Staff Pick

Since Lab Girl, Jahren relocated to Oslo, Norway, where, along with her award-winning work in paleobiology, she teaches a course on the origins of climate change. This is a course everyone should take. Presented here, it’s an engaging, fast-paced survey of how our relentless drive for “more” fuels increases in our population, longevity, urbanization, travel, industrial and agricultural production, with  concurrent negative impacts on the natural environment. Jahren uses a lot of statistics—leavened with plenty of engaging stories—and her book is also a mini-primer on data interpretation. Although global fossil fuel use and meat production have tripled since 1969, regional consumption rates are uneven; OECD nations waste food and struggle to declutter, but places like Bangladesh barely register on energy-usage maps, even as they suffer the brunt of the Anthropocene’s devastating storms and rising seas—not to mention supplying materials essential for the richer nations’ turbines and digital devices. Jahren’s intent isn’t to blame or frighten, however, but to inform, and her data boils down to “use less and share more.” If we do, there will be enough to go around. Recognizing that this is a tough sell—“consuming less is not…a new product that can be marketed”—Jahren urges a wholesale re-envisioning of how we use energy. That vision is still vague, but if we scale back to rates roughly equivalent of those in Switzerland in the 1960s, “humanity might survive civilization.”


The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525563389
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Vintage - March 3rd, 2020

Staff Pick

Nathaniel Rich’s heartbreaking Losing Earth (MCD, $25) is the story of a window opening and closing. It covers the decade between 1979, when the EPA published a report on the effects of carbon emissions, and 1989, when world leaders meeting in Noordwijk failed to sign a binding global resolution to stabilize those emissions. But what might have been an exercise in outrage or a dry account of meetings, hearings, and reports is a gracefully written narrative that lets us get to know the key figures involved and offers real insights into why we’ve failed to summon the political will to act in a coordinated, meaningful way on a deadly serious issue. And there are surprises: petroleum companies haven’t always been deniers. Initially, they accepted the science of climate change and, understanding that “the longer the industry waited to act the worse it would go for them,” were ready to change. So what happened? It’s tempting to blame Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and John Sununu. But as Rich shows, if it was so easy for other government leaders to back down in the face of America’s reservations, they were never fully committed in the first place. Unlike a local environmental crisis or even the catchily phrased “ozone hole,” the future is large and abstract and we won’t be there to see what it’s really like.

Losing Earth: A Recent History Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374191337
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: MCD - April 9th, 2019

Staff Pick

Collections of previously published essays and speeches can be a mixed bag, but the sixteen pieces—plus a substantial, new introduction, itself worth the price of the book, and an epilogue detailing the Green New Deal—in Naomi Klein’s blistering On Fire (Simon & Schuster, $27) form not only a coherent picture of the state of the Earth, but, looking back over the last decade of climate change events, constitute an invaluable timeline of the increasing evidence of a climate crisis, our growing awareness of the need to act—and the failure of leaders to take the necessary steps. Written with her signature passion and eloquence, this book is vintage Klein. In reports from 2010’s BP Deepwater Horizon spill, the 2017 wildfires in British Columbia, and the long aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, she demonstrates how the “exploitation of individual workers” and “the decimation of individual mountains and rivers“ are both based on an “indifference to life” that has brought the planet itself to its knees. At the same time, though several World Climate Conferences have failed to curb carbon emissions, more people have organized to demand action. Klein finds hope in groups such as Extinction Rebellion, the Sunrise Movement, and, most of all, Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Octavio-Cortez.

On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982129910
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - September 17th, 2019