5 Must-Read Books for the Eco-Curious

Here’s a selection of EcoBabble’s recommended non-fiction books on climate, nature and making the world a better place.

The Accidental Countryside by Stephen Moss

A surprisingly uplifting book full of positive stories of wildlife thriving in unexpected man-made places, which are described as “hidden havens for Britain’s wildlife”. The author explores the idea that what we think of as “countryside” in the UK is mainly industrially farmed monocultures – there is often more wildlife in brownfield sites, from former coal mines and peat-digging sites, to reservoirs and gravel pits. The examples given illustrate the resilience of nature to adapt, but the author also cautions that a lot of these sites are unprotected. He emphasises the importance of getting to know the wildlife on your “local patch”, so habitats can be protected from development.

Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild by Lucy Jones

This book is a fascinating collection of the science behind how nature has numerous benefits for our mental wellbeing. There are some depressing parts, such as the prologue where the author envisions a future without nature, and the stat that three quarters of kids spend less time outdoors than prisoners (who get an hour a day). She refers to “extinction of experience” – children need to experience nature in order to value it, and how it’s easy to be so distracted by busy-ness and screens that we don’t notice its loss. However, most of the book focuses on really interesting studies into diverse areas such as soil microbes, the smell of rain on dry earth, forest schools, inner city life, hospital patients, negative ions in the air and horticultural therapy.

The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Gives us a Better Life and a Greener World by JB MacKinnon

In this thought-provoking book the author imagines what could happen if we stop shopping. He does this by visiting places in each chapter where societies do things differently and exploring the history of our relationship with consuming stuff. Our level of consumption is wrecking our planet and our economies are based on endless growth that is simply not sustainable. This wasn’t the quickest of reads or a “page-turner” – to me, it’s the sort of book where you dip in to a chapter at a time – but it certainly made me think about the problems of endless consumption on a planet with finite resources. Rather than resulting in the collapse of civilisation, the examples given here suggest a better world is possible if we end consumerism. Importantly, this book highlights how our individual shopping choices impact on the natural world and ultimately the future of our planet.

Hope in Hell: A Decade to Confront the Climate Emergency by Jonathon Porritt

This is a must-read, tackling all kinds of areas relating to climate change, including technology, science, politics, economics, history and geography. The author argues that the climate emergency shouldn’t be framed as an environmental issue, but one of social justice, as it affects every single person on the planet. He examines the existing solutions that could be implemented right now if there was the political will from our world leaders (the hope), but also explains in horrifying detail what sort of world will exist in the near future if we fail to act (the hell). We were lucky enough to hear Jonathon Porritt speak at our local literature festival. Having spent several decades working in the environmental field, he is an expert on the climate emergency, which makes this book even more impactful. He warns that although it’s not too late to stop runaway climate chaos, it won’t stay “not too late” for much longer, but there is still hope if we (all of us) act now.

The Art of Disruption by Magid Magid

This book gives an insight into the thoughts of Magid Magid, a Somali-born black Muslim refugee who became the youngest ever Mayor of Sheffield and a Green Party MEP. Subtitled “A Manifesto for Real Change”, the book is based around ten “commandments” written by Magid for a poster at a local music festival and illustrated with the author’s real-life experiences. From the compassionate “Be kind” and “See the good” to the more controversial “Don’t be pr*ck” and “Don’t kiss a Tory”, Magid manages both to inspire in a light-hearted way and deliver a serious message about getting involved if you want to bring about change.

Take a look at Eco-Actions for Book Lovers to see more books on our recommended reads list. And remember to borrow books from your local library if you can, buy second hand or from an independent bookseller. See this article for more tips on sustainable ways to source books and check out this post for ethical alternatives to Amazon.

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