From the Sustainability Office: What We're Reading

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Who doesn't like to relax with some reading material? Whether you're looking for hope in the future or to be scared into recycling, our team offers some news sources, websites, and books you can turn to for enhancing your knowledge of the environment. 



Environmental Policy

With all the political chaos happening in America right now, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to how the government is affecting our environment. Usually newspapers provide comprehensive takes on environmental policy, reporting on daily events and government decisions. Politico has an “Environment & Energy” section that gives great news updates on the federal government’s actions on climate, conservation, and administration activities. Politico is often short and digestible with stories about the status of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the European Union’s energy policy. The Christian Science Monitor, alternatively, gives more in-depth analyses of environmental policy, like how to farm on a warming planet and endangered species recovery, and even covers environmental policy on a state level. For a more mainstream source, check out the Washington Post. I’ve always admired the newspaper for its reporting and diversity in coverage, from listing the bumble bee as endangered to scientists’ concern about the future of the EPA. — Gennifer Geer, Sustainability Intern


Fact and Fiction 

Did you know that renewables now account for nearly 20% of all electrical generating capacity in the US? Or that one out of every 50 new jobs in the US in 2016 was in the solar industry? You would if you subscribed to the free e-newsletter from Renewable Energy World. Their newsletter is my go-to source for staying up-to-date on the dramatic revolution in renewable energy. If you feel nothing but despair when you read the news, Renewable Energy World will give you hope.

However, if it is despair you seek, then there are few environmental novels darker and more disturbing than Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife”. Set in the American Southwest in the near future, Bacigalupi casts a dystopian view of a collapsed America with frighteningly logical extensions and amplifications of current environmental and social problems, chiefly water scarcity and climate change. The violence in the book is brutal and at times overwhelming, but perhaps even more scary is how realistic Bacigalupi’s scenario seems, how perilously close we are to descending into ruin. — Richard Johnson, Sustainability Director


Solar Storms

Linda Hogan’s novel “Solar Storms” takes a new perspective on human interaction with the Earth. It tells the story of a young Native American girl named Angela Jensen in 1972, who seeks the help of her family to find her birth mother. Before they begin their canoe journey, Angela’s aunt, Bush, teaches her about the environment. From fishing to gardening, Bush knows it all, and she cares for it all. Then one day, two men approach the family and tell of a new hydroelectric dam built in the area. Infuriated, Bush pushes forward the departure date to witness the dam. Along the way, they notice the devastation on the earth: mudflats have replaced rivers, vegetation has been whipped away, and animals are nowhere to be seen. The novel tells numerous stories of environmental changes from various perspectives, making it an interesting and enlightening read. — Katherine Zoellmer, Sustainability Intern


Sustainable Design

More often than not, the things we create and use day to day are turned into waste, which in turn damages our environment considerably. In “Cradle to Cradle”, architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart investigate how this came to be and outline strategies for changing this part of our society. Printed on recyclable “treeless” plastic resin pages, this book will, without a doubt, change the way you think about sustainable design and how you use your purchasing power. Anyone involved with making things will be inspired to put the authors’ eco-effectiveness strategies into practice. If this interests you, “inhabitat” is also a great website for news regarding design and sustainability. — Emma Foster, Sustainability Intern


Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel

In Carl Safina’s nonfiction book “Beyond Words, he explores the complex topic of animal thoughts and emotions. From his research and observations of elephants in Amboseli National Park, wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and killer whales in the Pacific Northwest, he finds that these animals possess unique personalities and experience emotions such as joy, grief, jealousy, anger, and love. With so many similarities between human and non-human consciousness, the book shows the importance of how exactly we should be treating animals and interacting with the natural world. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to protect the planet for all living species. — Veronica Johnson, Former Sustainability Intern


Nature Crime: What We're Getting Wrong About Conservation

A lot of my ideas about how modern conservation should work had to be reevaluated after I read “Nature Crime”. This book explores many concepts, describes interesting case studies, and makes cogent arguments on important controversies. One of the biggest realizations I had was just how much of our conception of conservation is a Western ideal — one that is forced upon communities around the world which may also have legitimate and innovative ideas on conservation. This book is perfect for someone who is well-versed in conservation issues, but the writing is so clear and the flow so organized that even a newcomer will get a lot out of “Nature Crime”. — Ben Johnson, Sustainability Intern


Maximum Ride Book Series

Global warming and climate change are two things that we all hear about on a daily basis. However, does anyone ever really take the time to look into the impact they have on the world? Perhaps you think it is boring, but James Patterson’s Maximum Ride book series will change your mind. The books are a young adult fiction series that focus on mutated children. While the books are entertaining and fast reads, they also delve into deeper issues. In “The Final Warning”, the group travels to Antarctica to learn more about what global warming is doing to the environment there. In “MAX”, the group presents its findings at environmental awareness shows and learn more about the dangers of polluting the ocean. While these books are not the most scholarly, they provide a fun way to learn more about the impacts of global warming. The series is a great way to wind down and just read a good book. — Niki Parekh, Sustainability Intern