Protect the Planet books
50 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO SAVE THE EARTH
Climate change action is needed on all levels, from the government to big companies, all the way down to our own actions every day. Sometimes it seems like we are too small to make a difference, but we can each make changes that are simple to implement, yet go a long way to help the environment. Most of the actions in 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth are described as ‘ridiculously easy,’ and it’s true – recycling your Sunday paper, planting a tree, or opting out of junk mail all add up to trees and water saved, and ultimately, lower carbon emissions.
Each tip in the book comes with background and fast facts illustrating why it is important, and steps to help you make the change. 50 Simple Things makes helping the planet foolproof – after all, if you knew that turning off the tap while you brush your teeth could save your household alone 20,000 gallons of water, wouldn’t you? Our planet is hurting, and with this book you can help it heal without hurting yourself.
We love water, but do you wonder why? We flock to the ocean and lakes to sit quietly taking it all in. We need water daily to survive. We love to splash and float in water. “The Blue Mind story seeks to reconnect people to nature in ways that make them feel good, and shows them how water can help them become better versions of themselves.”
Water is life and it touches us physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Water can give us a sense of weightlessness, floating, calm, and being fully protected. Wallace makes a strong case supported by scientists that our many connections to water are important to a happy and healthy life.
Our planet, when viewed from outer space, looks like a blue marble. Our world, blue with water, is something to cherish. His book reminds us of how connected we are to each other and nature.
FORESTS: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION
We are big fans of Very Short Introductions books from Oxford University Press. They are fabulous books that provide serious introductions in a tiny book. They are written by experts in the field who combine facts, analysis, and exploration of ideas in an enthusiastic manner that makes them easy to read.
This month we wanted to share Forests, A Very Short Introduction by Jaboury Ghazoul. Go on a whirlwind tour that includes forest origins, connections with human culture, disturbance, and dynamics — and where we are going in the future. This book is a good place to start building your brain about forests.
GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL: THE FATES OF HUMAN SOCIETIES
In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond draws from his wide-ranging knowledge of medicine, evolutionary biology, physiology, linguistics, anthropology, and geography, to try to answer big questions about human history over the past 13,000 years.
Diamond shares his thoughts on how civilization develops over time in different ways in response to environmental factors and physical barriers to travel.
For example, he makes that case that the much greater availability of domesticable plants and large animals in Eurasia than in sub-Sahara Africa and the Americas made the development of agriculture and animal husbandry spread quickly. Significant physical barriers such as the Sahara Desert and large bodies of water impeded the rapid spread of these new capabilities. The title has great significance when people from these different areas engaged, resulting in conquest and rapid impact on population by diseases. While you hear so much about the conquests and imperialism, I was shocked by the devastating impact of germs and diseases killing large portions of the population that had not been previously exposed.
Diamond is skilled at crossing disciplinary boundaries and bringing new insights to light in a thoughtful manner. If you are interested in how the world came to be, this would be a book to add to your library. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977.
Two books on how to live in harmony with our planet are: 1) Diet for a Small Planet, published in 1971, and 2) Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet, published in 1975. Both books remain powerfully relevant today. As Frances states, “Changing the way we eat will not change the world, but it may begin to change us, and then we can be part of the changing world.”
The book, Diet for a Small Planet, digs deep into our food system to understand what drives wasteful and destructive processes and how they relate to hunger around the world. She discovered the hidden “rules” and processes that result in a food system that can harm health, leave hunger, and hurt the planet. The book then shares how we can transform this awareness into actions. Frances invites us to a personal revolution that is good for people and the planet.
Hope’s Edge The Next Diet for a Small Planet is the story of the journey of Frances and her daughter Anna Lappe as they travel around the world looking for glimmers of hope. They were seeking knowledge on how people are transcending consumerism to the benefit of people and the planet. It is chocked full of inspirational stories about how we can produce, enjoy, and share food in alignment with nature. It truly gives us hope.
HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING VEGETARIAN
Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food By Mark Bittman
As a home cook, I struggled to prepare vegetarian meals. I love vegetables but making a complete delicious meal was a challenge. Once I had Mark Bittman’s book, that all melted away. Mark’s book has everything! If you like to entertain, Mark’s book has 76 appetizer recipes. There are recipes for salads, soups, vegetables, fruits, pasta, noodles, grains, beans, tofu and other high protein foods, dairy, bread, and desserts. The recipes are straightforward, unfussy, and fabulous tasting.
