Your heart is a muscle the size of a fist by Sunil Yapa (Little, Brown, 2016)
This novel really affected me because I have been learning about direct action and nonviolent protest in recent months. It takes place at the direct action protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization meeting in 1999, where police beat up on the anti-globalization protesters. The story is told in short chapters that go back and forth between the perspectives of various people present, from police officers to protesters to a WTO delegate. Yet the reader really gets to know each character and how their day on the street broke their hearts. The Chief of Police’s son, in this story anyway, ran away at 16 three years ago, but has found his way back to Seattle and ends up participating in the protests. Another protester runs away due to fear that if arrested she’ll be charged with a murder that took place several years before. Some of the police officers have no problem hurting the protesters for reasons of their own, though this is not the Chief’s intention. Through the medium of a novel, the author makes strong statements about globalization, free trade, the freedom to protest, love, and police brutality.
Prosperity without growth: economics for a finite planet by Tim Jackson (EarthScan, 2011)
Endless economic growth is a fundamental requirement of capitalist economics, but a disaster for a finite planet. Since we happen to live on a finite planet (not there are any infinite ones out there), this is a problem looking for an economist with an understanding of ecology to solve. That economist is Tim Jackson, a British professor who has both the academic knowledge of economic theories and models and a grasp of the finite character of our natural resources. Although this book is somewhat dry reading for all of us non-economists out here in the real world (there are equations), it is quite well done. Jackson makes some excellent points about the psychology of material possessions and how capitalist economics has made consumerism a virtually inescapable part of our lives in order to continue the cycle of economic growth. He goes on to explore a variety of alternate approaches that would allow us to live sustainably in both the economic and environmental senses.
Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010)
Bill McKibben is one of the most well-known environmentalists in the United States. He is the author of a number of best-selling books, including The End of Nature, and the founder of climate change group 350.org. So even though this book is six years old now, it’s worth reading and even owning. The premise is that we no longer live on the planet we grew up on, Earth; instead it is a new planet, symbolized by the extra “a” in the name. After six years of “this year is the hottest year ever,” and the knowledge that we went over 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere a couple years back, this is not that radical an idea anymore. In this book McKibben makes the point that global warming is already happening, not something that we are doing to our grandchildren. He talks about how that realization led to him founding 350.org, and how we can learn to live on this “tough new planet.” We are going to need to localize our economies, get to know our neighbors, and live more sustainably; relying on endless economic growth and global trade is not going work in this new world.
All-Electric America: A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future by S. David Freeman and Leah Y. Parks (Solar Flare Press, 2016)
In this optimistic paperback, the authors make a persuasive case that converting the United States to an all-renewable energy supply by 2050 is not only desirable, but possible. They say quite definitely on the first page that we can in fact supply all our energy needs with renewable energy now. We have the technology to replace all of our electricity capacity (about one million MW) with solar and wind sources within the next 35 years. We can fuel all our transportation, heating, and industrial needs with renewable electric power, and do so more cheaply than we do now. Not only has the cost of solar and wind come down tremendously, there is now energy storage technology available to make 100% reliance on renewable sources feasible. Read this book and share the good news!