5 Great Environmentalism Books

Hello everyone! As you’ve guessed from the title, we’ll be looking at something different today. I’ve come across so many amazing books that have to do with environmentalism recently, and wanted to share them with you. They’re all such good and eye-opening reads, and I highly recommend you pick up at least one. So without further ado, let’s get into them!

  1. A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough

If you’ve ever watched a National Geographic documentary before, you’re sure to know who Sir David Attenborough is. Hailed as a priceless international treasure and one of the most dedicated figures in the environmentalism movement, Sir Attenborough has devoted his life to “documenting the love story between humans and nature, and broadcasting it to the world,” the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen so wonderfully puts it. He even had the honor of receiving the UNEP’s lifetime Champion of the Earth award earlier this year, so anything he writes is sure to be amazing, and in fact it is. 

Released just 2 years ago during the pandemic, “A Life on Our Planet” can be perfectly described by its subtitle: “My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future”. Sir Attenborough reflects on his long life, taking us through the journeys he went on as a young man, viewing the Earth flourish and decline. He paints colorful, musical pictures that make you passionately wish they would remain that way forever – but the book’s point is that unfortunately, it’s all being taken away from us. As he puts it himself, “A Life on Our Planet” is the “story of how we came to make… our greatest mistake – and how, if we act now, we can set it right.” This book is a great introduction into the world of environmentalism in literature, so I highly recommend it if you’re just starting out.

  1. The Well-Tempered City by Jonathan F. P. Rose

In this book, Jonathan F. P. Rose explores the city – the “birthplace of civilization; center of culture, trade, and progress; cauldron of opportunity – and the home of eighty percent of the world’s population by 2050.” Now, while this may seem an odd thing to write an entire book about, cities are actually going to have to bear the worst impacts of the issues that affect us all, whether those be environmental or socioeconomic, as the world migrates towards them, so it’s only fitting that they be built properly to combat them. However, the vast majority of today’s cities are very flawed – and history shows we haven’t learned from the mistakes of the past. 

Not to fear though, because Rose, the man who “repairs the fabric of cities”, has a concept in mind – the well-tempered city, hence the name. Based on Bach’s musical well-tempered clavier, the well-tempered city is one that is essentially perfect, with all aspects of it balancing with each other, perfectly tempered from one another. Thus, the book of the same name details a 5-step blueprint that shows us how to transfer every single city in the world into the well-tempered city.

A wonderful, intriguing mix of history, science, engineering, and social science, “The Well-Tempered City” is a very informative yet easily understandable read which I would recommend if you’re at all interested in environmental engineering or history.

  1. Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

The title of the book is pretty self-explanatory if you ask me – “Zero Waste Home” is the ultimate guide to reducing your waste, and living a simplified, healthy, less-spending life while you’re at it. If you’re at all familiar with my Environmentalism 101 series, you’ll know from my latest installment that waste is a very serious issue, so anything you can do to reduce your home waste output, one of the most notorious types of wastes, is greatly beneficial. Luckily, Bea Johnson, who is one of the main figures who spearheaded the zero-waste movement with the trash jar, gives you not one, or two, but countless ways to do this with her book. Many myths surround waste output, but Johnson is here to break them all, showing you how to actually live a sustainable, healthy life by just implementing small practices. These include using products in bulk, making certain products at home for cheaper, letting house plants absorb air toxins, and so many more! 

Johnson’s official website is also home to many more resources, including a free zero-waste guide if you don’t want to buy the book, and a small store including some of her and her family’s favorite sustainable products. Regardless of what you do with the site, everyone and anyone should definitely check it out, because reducing home waste is one of the easiest things we can do as individuals to help the planet! 

  1. The Upside of Down by Thomas Homer-Dixon

“The Upside of Down” is similar to the second book on this list in the way that it too looks at the history of our environment, but it is different in the way that it takes it 10 times higher. Perfect for the historians, Thomas Homer-Dixon looks at “catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization” – that is, he vividly illustrates the stresses placed on our planet, looks at them as a whole, and then argues that there is an upside to the down. We can rise from these issues and avoid collapsing like the all-powerful Rome did all those years ago, which is surprisingly where we may head if we continue on the road we’re already on. 

Speaking of which, his descriptions of Rome and its downfall are truly worth reading, regardless of your interest in history. This book teaches us the powerful lesson that there is always a way out of the problem, especially now. We shouldn’t get too bogged down in the face of environmental issues, because united, we can make a difference, and we can save our planet while it’s not too late. I would mainly recommend this book for anyone with a particular interest in history but truth be told, this is such a captivating read for anyone who cares about turning the state of the planet around.

  1. Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery

Last, but certainly not least, we have a book about dirt. Yes, you heard me right. As Montgomery puts it, dirt is the “root of our existence, supporting our feet, families, and cities”, but lo and behold, we’re running out of it! Soil is often thought of as a renewable resource (if you’re not familiar with the term, check out my blog post about it), but this book sets out to prove that in fact, humans have been continuously using up the very resource that feeds and supports most life on Earth, which has drastic effects that kick us right back.

Similar in the mix of history and geology, Montgomery embarks on an expedition detailing the abusive past of soil use, starting all the way in ancient Mesopotamia, and how that has translated all the way over to the 21st century today, showing us the once naturally replenishing cycles breaking down. You’d never think that dirt has such a rich and complex history, or even that it was running out, for that matter, so this book is a very interesting, yet unfortunately realistic, take on environmentalism. It wouldn’t be complete without potential solutions, though, which is why the end focuses on developments that Montgomery sees potential for reducing soil erosion in. If you’re looking for an interesting read, you’ve definitely found it here!

Well, that’s all for today! I know this isn’t what I normally write about, but I still hope you enjoyed my brief descriptions of these truly amazing books, and I hope this can be your gateway into the world of environmental literature. Regardless, hopefully at least one of these books caught your eye, and if any of them did, make sure to check them out! See you next time!

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