There were four of us at the end of the 2020, all in our 70s and 80s, who decided to do two things: 1) inform ourselves about climate issues, and 2) figure out ways to put our bodies, minds, lifestyles, and financial resources on the line in service to supporting climate solutions.
We called our group the Elder Activist Readers (EAR). A few others joined us. And between January 2021 and now (end of 2022), we’ve read books which introduced us to new understanding and new priorities. Gradually we are making changes and taking action.
Here are the book titles in the order in which we read them.
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K Wilkerson (eds), All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, 2020. A terrific compilation of essays, poetry, information, and wake-up calls by 60 diverse women who are out to save what we can of the Earth before it’s too late. In addition, the brilliant editors of this book are championing and guiding the formation of small circles of readers and activists. See https://www.allwecansave.earth/circles.
Shalanda H. Baker, Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition, 2021. A Wow! book—I had no idea what a politicized thing electricity was. Baker is an expert and activist on the production, transmission, ownership, management, and all issues related to this massively important resource. I understood at least 75% of what she was talking about. The book is a rare education.
Arlie Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, 2016. It can be immensely challenging to understand the point of view of the other side. This book helps.
Kate Haworth, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist, 2017. Another Wow! book. It’s about systems—clearly explaining the dysfunctional, dangerous, out-of-date economics we live with now, and how we could undergo a seven-step redesign program to create an economics where all can thrive. It’s won high praise, prizes, recognition. I understood about 95% of it.
asknature.org website—created by Janine Benyus, Biomimicry Institute. A most inspiring inquiry into the potential sources of climate solutions galore—if only we practice close observation and heightened awareness about nature, which has had millions of years to experiment with and tweak what works.
Lydia Millet, A Children’s Bible, 2020. A book fits the new genre of climate fiction. It’s an allegory about caring, confused, abandoned kids and addicted, obtuse, depressed parents in a time when society collapses. Requires thoughtful reading—looking for and appreciating the subtext.
Paul Hawken, Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation, 2021. What a gift this book is. It addresses the main domains in which we must make change: oceans, forests, wilding, land, people, city, food, energy, and industry. Within each domain, there are two-to-three page essays on subtopics, with photos, definitions, descriptions, facts, numbers, statistics, and dates. I doubt if there’s a better resource for talking points for a lay-person.
Kristin Ohlsen, The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet, 2014. A hopeful, informative book about the possibilities of turning around the destructiveness of industrial farming, healing the land, and mitigating global warming by doing differently—protecting and honoring soil. Also see the video “Kiss the Ground.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants, 2013. A classic by an Indigenous scientist and mother who writes like a novelist and observes like a poet. Her “central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.”
Imbolo Mbue, How Beautiful We Were, 2021. A heart-piercing novel about the generations of villagers in a fictional African country who resist the devastation visited upon them by the American oil industry. Read it and weep for our collective complicity and the anguish that’s resulted. The author is Cameroonian.
Currently (October 2022) we are reading Vanessa Machado de Oliveira, Hospicing Modernity: Facing Humanity’s Wrongs and the Implications for Social Activism, 2021. A Brazilian-born mixed-race academic, teaching in Canada, breaks the spell of modernity and colonialism. She asks the reader to work hard via stories, to look deep within, face “self-unmaking,” and grow up.