated extreme weather, and the profound social injustices highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement. Written in clear, jargon-free prose, Science for a Green New Deal is a realistic and optimistic look at how we can attain a more sustainable, prosperous, and just future.
Also see: Confronting Climate Gridlock: How Diplomacy, Technology, and Policy Can Unlock a Clean Energy Future, by Daniel Cohen (Yale University Press 2022, 256 pages, $28.00).
Gender and Women’s Studies
Women are especially effective leaders when it comes to combating global warming. Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement, report that “Nations with greater female representation have smaller climate footprints. Women legislators vote for environmental protections almost twice as often as men, and women who lead investment firms are twice as likely to make investment decisions based on how companies treat their employees and the environment.” For this book, Paola Gianturco and Avery Sangster, interviewed and photographed heads of grassroots organizations, activists, politicians, corporate executives, scholars, and presidents of nonprofits. Cool tells their inspiring stories in their own words.
The Nature of Tomorrow: A History of the Environmental Future, by Michael Rawson (Yale University Press 2021, 248 pages, $30.00)
For centuries, the West has produced stories about the future in which humans use advanced science and technology to transform the earth. Michael Rawson uses a wide range of works that include Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, the science fiction novels of Jules Verne, and even the speculations of think tanks like the RAND Corporation to reveal the environmental paradox at the heart of these narratives: the single-minded expectation of unlimited growth on a finite planet. Rawson shows how these stories have helped to enable an abundant, technology-driven lifestyle for some while threatening environmental disaster for all. Adapting to ecological realities, he argues, hinges on creating visions of tomorrow that decouple progress from growth.
The Green New Deal and the Future of Work, edited by Craig Calhoun and Benjamin Y. Fong (Columbia University Press 2022, 384 pages, $35.00 paperback)
The promise of the Green New Deal is to tackle the threat of climate change through the empowerment of working people and the strengthening of democracy. This book brings together leading experts to explore these possibilities, emphasizing the future of work. Together, they examine transformations that are already underway and offer bold proposals that can provide jobs while reducing carbon consumption. Contributors also debate urgent questions: What is the value of a federal jobs program? How do we alleviate the precarities of work? How can a Green New Deal revive democracy? The Green New Deal does offer hope for a better tomorrow, they conclude, but only if it accounts for work’s past transformations and shapes its future.
Native American Studies
New World Coming: Frontline Voices on Pandemics, Uprisings, and Climate Crisis, edited by Alastair Lee Bitsóí and Brooke Larsen (Torrey House Press 2021, 288 pages, $19.95 paperback)
New World Coming documents this distinct moment in history through personal narratives and intergenerational imaginings of a just, healthy, and equitable future. Writers reflect on what movements for justice and liberation can learn from the response to COVID-19, uprisings for Black lives, and climate crisis, inspiring the change we need to survive and thrive. These powerful narratives cultivate and strengthen our imaginations for a regenerative future.
“The strength of New World Coming is in how it unites diverse writers—Black, Native American, disabled, LGBTQ+ – as they explore the impacts of COVID-19, race and climate on their communities.” – from a book review in The Salt Lake Tribune
The Pivotal Generation: Why We Have a Moral Responsibility to Slow Climate Change Right Now, by Henry Shue (Princeton University Press 2022, 208 pages, $27.95)
Climate change is the supreme challenge of our time. Unless humanity rapidly transitions to renewable energy, it may be too late to stop irreversible ecological damage. In The Pivotal Generation, political philosopher Henry Shue makes an impassioned case for taking immediate, radical action. Shue grounds his argument in an analysis of climate change’s moral implications. Unlike previous generations, we have the knowledge to comprehend and control rising carbon dioxide levels. And unlike future generations, we still have time to mitigate the worst effects of global warming. This generation has the power, and thus the responsibility, to save the planet. With singular moral clarity, The Pivotal Generation delivers an urgently needed call to action.
Rhetoric / Criticism
Mourning in the Anthropocene: Ecological Grief and Earthly Coexistence, by Joshua Trey Barnett (Michigan State University Press 2022, 272 pages, $35.95 paperback)
Enormous ecological losses and profound planetary transformations mean that ours is a time to grieve beyond the human. Yet, Joshua Trey Barnett argues in this eloquent and urgent book, our capacity to grieve for more-than-human others is neither natural nor inevitable. Weaving together personal narratives, theoretical meditations, and insightful readings of cultural artifacts, he suggests that ecological grief is best understood as a rhetorical achievement. Barnett shows how three rhetorical practices – naming, archiving, making visible – prepare us to grieve past, present, and future ecological losses. Simultaneously diagnostic and prescriptive, his book sets our ecological grief into motion and illuminates pathways to more a caring earthly coexistence.
Also see: Literature for a Changing Climate by Martin Puchner (Princeton University Press 2021).
When Time Is Short: Finding Our Way in the Anthropocene, by Timothy Beal (Beacon Press 2022, 168 pages, $23.95)
Modern capitalism, as it emerged, drew heavily upon Christian beliefs in human exceptionalism and dominion over the planet, and these ideas still undergird our largely secular society. They justified the pillaging and eradication of indigenous communities and plundering Earth’s resources in pursuit of capital and lands. But these aren’t the only models available to us – they aren’t even the only models to be found in biblical tradition. Beal re-reads key texts to anchor us in other ways of being – in humbler conceptions of humans bound in ecological interdependence with the world. Acknowledging that any real hope must first face and grieve the realities of climate crisis, Beal makes space for us to imagine new possibilities and rediscover ancient ones.
Sweet in Tooth and Claw: Stories of Generosity and Cooperation in the Natural World, by Kristin Ohlson (Patagonia Books 2022, 383 pages, $27.95)
For centuries, people have debated whether nature is mostly competitive – “red in tooth and claw” – or innately cooperative, as many ancient and indigenous peoples believed. This book is full of stories of generosity in nature. It is a testament to the importance of a healthy biodiversity, and dispels the widely accepted premise of survival of the fittest. There are chapters on a wide variety of ecosystems and portraits of the people who learn from them: the collaborations between fungi and trees in North American forests; the interaction of bees and flowers in the Rocky Mountains; the ranchers, government agency personnel, and scientists working together to restore wetlands from deserts in northeastern Nevada; and more. Sweet in Tooth and Claw is a fascinating book full of amazing stories, sure to change your perspective on the natural world.