Sunday, July 15, 2007

Summer Reading

Quiet summer nights at the cottage, lazy days on the beach, or a comfortable chair on the front porch all add up to great opportunities to catch up on all those books you've been promising to read. To add to the list, here's my top pick of recommended books and magazines about the environment that collectively inform, inspire and ignite the spirit.

Paul Hawken's latest book, Blessed Unrest, (Viking, 2007) is an uplifting account of the greatest revolution in human history. Subtitled, How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming, Blessed Unrest, "Is the story without apologies of what is going right on this planet, narratives of imagination and conviction, not defeatist accounts about the limits," writes Hawken. "Wrong is an addictive repetitive story; Right is where the movement is."

Hawken documents the amazing rise of this leaderless yet powerful movement that is comprised, by his best estimate, of "…over one - and maybe even two - million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice." All tolled, literally tens of millions of ordinary people are doing extraordinary things to save the planet. In short, Blessed Unrest is a book about hope and should be required reading for everyone.

If Hawken's book is about hope, then Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century, (Abrams, 2006) is about practical action. The handbook, edited by Alex Steffen, "is a groundbreaking compendium of the most innovative solutions, ideas and inventions emerging today for building a sustainable, livable, prosperous future." The book is carefully laid out into seven major sections: stuff, shelter, cities, community, business, politics and planet. Each section provides examples from around the world of ideas and actions that work, along with practical suggestions and resources for anyone interested in changing the world.

In addition to the book, Worldchanging is also a website and a global resource. Its manifesto: "Worldchanging was founded on the idea that real solutions already exist for building the future we want. It's just a matter of grabbing hold and getting moving."

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, first published 45 years ago, warned about how our indiscriminant use of chemicals threatens all life on the planet. It was the book that started it all. The impact of this extraordinary book cannot be overstated. It literally gave voice and purpose to the modern environmental movement. As relevant today as it was back in 1962, Silent Spring is both poetic and prophetic.

Courage for the Earth, edited by Peter Matthiessen, (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) is a compilation of essays written by scientists, writers and activists to mark the 100th birthday of Rachel Carson. The list of contributors includes John Elder, Al Gore, John Hay, Freeman House, Linda Lear, Robert Michael Pyle, Janisse Ray, Sandra Steingraber, Terry Tempest Williams, and E. O. Wilson. My personal favourite is an essay by Sandra Steingraber, an acclaimed author and scientist in her own right, that explores Steingraber's connection to her deceased father through their mutual appreciation of Silent Spring. Poignantly beautiful, Steingraber’s essay leaves one wanting more.

On that note, also highly recommended is Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood (Perseus Publishing, 2001) by Sandra Steingraber. This poetic account of the intimate biology of motherhood combines Steingraber's remarkable talents as a scientist and a poet in this magnificently crafted book.

In the mindless realm of advertising, the editorial content of most popular magazines exists to put spaces between the glossy ads. Two refreshing exceptions to this rule are Orion and Yes! Magazine. Both are published by non-profit organizations and are devoid of all commercial advertising.

According to its editors, "Orion explores an emerging alternative world view. Informed by growing ecological awareness and the need for cultural change, it is a forum for thoughtful and creative ideas and practical examples of how we might live justly, wisely, and artfully on Earth." In addition to its amazing editorial content, each volume contains a glorious collection of photographs, paintings and other visual art.

Yes! Magazine is published by the Positive Futures Network, an organization dedicated to a just, sustainable, and compassionate world. Each edition of Yes! is built around a specific issue: democracy, social justice, environmental sustainability, and is published on 100% recycled, 100% post-consumer waste, process chlorine-free paper.

Happy reading!


Blessed Unrest


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