Some of my favorites are Pizza with Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella, Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Vegetable Stock (never buy it anymore), and Hot and Sour Soup. Guided by Mark Bittman’s book, I became a confident-cook.
RACHEL CARSON AND HER BOOK THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
Meet Rachel Carson as a little girl who loves the woods. Her mom also had a deep love of nature that she shared with Rachel as they watched the night sky and listened to the melody of nature. The book takes you on Rachel’s journey from early writing to a career in biology, to searching and finally securing a job. Her keen observation, knowledge, and determination led to her a pivotal moment when she knew she needed to write Silent Spring.
At the time, DDT was sprayed on farms, parks, and even in neighborhoods without considering the health impacts on humans, animals, birds, and other life. She was able to explain how the DDT spray used to get rid of insects was actually harming birds and other life. The chemical companies that created DDT viciously fought her book and tried to discredit Rachel. Happily, it became a global bestseller and created many positive environmental changes. This is a wonderful telling of how a thoughtful, determined person can make a difference.
Rachel Carson’s book is packed full of scientific information and shared in graceful, compelling prose from beginning to end. Her keen observation, knowledge, and determination led to her a pivotal moment when she knew she needed to write Silent Spring. At the time, the chemical DDT was indiscriminately sprayed on farms, parks, and even in neighborhoods. No consideration was taken on the health impacts on humans, animals, birds, and other life.
Rachel asked the question: “Who would want to live in a world that is not quite fatal?” Humanity had acquired the power to alter the natural world with speed and without concern for the damage to the people and the planet. Her book is powerful as we continue to damage our environment in the name of progress. Her chapters take you on a journey of the impact of chemical pollution on towns, soil, rivers, water, and animal life. The chapter on “The Human Price” is just as compelling today as the world struggles with climate change. She shows us how to understand a complex interconnected world by looking both at the big picture and the details in a thoughtful manner. We continue to deal with the hazards that we are creating. Knowing this, we can choose to progress in alignment with nature. Humans are innovative and can change. Do we need to accept that progress requires that we destroy nature? Rachel would say no. We could not agree more! Rachel Carson, we thank you for bringing your twin talents in writing and science to make a difference!
Practical Projects, Tips, and Advice for Maintaining a More Eco-friendly Household By Christine Liu
Christine Liu’s book is a practical guide to start your journey to more sustainable living. She explores everything in her home and delightfully shares how she made her life simpler and more sustainable. Christine has tips on energy usage, reducing single-use plastic, re-purposing composting, and more. Christina, like us, enjoys dining out. She shares five ways to make dining out more sustainable. You will note that it will take forethought and courage to change accepted social habits (such as bringing a reusable take-out container). These changes do make a big difference.
Christine’s mission is to inspire simple living that improves our lives and the planet. Well, she inspired us! Her book is a great way to get started or to give to someone else to encourage them to begin a sustainable lifestyle
In addition to her book, Christina is a sustainable lifestyle blogger. Her website is simplybychristine.com.
THE FUTURE WE CHOOSE
The Future We Choose makes it clear that two dates are essential to keep top of mind: 2030 and 2050. By 2050 we must have stopped emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the planet can naturally absorb through the ecosystems. To do this we must begin a significant reduction in the 2020s and reduce by 50% by 2030. So the next decade is key to mitigate the worst of the climate changes. As we take a moment to wrap our minds around this — this decade, this means now.
Christiana and Tom take us through a quick tour of the terrible consequences. They ask the question where are you? The majority of people understand and “acknowledge the evidence but take no action because they don’t know what to do, or. because it is far easier not to think about climate change. It is scary and overwhelming.” It is this global majority that can make a difference and needs to act.
The book shares 10 actions that we can take to move toward meeting the reduction targets. One of them is seeing yourself as a citizen – not a consumer. Changing this point of view lets you step back and think. Is this something I really need? Is this good for my quality of life and the planet? Changing your point of view, opens new doors and enables you to take new actions.
The Future We Choose is both scary and optimistic and suggests ambitious ways to make a difference.
THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS
Stefano Mancuso’s book reads more like a fiction travel log but incredibly it is all true. Learn about plants with different talents including the pioneers, combatants, veterans, fugitives, conquerors, courageous, time travelers, and solitary trees.
Trees live so much longer than us and move slower such that we do not notice their special traits. They grow in family groups and many trees live longer than 1000 years. They were here before us and will be after us. Years after a human traveler has planted a seed in a new location, there can be an abundance of trees that changed to flourish in the new environment. Consider this: the trees we consider invasive have special talents. They include: a great ability to spread seeds; rapid growth; capacity to alter their form in response to environmental conditions; tolerance of multiple kinds of stress; and capability of associating with humans.
This book is a pleasure from beginning to end.
“I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs – “ The Lorax wants to stop the senseless cutting of trees. But even though he shouts the cutting continues. The book is a whimsical but powerful environmental tale of how we need to listen and change before it is too late. We need to listen to the Lorax.
Dr. Suess published this captivating book in 1971. Today it resonates even more than when it was written. Gather the whole family around, read the Lorax, and make positive changes to care for our beautiful world.
Want something fun and educational to do with kids? Listen to our reading of this wonderful book. Enjoy!
THE MODERN COOKS YEAR
More Than 250 Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes to See You Through the Seasons By Anna Jones
If you are interested in vegetarian and seasonal meals, then this book is for you! Anna Jones’ lovely book wanders through the seasons with food from starters, mains, and desserts. She helps you plan your year through the chapters: herald of spring, the first warm days of summer, autumn, and winter. It is an accessible culinary adventure with recipes that put vegetables front and center.
Anna has a way of knowing what will please the taste buds in alignment with the seasons. Her recipes use creative combinations from her experiences. For example, I love lemon cake, but her lemon and cardamom upside-down cake takes it to another level. The book shines with unexpected and wonderful flavor combinations. Anna’s book makes cooking vegetarian an at-home culinary experience. I highly recommend it!
THE NEW 50 SIMPLE THINGS KIDS CAN DO TO SAVE THE EARTH
Climate change action is needed on all levels, from the government to big companies, all the way down to our own actions every day. Sometimes it seems like we are too small to make a difference, especially as a child. This updated, revised version of the classic 50 Simple Things book is geared towards helping children protect the environment.
Using the same format as the original, the kids’ version serves as an introduction to basic environmental conservation principles, such as recycling glass or drinking tap water instead of bottled water, and turns each action into a fun challenge that they will look forward to completing. This book makes saving the planet so easy that a kid could do it, and children and adults alike can use this book to start paying attention to how their lives affect what is going on around them.
THE SECRET NETWORK OF NATURE
Nature is a connected network of life that we rarely notice. Peter Wohlleben shares many examples of this interconnected-ness so we can begin to see nature in all its beautiful complexity. Based on science he leads us through life cycles where salmon, rivers, and trees support each other. We learn how wolves, bears, and fish need each other in Yellowstone National Park. To our surprise trees take loving care of their young. In one chapter he explores our role in nature.
Peter opens our eyes and we will never look at nature the same again. It is magical and deserves our understanding and care.
On page 186 he shares scientific knowledge on trees and how they care for their families. “Beeches, as well as Douglas first and other socially-oriented species, love their families. If that sounds exaggerated it’s worth taking a moment to listen to the Canadian scientist Dr. Suzanne Simard. She discovered that mother trees can sense through their roots whether the seedlings at their feet are their own children or the offspring of other trees of their own species. They support only their own children, by providing them with sugar through connected root systems – effectively by suckling them. But that is not all. To help the young trees, the parents step back underground, leaving the little ones more room, water and nutrients.”
THE SIXTH EXTINCTION
On earth, there have been 5 mass extinctions. The first was 439 million years ago and wiped out 86% of life on earth. Each extinction period wiped out a high percentage of life with the largest extinction killing 96%. The extinction we are most familiar with took place 65 million years ago and wiped out dinosaurs and 76% of life. Scientists have discovered that it was caused by asteroid impact, volcanic activity, and climate change.
Today we are in a human-dominated geological period. In 1500 there were about 500,000 people on the planet, today there are over 7 Billion. People have been to every location around the world and made changes in our wake. Simultaneously with humans dominating the planet, plants and animals are dying off at abnormally fast rates.
