14 Must-Read Books To Help Save Planet Earth

Learn how to take action to reduce our global environmental impact before it's too late

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From politics and public policy to social science, environmental science, and earth science, here are fourteen books to help tackle the climate crisis to salvage what is left of our only planet.

1. Under A White Sky: The Nature Of The Future

In her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Sixth Extinction,” Elizabeth Kolbert opened our eyes to human-caused environmental devastation. In her new book, “Under a White Sky,” Kolbert tackles the urgent issue of finding ways to reverse the damage done. She investigates possible solutions born of the very human ingenuity that got us into trouble in the first place. Could these innovations avert disastrous climate change? Or dig us into a deeper hole?

2. Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret

Do you know about “America’s dirty secret”? Catherine Coleman Flowers has made that secret her life’s work: ensuring that rural Americans have access to basic sanitation. Called the “Erin Brockovich of Sewage,” Flowers explores the systemic biases (race, class, geography) that affect citizens from Alabama to Alaska. “Waste” is also a personal story, giving readers a look at the path of Flowers from rural Alabama to environmental justice champion. Flowers was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2020.

3. Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming

Get on board with the game plan to not only stop, but reverse, the effects of climate change. Some of the 100 solutions you’ll surely already be familiar with, but others will surprise and inspire you to think differently about how you can help the planet thanks to Paul Hawken.

4. How To Change Minds About Our Changing Climate

Arm yourself with this handbook to help protect the Earth. It’s like Snopes for climate change deniers’ alternative facts. After reading this book by Seth B. Darling, you’ll be able to debunk common misconceptions (and outright lies) and spread the true facts instead.

5. Green Metropolis: What The City Can Teach The Country About True Sustainability

Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares-as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, David Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans. They live in smaller spaces, discard less trash, and, most important of all, spend far less time in automobiles. They are also among the only people in the United States for whom walking is still an important means of daily transportation. The problem is how to make other settled places more like Manhattan, whose residents presently come closer than any other Americans to meeting environmental goals that all of us, eventually, will have to come to terms with.

6. Silent Spring

First published in 1962, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson can singlehandedly be credited with sounding the alarm and raising awareness of humankind's collective impact on its own future through chemical pollution. No other book has so strongly influenced the environmental conscience of Americans and the world at large.




7. Diet For A Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis At The End Of Your Fork And What You Can Do About It

Conservation efforts are often focused on food: recycling, using reusable containers, avoiding straws at restaurants, and plastic bags at grocery stores. Take it a step further by considering what you eat, on top of the packaging it comes in with Anna Lappe.

8. Confessions Of A Recovering Environmentalist And Other Essays

Full of grief and fury, as well as passionate, lyrical evocations of nature and the wild, this book gathers the wave-making essays that have charted the change in Paul Kingsnorth’s thinking, an ex-activist. In them, he articulates a new vision that he calls “dark ecology,” which stands firmly in opposition to the belief that technology can save us, and he argues for a renewed balance between the human and nonhuman worlds.

9. Cradle To Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things

"Reduce, reuse, recycle" urge environmentalists. In other words, do more with less in order to minimize damage. But as this provocative, visionary book by William McDonough and Michael Braungart argues, this approach perpetuates a one-way, "cradle to grave" manufacturing model that dates to the Industrial Revolution and casts off as much as 90 percent of the materials it uses as waste, much of it toxic. Why not challenge the notion that human industry must inevitably damage the natural world?

10. Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, And The Fight For A Sustainable Future

Mary Robinson's mission would lead her all over the world, from Malawi to Mongolia, and to a heartening revelation: that an irrepressible driving force in the battle for climate justice could be found at the grassroots level, mainly among women, many of them mothers and grandmothers like herself. From Sharon Hanshaw, the Mississippi matriarch whose campaign began in her East Biloxi hair salon and culminated in her speaking at the United Nations, to Constance Okollet, a small farmer who transformed the fortunes of her ailing community in rural Uganda, Robinson met with ordinary people whose resilience and ingenuity had already unlocked extraordinary change.

Powerful and deeply humane, Climate Justice is a stirring manifesto on one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time, and a lucid, affirmative, and well-argued case for hope.

11. A Field Guide To Climate Anxiety: How To Keep Your Cool On A Warming Planet

A youth movement is reenergizing global environmental activism. The “climate generation”—late millennials and iGen, or Generation Z—is demanding that policymakers and government leaders take immediate action to address the dire outcomes predicted by climate science. Those inheriting our planet’s environmental problems expect to encounter challenges, but they may not have the skills to grapple with the feelings of powerlessness and despair that may arise when they confront this seemingly intractable situation, as covered extensively by Sarah Jaquette Ray in Gen Z's first "existential toolkit" for combating eco-guilt and burnout while advocating for climate justice.

12. Revolutionary Power: An Activist's Guide To The Energy Transition

In Revolutionary Power, Shalanda Baker arms those made most vulnerable by our current energy system with the tools they need to remake the system in the service of their humanity. She argues that people of color, poor people, and indigenous people must engage in the creation of the new energy system in order to upend the unequal power dynamics of the current system.

Revolutionary Power is a playbook for the energy transformation complete with a step-by-step analysis of the key energy policy areas that are ripe for intervention. Baker tells the stories of those who have been left behind in our current system and those who are working to be architects of a more just system. She draws from her experience as an energy-justice advocate, a lawyer, and a queer woman of color to inspire activists working to build our new energy system.

13. Hope Matters: Why Changing The Way We Think Is Critical To Solving The Environmental Crisis

Hope Matters by Elin Kelsey boldly breaks through the narrative of doom and gloom to show why evidence-based hope, not fear, is our most powerful tool for change. Kelsey shares real-life examples of positive climate news that reveal the power of our mindsets to shape reality, the resilience of nature, and the transformative possibilities of individual and collective action. She demonstrates how we can build on positive trends to work toward a sustainable and just future before it’s too late.

14. Being The Change: Live Well And Spark A Climate Revolution

Alarmed by drastic changes now occurring in the Earth's climate systems, the author, a climate scientist and suburban father of two embarked on a journey to change his life and the world. He began by bicycling, growing food, meditating, and making other simple, fulfilling changes. Ultimately, he slashed his climate impact to under a tenth of the US average and became happier in the process.

Being the Change by CalTech scientist Peter Kalmus explores the connections between our individual daily actions and our collective predicament. It merges science, spirituality, and practical action to develop a satisfying and appropriate response to global warming.

These ten books on sustainability are the best, most influential, and eye-opening reads of 2021.

These fourteen books on sustainability are some of the most influentially inspiring and motivating reads to spark the change our planet needs before it's too late.