A climate activist reading list
Updated: Mar 14, 2019
These are the books I have read that have led my understanding of climate change, over the years. Thank goodness for books.
Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth 1969 R. Buckminster Fuller. Bucky understood how tech could help us create a sustainable world by doing more with less while providing a higher standard of living for all. Folks motivated by Bucky built energy and food self sufficient houses in the 70s. But that effort got derailed and we headed off into a world of oil-driven, non-sustainable mass consumption/production instead. Today we see the data about the anthropocene on our dashboards. Bucky's operating manual is still applicable.
Lessons Learned in Software Testing: A Context-Driven Approach 2001 Cem Kaner, James Marcus Bach, Bret Pettichord. Understanding how to test software gives insights into how to manage information flow and collaboration I wish would be applied to drive climate change new information and decision making.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies 2005 Jared Diamond tells a consistent story of the rise, spread and fall of countries and societies.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. 2005 Jared Diamond - follow on to previous book, yes, we have a choice whether to learn from history or not. First step, understand it. OMG - this applies to our time too.
The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies 2008 Bert Hölldobler, Edward O. Wilson. I could not resist including this book. Many parallels between hive insects and all humans potentially becoming a hive organism in an internet-connected world.
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. 2010 Matt Ridley taught me how important trade is - the ability to "trade" the thing that differentiates us from other animals. Although I was not convinced that optimism alone will help us address climate change, I was convinced better trade is essential to our society's future.
Thinking, Fast and Slow - 2011 - Daniel Kahneman- a foundational book for me that educated me how and why I think/act the way I do. BTW, this book also changed Economic theory, explaining Kahneman's Nobel Prize.
An Optimist's Tour of the Future: One Curious Man Sets Out to Answer "What's Next?" 2011 Mark Stevenson smart and entertaining guide to the future of civilization
The Lean Mindset: Ask the Right Questions 2013 Mary Poppendieck - The tech industry has learnt how to control information flow and manage whole systems of information, in the midst of guaranteed change. The world will change. Climate change collaboration requires massive information management. Climate change activists have a lot to learn from best practice software development that Mary describes.
Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change - 2014 - George Marshall educated me about "wicked problems" and why climate change is not a "problem" that gets "solved", that I wish it was. Good section on what role religion could be playing..
A Rough Ride to the Future 2014 - James Lovelock - I have been a fan of Lovelocks Gaia model for years. Lovelock understabds iur entire globe is a living system and we humans are part of it - we better learn how do our responsible interconnected part
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate 2014 Naomi Klein - presents strong case for action by teaching how capitalism ( which we know has generated great wealth over the whole world, up to this point) must change so we can leave a sustainable world for our children.
Laudato si' - on the care for our common home - 2015 - sorry, learning to live sustainably on the planet requires more than tech and business and politics - it requires caring, forgiveness and the values we live by. Pope Francis recognizes this and addresses both Christians and non-believers, Worth a study.
WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us -2017 - Tim O'reilly's book based on his "next economy" conferences. I also recommend his WTF newsletter. Tech manages information. Money is an information system. What is the next digital economy and opportunities for a changing world. There will be a Next Economy. What do we need it to be?
2017 Doughnut Economics - Kate Raworth - goes to the heart of how an economic system can work within planetary limits
Origin Story: A Big History of Everything 2018 David Christian. - Bill Gates recommended this. Brilliant. consistent view of history and evolution as a progression of energy use and complexity with the trend continuing inexorably to our future.
Civilisations: First Contact / The Cult of Progress: As seen on TV 2018 - David Olusoga Companion to the BBC documentary series CIVILISATIONS, presented by Mary Beard, David Olusoga and Simon Schama. what happens when civilizations have encountered each other and what "progress" does and does not have to mean.
2018 - the end of the world podcast series by Josh Clark - not a book, but parallels "Origin Story" in its breadth and importance. Helps place us little humans in the big universe.
2019: The un-inhabitable world by David Wallace-Wells - really brings to life the facts scientists have been trying to tell us all along
I would love to hear what books influenced your thinking about climate change.