This human-dominated period was coined the Anthropocene by Paul Crutzen. “Among the many geological-scale changes people have effected, Crutzen cited the following:
- Human activity has transformed between 1/3 -1/2 of the land surface of the planet.
- Most of the worlds rivers have been dammed or diverted.
- Fertilizer plants produce more nitrogen than is fixed naturally by all terrestrial ecosystems.
- Fisheries remove more than 1/3rd of the primary production of the ocean’s coastal waters.
- Humans use more than half the world’s readily accessible freshwater runoff.” #1
Elizabeth’s The Sixth Extinction is deeply researched and at the same time written in prose that brings the wealth of knowledge to all of us. She takes us on a journey to understand the breadth of the human impact on the planet. With this information, we can begin to act in a way that is more sustaining to all life.
THE STORY OF MORE
If I could retitle this book, I would call it, Does This Make Sense to You? Hope shares a wealth of information in concise, eye-opening chapters that make you question things we all take for granted. When reading Chapter 2 on food, I kept asking myself, does this make sense? Learning how our food is produced and wasted is shocking. It does not make sense to me!
One example is the farming of salmon. It takes 15 pounds of fish to create 3 pounds of fish meal to feed and grow a 1 pound salmon. Once again, I find myself saying, this does not make sense.
In the chapter Throwing It All Away, we learn: “Every day, almost one billion people go hungry, while a different billion people intentionally foul enough food to feed them. We gamble our forests, freshwater, and fuel on food that we have no intention of eating and we lose every single time.”
The Story of More is a pleasure to read even though it is shocking. A must-read for anyone that wants a quick way to become informed on our impact on the planet.
VOICES IN THE OCEAN
Let Susan Casey take you on a journey around the world learning about the astonishing life of dolphins. During this journey, you will explore dolphin research along with examples of people have lived in harmony with dolphins.
The book also explores the dark side, such as the dolphin hunting grounds in Japan. Humans have had a kinship with dolphins since we met a long time ago. The more you know about dolphins, the more you want to protect these magnificent marine creatures in their wild environment. As Susan says, “Their voices were not ours, their language is unknown to us, but if we listened we could hear their song.”
WHOSE WATER IS IT?
Who owns the water you drink? Is it owned by governments, private companies, or individuals? The ansers are complicated and across different countries the answers are different. Many of the water approaches were developed when people thought there was an abundant supply. But today, we know this is not true.
According to the United Nations, water use is growing faster than the poulation. By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water. Much of the water systems of today are outdated and need costly updates. Water supplies that were once publicly owned have been taken on by private companies with the hope of upgraded and better management. There is much controversy about this approach. England’s water is all private, in the United States 73 million people are serviced by private companies, and in Chile all urban areas are private.
This book, Whose Water is it?, edited by Bernadette McDonald and Douglas Jehl, was published in 2003 and each chapter is by a different author. It is a valuable book to give you a fast grounding on the complexity of water issues that existed in 2003 and have only gotten bigger.
Who owns the water you drink?
What is the condition of the water systems?
Do you live in a drought prone area?
More on the Topic
Check out our Insights on water usage by State (US) and Country. Use our calculator to learn more about your personal water usage. Together we can learn more about who owns our water, where it comes from, and how much we use.
ZERO WASTE HOME
Zero Waste Home is a story of Bea Johnson and her family awakening to the benefits of reducing the waste in their home. Bea is all in with zero waste. Their family has reduced their waste dramatically and love their new lifestyle. Bea is called the mother of the zero-waste lifestyle. The Johnson family has found many benefits to the new lifestyle: financial (less stuff costs less), health (reducing exposure to chemicals), and time (less time managing stuff).
Her approach is the “5 R’s”: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot. For each category, Bea shares thoughts on how she reduced their waste. The best aspects of her book are the questions she poses you ask yourself. It is so easy in our busy lives to get caught up in consumerism that leads to habits that harm your health and the planet. Once you ask yourself these questions, you begin to formulate answers. Thinking about your waste and then exploring the ideas for reduction gives you all you need to get started.
Even if you are not ready to test the extremes of zero waste, you can get started to reduce waste to gain both benefits for your life and the planet.
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