Lockdown reading: 8 of the best book recommendations for sustainability and energy professionals

With coronavirus confining us to our homes, edie has asked sustainability professionals for their recommendations on the must-read books to devour during the lockdown, and the editorial team have added in a couple of our own suggestions, too. 

There is a plethora of books written by some of the sharpest minds in the sustainability sphere.

There is a plethora of books written by some of the sharpest minds in the sustainability sphere.

Sustainability professionals, much like other workers, have found themselves with a bit more time at home, with many currently furloughed. And as we approach a four-day weekend for the Easter Holiday, some may be looking for ways to spend their downtime on the topics that matter to them most.

With that in mind, edie surveyed our readers on how they are dealing with the coronavirus, and based on their suggestions, we’ve put together a list of must-watch documentaries and a separate list of must-read books, that will broaden the mindset of any sustainability professionals.

Fortunately, there is a plethora of books written by some of the sharpest minds in the sustainability sphere. So, whether you want to view sustainability through the lens of capitalism, take a look at a dystopian future the awaits if we fail to act, or want to get to grips with some of the more complex aspects of carbon emissions, this list has something for everyone.

PLUS: if you’d rather unwind with a film or documentary, edie has also published a list of must-watch television for sustainability professionals.

If you’re interested in buying any of the books listed below, the links will take you through to their respectives websites, and they can also be found on Amazon and other online retailers. Do you have your own recommendation? Tell us in the comments section below.

1) The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac

In The Future We Choose, Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac–who led negotiations for the United Nations during the historic Paris Agreement of 2015–issue a “cautionary but optimistic book about the world’s changing climate and the fate of humanity”.

For those aware of TCFD terminology, this book is a bit more of a verbose look at scenario analysis, but analysing the impacts on humanity rather than a single business.

2) Green Swans by John Elkington

From the man who pioneered the triple-bottom-line phrase, Green Swans is the latest book from John Elkington, having only been released recently. The book highlights the role of business in catalysing systemic change, drawing from Elkington’s wealth of knowledge and experience from business boardrooms. The book “examines wicked problems and the ‘ugly ducklings’ of today that have the potential to become tomorrow’s world-saving Green Swans”.

3) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein’s fourth book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate was published in September 2014 and acts as an “explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core ‘free market’ ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems”.

Those interested in the Green New Deal movement may also want to check out Klein’s most recent publication,” On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal”.

4) The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future by David Wallace-Wells

Described as an “epoch-defining book” by the Guardian, the Uninhabitable Earth delves into the future, to see how climate change will impact those living through it and how they are now impacted by new technologies, geopolitics and how they interact with nature.

The book also explores the role of capitalism and human growth and how they have both impacted and been impacted by climate change. The Uninhabitable Earth is also an “impassioned call to action” to change things before it is too late.

5) Targeting Zero: Whole Life and Embodied Carbon Strategies for Design Professionals by Simon Sturgis

Embodied and whole life carbon are starting to get a platform for discussion, both in how buildings are constructed, and how resources are used for products and packaging. However, the concept is not yet fully understood.

As one of the more specialists books on this list Targeting Zero looks at how the built environment sector has the “opportunity to take the lead in redefining how buildings are designed to achieve a low-carbon future”.

6) Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Christian Wahl

Described as a “Whole Earth Catalog”, Designing Regenerative Cultures is an “impressive and wide-ranging analysis of what’s wrong” across spectrums such as societies, businesses, ideologies, and cultures.

Importantly, the book also discusses how to address and solve these issues, featuring deep dives into the finance system, agriculture, design, ecology, economy, sustainability and organisations.

7) Rewild Yourself: 23 Spellbinding Ways to Make Nature More Visible by Simon Barnes

Rather obviously, this book features 23 “spellbinding ways to bring the magic of nature much closer to home” and it’s a fitting time to read given how much time we’re now all spending in are gardens (apologies to those living in flats).

While the book discusses rewilding land and areas close to us, reviewers note that it also brings the reader closer to nature and in a time of lockdown could be the ideal read for those longing to be outside.

8) Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall

Sustainability professionals can often be stuck in echo chambers, talking to the same people about the same massive problem. Don’t Even Think About It explores that most of the public recognise the climate change is real, yet fails to act to stop it.

The book explores why this is the case, as the author speaks to “Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and Texas Tea Party activists; the world's leading climate scientists and those who denounce them; liberal environmentalists and conservative evangelicals”. This book could well be the answer for those looking to engage other areas of the business with the thorny topic of climate change.

Matt Mace



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