The Best Books for Educating Yourself About Global Warming

Want to learn more about global warming, or what we can do to stop it? To make your life easier, we’ve condensed the biggest lessons from famous thought leaders, scientists, and global activists on what we can do to make a difference.

by Uptime Staff / 2021-08-31

Our world is rapidly changing. Reports on progressing climate change statistics inundate our news and social media outlets every day. Experts suggest “sustainability swaps” in our routines - at even the smallest scale - in an effort to combat global warming at the individual level. 

While these practices are of course important, what we most critically need are environmental laws in place to enforce corporate changes at a larger scale. And it needs to happen now - if not yesterday. Perhaps Bill Gates said it best: 

quotation marksClimate change is one of the most urgent issues of our generation.

But how do we make that happen? Is it too late? How can we better understand the complex science around what the environmental landscape currently looks like? 

We’ve compiled a list of our must-read, favorite books on climate change, environmental economics, and sustainability -written by famous scientists, thought leaders, and activists at the top of their field - to help answer these essential questions.

Silent Spring - Rachel Carson

On Uptime

Silent Spring is considered THE book that started the global grassroots environmental movement. Released in 1962, it focuses on the negative effects of the chemical pesticides that were, at the time, a large part of US agriculture. 

Rachel Carson and her work initiated a shift in global environmental consciousness. Her work is one of the all-time greatest compositions on environmental science: it’s said to have kickstarted the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

Her examination of DDT present in human bodies is a revolutionary study in ecology; the DDT originated in alfalfa farms that used pesticides for crop protection. That contaminated alfalfa was later fed to chickens, which in turn laid eggs containing DDT. By eating the eggs, people in the study then ingested a dangerously high amount of the chemical. 

Because of Carson’s writing, this book still inspires activists all around the world today. 

Here are 3 key insights from the book (unpacked in full on Uptime): 

  • Pesticides destroy not just pests, but entire ecosystems 
  • Once DDT enters the food chain, it affects all the species involved 
  • The two main solutions to the harmful effects of pesticides are education and biological alternatives to deal with pests

The Sixth Extinction - Elizabeth Kolbert

On Uptime

The Sixth Extinction summarizes how human activity has contributed to the mass extinction of species, pinpointing pivotal ways to mitigate our biggest environmental problems. 

quotation marksAs soon as humans started using signs and symbols to represent the natural world, they pushed beyond the limits of that world.

There have been five previous mass extinctions throughout history. Today, there may be a human-induced catastrophe waiting to happen, and this threat is just as destructive to the Earth’s biosphere. 

Kolbert’s book begs the question – is there still something to be done? Can we stop – or, at least, mitigate – the effects of what we’ve ‘accomplished’ before it’s too late?

The Omnivore’s Dilemma - Michael Pollan

On Uptime

The Omnivore’s Dilemma explains the paradox of the food choices we face today, how the industrial revolution changed the way we eat, and which food choices are the most ethical, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. 

quotation marksDon’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

Today everything is available to us, all the time, wherever we are. So, what do we eat to stay healthy, make economic choices, and not hurt the environment? Michael Pollan helps us answer this now highly-complicated question.

On Uptime, find out why:

  • Pollan believes the production of corn is the root of most of today's 'food problems'
  • "Organic" food isn't quite what you think it is
  • Buying more of our food from local vendors is the answer to our problems

There is No Planet B - Mike Berners-Lee

On Uptime

Berners-Lee’s book is a collection of striking facts that all point to the same conclusion: that the preservation of the Earth’s precarious natural balance is the prerequisite of our own survival. 

quotation marksRespect the world including all its lifeforms, not just as servants to humanity but perhaps because they – all lifeforms – have some inherent value in their own right. Respect the truth for its own sake, even if it’s inconvenient.

There is No Planet B focuses on how both macro processes, such as industrial greenhouse gas emissions causing air pollution, and micro processes, such as personal diet and travel, affect the environment. The book’s main message is clear: Earth is all we have.

On Fire - Naomi Klein

On Uptime

Journalist and environmental justice campaigner Naomi Klein makes the case for a Green New Deal in this collection of articles, essays, and speeches, which look beyond the U.S. to envisage a plan for global climate action. 

Just as the original New Deal responded to the Great Depression with massive investment and an overhaul of our social and economic system, the Green New Deal is a large-scale response to an even larger crisis. In this book, Klein highlights the Green New Deal’s potential to create millions of jobs globally and lift up communities in need, while regenerating our planet. 

""The Green New Deal puts us all on an emergency footing: as scary as that would be for some, the catharsis and relief for many others, particularly young people, would be a potent source of energy.""

Motivated to make a change? As we explore here, it's never too late to become an environmental activist. And that doesn't mean making big changes, either: even the smallest changes to your lifestyle can make an impact, even if that means having one less chicken, pork, or beef-based meal a week and trying out some meat-free alternatives like tofu or seitan instead.

For more lessons on how our planet works - from understanding the weather to activism from model, actress, and climate campaigner Lily Cole, check out our selection of book, documentary, and course summaries on Uptime.

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