coral bleaching, floods, bushfire, decline and extinction of biodiversity – as we witness the effects of climate change, amid a stream of reports warning of the cost government inaction, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.
How to counter the gloom? We asked six environmental experts to each submit a hopeful book on the climate crisis.
1. All We Can Save: Truth, Courage and Solutions to the Climate Crisis – edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Keeble Wilkinson (2020)
Despair, helplessness and division are all enemies of affirmative action and crippling in the face of enormous challenges such as the climate change crisis. All we can save is the antithesis of such emotions and concerns. Hope is a powerful motivator, especially when expressed in such creative, thoughtful, inclusive and diverse ways.
Critical, All we can save brings together the voices of women, spanning culture, geography and ages. Women are still, shamefully, not heard enough – and worse, actively repressed in some cases and in some neighborhoods. Society suffers.
In this book, however, scientists, farmers, teachers, artists, journalists, lawyers, activists and others share their unique perspectives, through their essays, poetry and art. They explore how to deal with the climate crisis, the damage already inflicted, but above all, how to bring about positive change and progress.
Food for the mind and the soul, at a time when it’s more necessary than ever.
Euan Ritchie is Professor of Ecology and Wildlife Conservation at the Center for Integrative Ecology in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University.
2. Grand Adaptations: In the Shadow of a Climate Crisis –Morgan Phillips (2021)
There’s no point in pretending. There are no “good stories” about global warming. They are all framed by the crisis that we refuse to talk about in Australia. We desperately need a national conversation about how to live in the perilous world forming around us.
at Morgan Phillips Grand Adaptations: In the Shadow of a Climate Crisis is not an Australian book. His outlook is international – British, European, Nepalese and North American.
Phillips does not shy away from envisioning bleak prospects: systemic collapse, food and water insecurity, declining biodiversity. But it focuses neither on pure disaster nor on naïve techno-optimism. Instead, he brings a careful balance to his consideration of good adaptation and harmful (evil) adaptation.
It pushes us to think beyond fragmented reactions to individual climatic disasters, such as droughts, fires, floods and storms – reactions that favor the rich and are based on the illusion that everything will return to “normal”. “.
Its goal is a realistic “transformative adaptation”. He advocates for sustainable, flexible and fair adjustments to nature’s new lottery. At the heart of its success stories – fromfog harvest” for water in Morocco’s arid climate agro-forestry in Nepal – is the need for constant dialogue to guide adjustments to changing conditions.
Major Adaptations is a brilliant provocation for the discussion we need to have.
Peter Christoff is Senior Researcher and Associate Professor, Melbourne Climate Futures Initiative at the University of Melbourne.
3. Who really feeds the world? The Failure of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology – Vandana Shiva (2016)
The climate crisis has accentuated already unjust and ecologically unsustainable global food systems. Recent bushfires and floods in Australia, for example, have destroyed crops, devastated food-producing landscapes and their communities, and disrupted transport networks. Each laid bare a corporate-controlled food system characterized by rising food prices, rising rates of hunger and food insecurity.
How do we foster equitable and just food systems – systems that are resilient in the face of climate chaos?
In Who really feeds the world? The failure of agribusiness and the promise of agroecology, Vandana Shiva outlines principles and practices that can offer solutions. Drawing on a range of examples from around the world, including the Navdanya India-based movement (which she founded), Shiva presents agroecology, living soil, biodiversity and small-scale agriculture as life-affirming responses.
Small farmers on small plots of land already produce 70% of the world’s food. They can really feed the world.
The challenge then – one among many – is how to breathe life into the principles advocated by this award-winning environmental activist, recipient of the Right Livelihood Award and the Sydney Peace Prize. In an Australian context, this will include addressing the violent colonial foundations on which Australia’s agricultural and food systems were built.
Kristen Lyons is Professor of Environmental and Development Sociology at the University of Queensland.
4. Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science – Jessica Hernandez (2022)
Raging fires, desperate droughts and unprecedented floods underscore the power and terror of climate catastrophe. As we experience these stark reminders of our addiction to healthy ecosystems, many of us are looking for another way to reconnect with the world around us.
In Fresh banana leavesJessica Hernandez offers us the concept of “kincentric ecology,” in which the enduring relationship between Indigenous peoples and place is one of mutual interdependence.
She argues that “we are not separate from nature” and that “Indigenous peoples view their natural resources and environment as part of their loved ones, relatives and communities”.
Hernandez’s book demonstrates the power of Indigenous science (and Indigenous peoples’ leadership) to help us restore a right relationship with nature. In doing so, it offers us a glimpse of a decolonized, just and sustainable future.
Erin O’Donnell is an Early Career Research Fellow at the Center for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, University of Melbourne.
5. The Precipice – Toby Ord (2020)
In The Precipice, Toby Ord considers a range of “existential risks” that could, over the next few centuries, reduce the immense potential for long-term human flourishing. This leaves me with perverse hope about climate change for three reasons.
First, while acknowledging that climate change will cause immense suffering, Ord identifies only a few relatively unlikely scenarios that will leave humanity extinct or “stuck” barely surviving.
Second, it considers a range of man-made and natural risks that are of even greater concern. Many of these risks are exacerbated by the increasing accessibility of powerful technologies once reserved for elites, such as bioengineering and artificial intelligence. These are all risks that we create or will need to cooperate to mitigate; their occurrence and level of impact are under our influence.
Third, Ord makes a compelling case that we have many of the institutions, technologies, and policy tools needed to manage long-term existential risks. There is work we can all do now to help. Climate change can aggravate many other risks. To solve it, you have to solve others at the same time.
The Precipice leaves the feeling that we will have to be better humans to survive the centuries to come, but that a better future awaits us. If we achieve this future, we will deserve it, for we will have married our power and prosperity with civilizational maturity, compassion and wisdom.
Stefan Kaufman is a senior research fellow at Monash University.
6. Trees and Global Warming: The Role of Forests in Cooling and Warming the Atmosphere – William J Manning (2020)
As climates change and Australia gets warmer, trees are often seen as a panacea, but, as always with ecosystems, things can get complicated.
As William J Manning tells us in Trees and global warming, trees can both warm and cool the atmosphere. The color of their leaves (light green or dark green) influences the amount of radiation absorbed, transmitted and reflected and how cool they are.
Manning doesn’t look at trees and forests through rose-colored glasses, but through a solid scientific lens. They come out on top when it comes to fighting climate change because grown efficiently they can shade and cool, reduce the urban heat island effect, sequester carbon and much more.
Trees are an essential, profitable and sustainable element for living with climate change. We have to protect the trees and the forests that we have. Planting more trees is part of a quick and cheap fix, delivering more livable cities and towns across our continent.
Gregory Moore holds a doctorate in botany from the University of Melbourne.
This article first appeared on The conversation.