Beacon Press (April 1994)
Paperback: 534 pages
With each new year, the positive accomplishments of the economy have become less evident and the destructive consequences larger. When vital issues such as the capacity of the earth to support life have to be treated, as they are in neo-classical economics, as externalities, it is time to start with a different set of concepts that will lead us to a deeper understanding of what is happening on our planet. This book analyzes the economic underpinnings of an economy that functions as an enormous digestive tract, consuming vaste resources and excreting huge amounts of waste. The authors discuss the changes afoot that will bring us to a more sustainable community life that respects the environment and treats it with reverence. [review by Macon Cowles]
Beacon Press (September 1997)
Paperback: 264 pages
Many people will recognize Herman Daly as an economist who worked for many years at the World Bank where he specialized in analyzing development projects around the world and the effects of these projects on increasing growth, GDP and the welfare of the people in the countries where these projects were carried out.
Beyond Growth is an important look at how the economy deals, and fails to deal, with some of the most important problems facing modern society—allocation, scale and distribution. The market economy does an amazingly good job of efficiently allocating its productive capacity so as to produce the right number of watches, cars and other goods. But it does nothing to calibrate the scale of the overall economy, which is currently wrecking natural systems by its size and growth, its voracious appetite for natural resources and its prodigious production of waste. Nor has the economy dealt successfully with the challenge of distribution of goods to people who need and can usefully employ them, since the economy answers the whims of the wealthy before responding to the basic needs of 2 billion of the world’s people.
The thesis of Beyond Growth is that there is a happier place for us to be than in a spiral of unending exponential growth. That place is the steady state economy.[review by Macon Cowles]
Chelsea Green Pub Co (September 1999)
Paperback: 236 pages
The current environmental crises are well documented in the literature; each new month brings another authoritative pronouncement on one or another environmental problem, but in sum, here are the facts. We live in a world with the following: swelling populations concentrated in the poorest parts of the globe; declining fish stocks; declining per capita amount of land available for food production, with 40% of the available land seriously degraded; global financial turmoil; desperate migrations of people often caused by environmental or natural disasters; rising conflict over resources; toxic pollution affecting nearly every living organism; climate change; unprecedented destruction of forests, the living lungs of the planet; freshwater aquifers being pumped beyond the rate of recharge such that net depletion around the world is equal to twice the annual flow of the Nile River; the decline of the diversity, and populations, of species.
The central thesis of Believing Cassandra is that growth must cease but that, paradoxically, development must accelerate. Growth is an increase in one or more measured aspects of the human economy. Growth requires an increase in material and energy flows through the economy, which uses the natural world as a reservoir from which it draws raw materials and energy, as well as a sink for its wastes. Development, on the other hand, “refers to improvements in human technology and advances in the human condition, including health, education, intelligence, wisdom, freedom, and the capacity to love.” “The world is in a continuous process of transformative change. The task before us is to redirect that process toward an elegant set of solutions to the unprecedented problems facing humanity—and to do so quickly.” [review by Macon Cowles]
Hungry Mind Press (1995)
Paperback: 237 pages
Bill McKibben's Hope, Human and Wild is an inspirational book, which is a shift from his preceding work. In his previous book, The End of Nature, he grimly outlines worldwide environmental degradation. But as he puts it in Hope, Human and Wild (roughly): "I'm through being depressed." He focuses on efforts around the world that have improved the environment. Interestingly enough, much of his focus is on developing world nations rather than developed ones. Developing world nations are notorious for having out-of-control environmental problems--consider the destruction of the Amazon and the ever-expanding population in India. But McKibben goes to both countries in order to find out what's working there environmentally and finds lots. Thus the title of his book.
The book demonstrates how just a few people can make a big difference; in Curitiba, Brazil, one man basically transformed a city, making it much more environmentally friendly while helping the large population of poor people. In Kerala, India, McKibben outlines how relatively few individuals established social and economic policies made possible a hopeful environmental future. McKibben also talks about the regeneration of East Coast forests and wilderness areas.
