End-of-year vacations are just as much about relaxing as they are about reflecting over a year (hopefully) well lived. For those of you intrinsically tied to your computers reading bookmarked sites as part of your daily routine, we advise taking a step outside the neatly packaged information box you’ve become accustomed to, and into something more substantial.
By picking up one of these groundbreaking environmental tomes, you’ll most likely be inspired to start the new year off right, or at the very least, be fired up for change under the comforts of a warm blanket.
Photo: Mike Powell/Getty Images
Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
Published 50 years ago, Rachel Carson’s Silent Springwas an immediate call to action for everyday citizens to rally and become civil activists. As TheNew York Times writes of the book, Carson “made a powerful case for the idea that if humankind poisoned nature, nature would in turn poison humankind.”
Her research, more than a study of the effects of synthetic pesticides on the planet, engaged housewives and scientists, naturalists and farmers to look at progress in a whole new light.
Photo: Sterling College/Creative Commons via Flickr
A Sand County Almanac – Aldo Leopold
Aldo Leopold’s hope that society would develop an “ecological conscience” about leaving nature alone is still relevant today in this collection of essays published in 1949. Written from the vantage point of his summer shack along the banks of the Wisconsin River, A Sand County Almanac makes nature very personal, where even the animals and sky are characters we fall in love with.
A true tribute to land and human interaction with it.
Photo: cdrummbks/Creative Commons via Flickr
Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water – Marc Reisner
Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Waterwas written in 1986 and is still a landmark book surveying water use in the American Southwest. Environmental journalist Marc Reisner interviewed hundreds of people about the Southwest and learned the history of the region’s water infrastructure, quickly deducing that more water was being pulled out of the West’s waterways than could be naturally replenished.
Penguin books sums it up best as “a tale of rivers diverted and damned, political corruption and intrigue, billion-dollar battles over water rights, and economic and ecological disaster.”
An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It – Al Gore
An Inconvenient Truth, written by Al Gore, the former Vice President, Democratic candidate for president, and longtime champion of the environment, (who helped organize the first Congressional hearings on global warming decades ago), tackles some weighty issues in understanding global warming and where we are in terms of a tipping point.
Taking a logical and factual tone in his book (and movie), Gore becomes an author first, politician second, writing from places of authority where even the environmental naysayers will listen and want to take action.
The Turquoise Ledge – Leslie Marmon Silko
In The Turquoise Ledge, Silko draws on her Laguna Pueblo, Cherokee, Mexican, and European ancestry to create this thick, spiritually provocative memoir of desert life and its close bonds with animals, and environmental destruction.
Published in 2010 and written like a very private journal, Silko recounts her earthly interpretations, whether through painting or hikes looking for turquoise, where she searches for a quiet world, bereft of people.
Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment – David Kirby
It’s not surprising that factory farms harbor thousands of animals for slaughter and generate millions of gallons of animal waste, but readers are taken through first-person narratives to see where all that waste goes. Profiling three individuals who went from being normal, everyday citizens to environmental activists based on their horrific experiences with animal factories, Kirby’s book exemplifies investigative journalism.
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion – Elizabeth Cline
From fashion victim to educated consumer, in Overdressed Elizabeth Cline takes us on a retail journey through the factories of China to the streets of New York City. Cline has been equated to “the Michael Pollan of fashion,” pioneering the idea of how fast fashion disrupts not only the fashion industry but the environment.
Think you know where your clothes come from? Wait until you read this book.
Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution, And How it Can Renew America – Thomas Friedman
Concerned about our global future? Thomas Friedman is too. In Hot, Flat and Crowded, Friedman takes a look at a “green revolution” that has hardly begun and the clean-technology breakthroughs we will need to encourage a true revolution. Friedman also insists that America must lead this revolution—“with the first Green President and a Green New Deal, spurred by the Greenest Generation.”
Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit – Barry Estabrook
When it comes to considering the food we eat, it’s hard to take it all in at once. We are overwhelmed. Investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook has decided to make the information easier to digest by putting the focus on the tomato. Besides the obvious information about tomato fields and the spraying of herbicides and pesticides (you knew that was coming), in Tomatoland Estabrook reveals the huge human cost of the $5 billion fresh tomato industry with a relentless drive for the cheap fruit fostering a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States.
Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril
For readers who love a quick read, we suggest Moral Ground, which brings together the testimonies of over 80 visionaries—theologians and religious leaders, scientists, elected officials, business leaders, naturalists, activists, and writers—“to present a diverse and compelling call to honor our individual and collective moral responsibility to our planet.”
Taken from so many perspectives, this book is sure to hit a nerve and will hopefully make you appreciate the preciousness of the world in which you live.
Amy DuFault is a writer and editor whose work has been published in EcoSalon, Huffington Post, Ecouterre, Organic Spa, Coastal Living, Yahoo!, The Frisky and other online and print publications. In addition to being a former co-owner of an eco-boutique, she coaches and connects the sustainable fashion community to feed her soul. She also dreams of singing in an all girl punk band even though she has stage fright. @amytropolis | TakePart.com