I don’t consider myself an environmentalist.
But I do love being outdoors, particularly being in the ocean so in honor of Earth Day (April 22) and Earth Week, here are the eco-themed books I recommend:
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond – Jared Diamond is a professor of geography and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles and the writer of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.
Diamond lists eight factors which, based on his analysis, have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies: 1. Deforestation and habitat destruction; 2. Soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses); 3. Water management problems; 4. Overhunting; 5. Overfishing; 6. Effects of introduced species on native species; 7. Human population growth, and; 8. Increased per-capita impact of people.
He further isolates four new factors that may contribute to the weakening and collapse of present and future societies: 1. Human-caused climate change; 2. Buildup of toxic chemicals in the environment; 3. Energy shortages, and; 4. Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity.
Some of the collapsed societies Diamond discusses are Easter Island, Anasazis (Southwestern US), and Maya (Central America). He also compares modern day Haiti to the Dominican Republic, which share the same island but have vastly different economies.
Click here to read the first chapter on washingtonpost.com.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Yes McCarthy is the author of No Country For Old Men. I promise this book isn’t nearly as violent as that book/movie. The Road was deservedly awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was also a selection of Oprah’s Book Club. The NYTimes Book Review writes a good summary of this book.
I really liked the Road — I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting — though it’s one of those books that I won’t re-read it (I frequently re-read my favorite books, but this one is just too sad).
I don’t like to read or watch a lot of violence so I found some of the scenes a bit nauseating. However, McCarthy seems purposeful in writing the scenes of violence so you don’t feel like he’s just trying to shock you just for the sake of sensationalism.
The conclusion was reassuring with it’s idea that mankind could not only survive nuclear destruction but do so without every person resorting to looking out just for themselves (as most of the folks the father and son encountered on the Road seemed to). It seems to be part of the moral of the story; not just that nuclear war cannot be an option but also that we need to work together towards a better future.
Click here to read an excerpt on the Random House website.
Happy Earth Day!