One of the ways Unitarian Universalist congregations foster a free and responsible search for truth and meaning (one of our UU principles) is to engage as a community in congregation-wide book reads, establish book libraries in the congregation, or reflect on books together as part of small group ministry or covenant groups.
The below books are ones that are particularly good in this context, inspiring deep reflection, learning, and action on environmental justice topics. Scroll to the bottom of the page for curated book lists on particular topics.
Top Books for Congregational Reads
Justice on Earth
– People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, and the Environment, edited by Manish Mishra-Marzetti and Jennifer Nordstrom – (Skinner House Books, 2018).
At a time when racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice are seen as issues competing for time, attention, and resources, Justice on Earth explores the ways in which the three are intertwined. Those on the margins are invariably those most affected by climate disaster and environmental toxins. The book asks us to recognize that our faith calls us to long-haul work for justice for our human kin, for the Earth, and for all life. It invites us to look at our current challenges through a variety of different perspectives, offers tools to equip us for sustained engagement, and proposes multiple pathways for follow-up action.
- Review – UUMFE, Aly Tharp
- Episode – Church of the Larger Fellowship
Discussion Guide. A discussion guide for Justice on Earth (PDF, 34 pages) offers Unitarian Universalist congregations, groups, and individuals a single 90-minute session and a more in-depth, three-session series. Optional slides (PowerPoint) allow groups to project the discussion and reflection questions rather than write and display them on newsprint or a chalkboard.
What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice
– Wes Stephenson (Beacon Press, 2015)
An urgent, on-the-ground look at some of the “new American radicals” who have laid everything on the line to build a stronger climate justice movement. The science is clear: catastrophic climate change, by any humane definition, is upon us. At the same time, the fossil-fuel industry has doubled down, economically and politically, on business as usual. We face an unprecedented situation—a radical situation. As an individual of conscience, how will you respond?
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
– Naomi Klein (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
From the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant 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. In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.
Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet
– Julie Dunlap and Susan Cohen, editors (Trinity University Press, 2016)
This powerful anthology gathers the passionate voices of young writers who have grown up in an environmentally damaged and compromised world. Each contributor has come of age since Bill McKibben foretold the doom of humanity’s ancient relationship with a pristine earth in his prescient 1988 warning of climate change, The End of Nature.
The Big Melt: Coming of Age in a Time of Changing Climates
– Ned Tillman (South Branch Press, 2018)
The Big Melt engages, informs, and challenges readers of all ages to consider a variety of perspectives on what is rapidly becoming the challenge of the century: Now that our climate is changing, what do we do? This work of contemporary fiction, with a touch of fantasy and hope, will inspire you to care a little more about what might occur in your town in the not-too-distant future.
Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology
– T.J. Demos (Sternberg Press, 2016)
Art historian and culture critic T.J. Demos brings together contemporary new theoretical directions in political ecology and philosophies of the “post-Natural condition” with contemporary eco-activist and art movements from around the world. Drawing from Indigenous traditions that are very old and scientific thinking that is very new, the book is a guide to emerging new visions—and visualizations—of the relationships between humans and the Earth.
Great Tide Rising: Towards Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change
– Kathleen Dean Moore (Counterpoint Press, 2016)
Philosopher and nature essayist Kathleen Dean Moore takes on the questions: Why is it wrong to wreck the world? What is our obligation to the future? What is the transformative power of moral resolve? How can clear thinking stand against the lies and illogic that batter the chances for positive change? And always this: What stories and ideas will lift people who deeply care, inspiring them to move forward with clarity and moral courage?
Ecological Governance: Toward a New Social Contract with the Earth
– Bruce Jennings (West Virginia University Press Center for Humans and Nature, 2016)
Bruce Jennings argues that both technological innovation and a transformation of values will be needed in a transition to a post-fossil carbon world. He explores the pathway from a social contract of consumption to a social contract of trusteeship through new modes of freedom, justice, solidarity, and ecological democratic governance.
When God Isn’t Green: A World-Wide Journey to Places Where Religious Practice and Environmentalism Collide
– Jay Wexler (Beacon Press, 2016)
In a lively, round-the-world trip, law professor and humorist Jay Wexler explores the intersection of religion and the environment. He travels the globe in order to understand the complexity of these problems and learn how society can best address them. He feasts on whale blubber in northern Alaska, bumps along in the back of a battered jeep in Guatemala, clambers down the crowded beaches of Mumbai, and learns how to pluck a dead eagle in Colorado, all to answer the question, “Can religious practice and environmental protection coexist?”
