Best Climate and Sustainability Books

by | February 3, 2021

Happy Friday – hope all is well with you!

Today I’m sharing my favorite climate and sustainability-related books. I decided to have a little bit of fun and weave the titles into an overarching message (you can also find the full list of books with links and descriptions below).

I’ve chosen the following books because they’ve given me new perspectives and historical context. They’ve identified solutions to accelerate, strategies to follow, and illustrated aspects of a better future we can strive for. 

In short, they’ve helped to evolve my understanding about where we stand today, how we got here, and guidance on ways to move forward. 

As you know, society will face increased destruction, suffering, and loss until we stop and reverse global heating. At its worst, if society doesn’t transform in time, countless people, animals, and plants will suffer or die in “The Uninhabitable Earth” scenario.

But there is a vast difference between the best and worst-case scenarios. And where we end up on that spectrum is still largely up to us.

Perhaps the best way to approach this is to focus our time and energy on what we can still control – on protecting “All We Can Save“. 

In practice, this means accelerating climate solutions to reach “Drawdown” as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible. It means “Rewiring America” and the world – organizing society around the project of electrifying everything and powering it all with clean energy. It means learning to organize and manifest change together more effectively with “Emergent Strategy”. And it means understanding the “Sacred Instructions” of Indigenous wisdom to help restore our relationships with each other and the natural world. 

None of this will be easy. The clock is ticking and there are powerful people, corporations, and long-held beliefs still working against us.

Luckily, nearly all of the sustainable changes we need to make are win-wins that save and improve our lives. So most people are on board with the solutions themselves.

And though society, in recent decades, has tried to drill it out of us in favor of extreme individualism and competition, we “Sapiens” have just the superpower needed for the challenge we face – mass cooperation towards a common goal. Community, organizing, collaborating, and helping others was fundamental to the success of our ancestors for millennia. It’s in our DNA. And we need to revitalize this foundational part of who we are to survive and thrive in the future. 

Crucially, it’s important for those of us doing this work to remember that we won’t get very far if we’re only pointing out what’s wrong with the world. We also have to help paint a picture of “The Future Earth” we all want to live in so we have something to step towards.

I believe we can do this. I believe we will find our way “Out Of The Wreckage” that we’re currently in. Because “What we’re fighting for now is each other“, “Humankind” is fundamentally good, and “No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference“.

At its core, acting on climate is about protecting the people we love and places we call home. It’s about everyone having a safe place to live and the opportunity to thrive. 

And, in another sense, it’s about being able to hold our heads up high knowing that we did all we could when it mattered. 

Because we’re the last ones with a chance to fix this.


All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis

Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson

All We Can Save illuminates the expertise and insights of dozens of diverse women leading on climate in the United States–scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, innovators, wonks, and designers, across generations, geographies, and race–and aims to advance a more representative, nuanced, and solution-oriented public conversation on the climate crisis. These women offer a spectrum of ideas and insights for how we can rapidly, radically reshape society.


Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

Edited by Paul Hawken and Katharine K. Wilkinson

In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here–some are well known; some you may have never heard of.


Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds

by Adrienne Maree Brown

Inspired by Octavia Butler’s explorations of our human relationship to change, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book invites us to feel, map, assess, and learn from the swirling patterns around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen. This is a resolutely materialist “spirituality” based equally on science and science fiction, a visionary incantation to transform that which ultimately transforms us.


The Future Earth: A Radical Vision for What’s Possible in the Age of Warming

by Eric Holthaus

In The Future Earth, leading climate change advocate and weather-related journalist Eric Holthaus offers a radical vision of our future, specifically how to reverse the short- and long-term effects of climate change over the next three decades. Anchored by world-class reporting, interviews with futurists, climatologists, biologists, economists, and climate change activists, it shows what the world could look like if we implemented radical solutions on the scale of the crises we face.


Humankind: A Hopeful History

by Rutger Bregman

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Utopia for Realists comes “the riveting pick-me-up we all need right now” (People), the #1 Dutch bestseller Humankind, which offers a “bold” (Daniel H. Pink), “extraordinary” (Susan Cain) argument that humans thrive in a crisis and that our innate kindness and cooperation have been the greatest factors in our long-term success on the planet.


No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference

by Greta Thunberg

No One Is Too Small to Make A Difference brings you Greta in her own words, for the first time. Collecting her speeches that have made history across the globe, from the United Nations to Capitol Hill and mass street protests, her book is a rallying cry for why we must all wake up and fight to protect the living planet, no matter how powerless we feel. Our future depends upon it.


Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics in the Age of Crisis

by George Monbiot

George Monbiot shows how new findings in psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology cast human nature in a radically different light: as the supreme altruists and cooperators. He shows how we can build on these findings to create a new politics: a “politics of belonging.” Both democracy and economic life can be radically reorganized from the bottom up, enabling us to take back control and overthrow the forces that have thwarted our ambitions for a better society.


Rewiring America

by Saul Griffith

In this book we approach the climate emergency from a new angle. We look for solutions, not barriers. We outline pathways to success. We don’t begin with the question of what is politically possible, but ask what is technically necessary to make a climate solution that is also the best economic pathway for the country. We need mobilization of technology, industry, labor, regulatory reform, and critically, finance.


Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change

by Sherri Mitchell

Sherri Mitchell draws from Indigenous knowledge and ancestral wisdom, as well as her experience as a lawyer and activist, to address some of the most crucial issues we face today–including indigenous land rights, environmental justice, and our collective human survival. Sharing the gifts she has received from the elders of her tribe, the Penobscot Nation, she asks us to look deeply into the illusions we have labeled as truth and which separate us from our higher mind and from one another.


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

by Yuval Noah Harari

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities.


The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

by David Wallace-Wells

An “epoch-defining book” (The Guardian) and “this generation’s Silent Spring” (The Washington Post), The Uninhabitable Earth is both a travelogue of the near future and a meditation on how that future will look to those living through it—the ways that warming promises to transform global politics, the meaning of technology and nature in the modern world, the sustainability of capitalism and the trajectory of human progress.


What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice

by Wen Stephenson

In What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other, Stephenson tells his own story and offers an up-close, on-the-ground look at some of the remarkable and courageous people—those he calls “new American radicals”—who have laid everything on the line to build and inspire this fast-growing movement: old-school environmentalists and young climate-justice organizers, frontline community leaders and Texas tar-sands blockaders, Quakers and college students, evangelicals and Occupiers. Most important, Stephenson pushes beyond easy labels to understand who these people really are, what drives them, and what they’re ultimately fighting for.


I’m sure this list is missing many amazing books. So please share any more that you’d add in the #books channel on slack or in the comments on our site so others can see!

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