Hope, Human and Wild suggests that environmental concern is a nascent and visceral impulse in all of us--whatever our backgrounds and wherever we live. We just need an well-written book like McKibben's to help unleash it. It's an easy read that inspires. [review by Rebecca Dickson]
This book was recommended by Steve Welter
Farra Strauss and Giroux
This book was recommended by Steve Welter
In Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, Terry Tempest Williams writes of family ties, attachment to the Earth and its processes, toxic American environmental and military policies, and the death of her mother. Sound like too much for one book? Not for Williams. She manages to pull all of these elements together with grace and apparent ease. Williams might make you weep, but she also expresses and affirms a deep spiritual connection to Utah and the American West. The book also is inspirational—by the end, it becomes a call to those who love the land to defend it. Williams connects standing up for the land to self-defense; that is, that a healthy land fosters healthy people who do not die of cancer, as Williams’ mother did. The book is highly informative and convincing. It’s also a good read - poetic and rich. [Review by Rebecca Dickson]
Back Bay Books; 1st edition (October 2000)
Paperback: 396 pages
The world of business is changing, fast. The prevailing model for creating wealth, a model that has its roots in the industrial revolution and that dominated the last century, no longer applies. Natural Capitalism introduces an alternative, a new paradigm. Praised by business and political leaders as well as economists and environmentalists around the globe, this groundbreaking book reveals how tomorrow's most successful global business will draw profit from their own environmental responsibility. [Review by Sonya Guram]
W W Norton and Company, New York
The scope of this book is huge. It describes what has happened in the 13,500 years since we started growing plants and “getting civilized”. Why do Papua New Guineans still hunt for their food while we have cars and a house full of junk? Jared Diamond gives the answer in a series of historical episodes about development and conquest. Although it skirts around sensitive issues of racism and politics, it manages to steer a crisp course charting facts and consequences. Another example: why have we domesticated the llama but not the gazelle? Why can we hunt with dogs but not a cheetah? Believe me, the answer will amaze and entertain you at the same time. Why did the growing of wheat spread across Eurasia while the squash stayed stubbornly on the eastern seaboard? It’s obvious after he’s told you. This is the most epic story ever told and it’s the story of us. Just go and buy it. [Review by Peter Butler]
This book was recommended by Maggie Glover.
This book was recommended by Maggie Glover.
North Point Press
From the Introduction: "We see a world of abundance, not limits. In the midst of a great deal of talk about reducing the human ecological footprint, we offer a different vision. What if humans designed products and systems that celebrate an abundance of human creativity, culture, and productivity? That are so intelligent and safe, our species leaves an ecological footprint to delight in, not lament?"
I found this to be an easy, useful, and thoughtful read. I particularly liked the emphasis on rethinking the ways we design, use, and re-use products so that they are not "less bad" but good. Lots of examples from nature and industry help illustrate their points. [Review by Ken Regelson]
Henry Holt and Company
Ansel Adams was the greatest photographer who ever lived. There I’ve said it. Am I biased? I don't think so but check with my cat, Ansel. Yes, there were others who produced great social documentary, or portraits or sports or war action, but no other photographer knew so much about how a camera works, how film works, what light does and how to use that knowledge to make art. That was art that changed the way people thought about the environment. Imagine this, today we have the most sophisticated cameras and imaging software ever devised, but still the lens cannot take in the whole scene and the film (or CCD) cannot capture the full range of brightness of daylight. So imagine where the state of the art was in 1941 when Ansel Adams was driving through New Mexico looking for photo subjects. Suddenly he noticed a charming scene. The setting sun was illuminating graveyard crosses in the tiny town of Hernandez while the moon was rising over the mountains behind the town. He knew that he had only seconds to capture the image. Assembling his camera and tripod as fast as possible, he could not find his exposure meter, so rather than risk losing the shot he calculated the exposure based on his knowledge of the luminance of the moon at 250 candles per square foot, and still produced a masterpiece. Are you kidding me? Luminance of the moon? Most photographers today just let the computer do the thinking and wouldn’t know what luminance was if it shone into their eyes. Despite its unlikely birth, that image became his best-loved photograph out of hundreds of well-loved photographs. Adams later developed his Zone System, a method of deciding how to allocate the available shades of gray in a photograph to show the scene to its best effect. This was a huge advance over prior methods using averaged meter readings. The Zone System is still used and respected by photographers thanks to his generous sharing of that huge knowledge in three pivotal books, The Camera, The Negative, and The Print. But Adams only ever used his gigantic level of craft in service of communicating beautiful places to others. At a time when people were starting to surround themselves with cities and concrete, he showed what natural beauty was out there, to be seen and enjoyed.
Ansel Adams's first association with the Sierra Club was on an outing in 1927 but he was soon working as an official photographer and rose through the ranks to become a board member on which he served as a director for 37 years until 1971. This excellent book by Mary Street Alinder paints a complete and fascinating portrait of a complex and important figure. It shows how Ansel Adams led many of us out of the darkness and into the light. [Review by Peter Butler]
Alfred A Knopf, New York (Publisher)
This is an astonishing book that represents the author's life work.It's totally jam packed with color illustrations of the highest quality. If you hang up seeds for the birds in your garden or yard you owe it to yourself to get this reference. What? You don't have a seed feeder? OK we'll all wait while you shoot out and buy one. Got it up? Great - now we're all on the same page. You wouldn't want to miss out on the best free enterainment since Public Access TV. You can see petty squabbles, family dynamics and acrobatics for pennies. OK so now you've got local avian action on your feeder - what's that funny yellow thing. It's a Bullock's Oriole - wow! This book not only describes all the regional variants but the male, female and juvenile variants too. Now you realise that those six species of finchy looking things gobbling the sunflower seeds are all Dark-eyed Juncos. How could you have lived your whole life and never say the word Junco? Now colorful Scrub Jays and Goldfinches are lining up to entertain you and you can say "How are you doing Aphelocoma californica?"."What's going on Carduelis tristis?" I just wish there was a book on skunks this good. [Review by Peter Butler]