As we prepare to celebrate World Environment Day 2020 on June 5, we at Himalayan Watch bring you a list of best environmental books to read and learn about sustainability and conservation. As our lives turn monotonous and boring due to lockdown and restrictions on movement, make the best utilization of your time by going through these amazing ‘green’ reads.

1. The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben 

This fascinating book will intrigue readers who love a walk through the woods. Wohlleben, who worked for the German Forestry Commission for 20 years and now manages a beech forest in Germany, has gathered research from scientists around the world examining how trees communicate and interact with one another.

They do so using a variety of methods, including the secretion of scents and sound vibrations to warn neighboring plants of potential attacks by insects and hungry herbivores, drought, and other dangers. The book includes a note from forest scientist Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia, whose studies showed that entire forests can be connected by “using chemical signals sent through the fungal networks around their root tips” and led to the term “the wood-wide web.”

Wohlleben anthropomorphizes his subject, using such terms as friendship and parenting, which serves to make the technical information relatable and he backs up his ideas with information from scientists. He even tackles the question of whether trees are intelligent. He hopes the day will come “when the language of trees will eventually be deciphered.” Until then, Wohllenben’s book offers readers a vivid glimpse into their secret world.

(Pic credits: Big W)

2. A Sand Country Almanac by Aldo Leopold

Whenever we talk about Environment, one name always strike our mind, that is of Aldo Leopold. This work of Leopold is often considered to be one of the best works of environmental advocacy literature. Leopold saw the environmental issues we are struggling with today because he was struggling with similar issues in his time.

Written with an unparalleled understanding of the ways of nature, the book includes a section on the monthly changes of the Wisconsin countryside; another part that gathers informal pieces written by Leopold over a forty-year period as he traveled through the woodlands of Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona, Sonora, Oregon, Manitoba, and elsewhere; and a final section in which Leopold addresses the philosophical issues involved in wildlife conservation. As the forerunner of such important books as Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, and Robert Finch’s The Primal Place, this classic work remains as relevant today as it was sixty-five years ago.

3. This Changes Everything: Capitalism v. The Climate by Naomi Klein 

Naomi Klien is a Canadian author and social activist. It has been one of the most important books of this century discussing how neo-liberal market fundamentalism is creating obstacles for climate reforms and environmental protection. The book debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at number five on 5 October 2014.

Earlier, Klien has also authored some of the best-sellers titled, The Shock Doctrine and No Logo. Through her work, she has been trying to debunk the fake facts attached to climate change. “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” is a book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable, said NYT in its review. Neo-liberalism promotes increased consumption and builds carbon-intensive economies. It has also been observed that neo-liberalism creates a world and business order that’s hostile to environment.

“Any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews,” Klein writes in her gripping book.

(Pic credits: Amazon)

4. Ecofeminism by Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva

Talking about the environment, how we can forget the Indian scholar, Vandana Shiva? She has authored more than twenty books. And all her work is a pure gem! It was very difficult for us to pick one out of her masterworks. But in the end, we choose to pick ‘Ecofeminism’ because of its unique approach towards exploring the issue of environmental conservation from the lens of gender roles. This concept is not much read and lacks understanding in our society.

Two of Zed’s best-known authors, one an economist, the other a physicist and philosopher, came together in this book on a controversial environmental agenda. Using interviews as a tool, they brought together women’s perspectives from North and South on environmental deterioration and developed a new way of approaching this body of knowledge which is at once, practical and philosophical.

Do women involved in environmental movements see a link between patriarchy and ecological degradation? What are the links between global militarism and the destruction of nature? In exploring such questions, the authors criticize prevailing theories and develop intellectually rigorous ecofeminist perspectives rooted in the needs of everyday life. They argue for the acceptance of limits, the rejection of the commoditization of needs and a commitment to new ecological ethics.

5. The Uninhabitable Earth Hits by David Wallace Wells

The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon” wrote Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon.

The impact of global warming is unimaginable. Talking about sea-level rise is just like scratching the surface. Food shortages, refugee emergencies, climate wars and economic devastation are some of the potential outcomes of heightened global warming on our planet.

The book was called “epoch-defining book”  by The Guardian and “this generation’s Silent Spring”  in The Washington Post’s reviews. “The Uninhabitable Earth is both a travelogue of the near future and a meditation on how that future will look to those living through it—the ways that warming promises to transform global politics, the meaning of technology and nature in the modern world, the sustainability of capitalism and the trajectory of human progress”, said a review in Amazon Books.

6- The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh, India’s well know author,  wrote this gripping narrative on climate change crisis impending before the global community. In this groundbreaking return to non-fiction, Ghosh examines our inability – at the level of literature, history and politics to grasp the scale and violence of climate change. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all forms. The Great Derangement serves as a brilliant writer’s summons to confront the most urgent task of our time. Buy Ecofeminism Book Online at Low Prices in India ...

(Pic credits: Zed Books)

7- Indira Gandhi: A Life In Nature

Indira Gandhi, a controversial yet admired Prime Minister of India for sixteen years, was an avid nature lover. Weaving personal, political and environmental history, politician-scholar Jairam Ramesh narrates the compelling story of Indira Gandhi.

He tells us why and how she came to make a private passion a public calling; how her views on the environment remained steadfast even as her political and economic stances changed; how her friendships with conservationists led to far-reaching decisions to preserve India’s biodiversity; how she urged, cajoled and persuaded her colleagues as she took significant decisions particularly regarding forests and wildlife; and how her own finely-developed instincts and beliefs resulted in landmark policies, programs, initiatives, laws and institutions on environmental conservation.

The book elaborates in detail about how the then government in power balanced between the prospects national economic growth and questions of environmental conservation, normally a situation that every regime faces!

(Author is a student pursuing Masters in Rural Development and Governance from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad. Currently, he is interning with SDC Foundation) 


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