– Paul Hawken, editor (Penguin Books, 2017; New York Times bestseller)
The 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world. “There’s been no real way for ordinary people to get an understanding of what they can do and what impact it can have. There remains no single, comprehensive, reliable compendium of carbon-reduction solutions across sectors. At least until now . . . The public is hungry for this kind of practical wisdom.” (David Roberts, Vox)
Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet
– Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope (St. Martin’s Press, 2017; New York Times Best Seller)
From Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former head of the Sierra Club Carl Pope comes a manifesto on how the benefits of taking action on climate change are concrete, immediate, and immense. They explore climate change solutions that will make the world healthier and more prosperous, aiming to begin a new type of conversation on the issue that will spur bolder action by cities, businesses, and citizens—and even, someday, by Washington.
Cool Cities: Urban Sovereignty and the Fix for Global Warming
– Benjamin R. Barber (Yale University Press, 2017)
A follow-up to his earlier book, If Mayors Ruled the World, Barber’s proposals for transnational governance of climate change have taken on a new importance and urgency now that the U.S. national government is under the control of Donald Trump and a Republican Congress. Responsible action now falls to other levels of government and to the private sector. Acting in concert, cities can have global leverage.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
– Elizabeth Kolbert (Henry Holt and Co., 2014; Winner of the Pulitzer Prize; New York Times Book Review’s 10 best books of the year; New York Times best seller; National Book Critics Circle Award)
A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes. Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.
The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World
– Jeff Goodell (Little, Brown and Company, 2017; New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017; Washington Post 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction in 2017; Booklist Top 10 Science Books of 2017)
“An immersive, mildly gonzo and depressingly well-timed book about the drenching effects of global warming, and a powerful reminder that we can bury our heads in the sand about climate change for only so long before the sand itself disappears.” (Jennifer Senior, New York Times)
Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life
– Edward O. Wilson (W.W. Norton, 2017)
In his most urgent book to date, Pulitzer Prize–winning author and world-renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson states that in order to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must move swiftly to preserve the biodiversity of our planet.
Wildness: Relations of People and Place
– Gavin Van Horn and John Hausdoerffer, co-editors (University of Chicago Press, 2017)
Published in association with the Center for Humans and Nature, this collection of essays explores how people can become attuned to the wild community of life and also contribute to the well-being of the wild places in which we live, work, and play. With this book, we gain insight into what wildness is and could be, as well as how it might be recovered in our lives—and with it, how we might unearth a more profound, wilder understanding of what it means to be human.
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative
– Florence Williams (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017)
For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams sets out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. Delving into new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and ultimately strengthen our relationships.
Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene
– Clive Hamilton (Allen & Unwin Book Publishers, 2017)
Humans have become so powerful that we are disrupting the functioning of the Earth, to the point where scientists now consider we have entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Clive Hamilton argues this forces us to rethink what kind of creature we humans are, and to acknowledge the power we still have to change the world for good.
Arts of Living on A Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene
– Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Ann Swanson, Nils Bubandt, Elaine Gan, co-editors (University of Minnesota Press, 2017)
This graphically and intellectually innovative book offers creative tools for living in a more-than-human Anthropocene. One half is devoted to landscapes injured by humans in the modern age (Ghosts of the Anthropocene) and the other is devoted to essays on interspecies and intraspecies entanglements (Monsters of the Anthropocene).
Fracture: Essay Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America
– Stefanie Brook Trout and Taylor Brorby, authors/editors (Ice Cube Press, 2016)
More than fifty writers explore the complexities of fracking through first-hand experience, investigative journalism, story telling, and verse—exposing fracking’s effects on local communities as well as its global impacts.
The Age of Sustainable Development
– Jeffrey D. Sachs (Columbia University Press, 2015)
Sachs offers readers, students, activists, environmentalists, and policy makers the tools, metrics, and practical pathways they need to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. Far more than a rhetorical exercise, this book is designed to inform, inspire, and spur action.
Recommended Books Lists on Environmental Topics
In addition to the books above, UUMFE has curated book lists on particular environmental topics to support you in expanding your knowledge.
UU Ministry for Earth is an affiliate of Beacon Press. When you shop for Beacon Press books, enter the code UUMFE on the checkout screen to receive a 20% discount plus free shipping. In addition, 4% of your order will be contributed to UUMFE! Beacon Press has a powerful collection of books on environmental topics; several are included in the list above. Check out all environment and conservation books from Beacon Press.
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