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Selections followed by an asterisk* are recommended as good basic primers.
Baker, Carolyn. Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse
The collapse of industrial civilization is rapidly unfolding and offers us an opportunity far beyond mere survival, even as it renders absurd any attempts to “fix” or prevent the end of the world as we have known it. Sacred Demise is about the transformation of human consciousness and the emergence of a new paradigm as a result discovering our purpose in the collapse process, thereby coming home to our ultimate place in the universe. Our willingness to consciously embark on the journey with openness and uncertainty may be advantageous for engendering a quantum evolutionary leap for our species and for the earth community.
Berry, Thomas. The Great Work: Our Way into the Future.
One of the most eminent cultural historians of our time presents the culmination of his ideas and calls for us to experience creation as a source of wonder and delight rather than a commodity for our personal use. “The future can exist only if humans understand how to commune with the natural world rather than exploit it,” explains Thomas Berry. "Already the planet is so damaged and the future is so challenged by its rising human population that the terms of survival will be severe beyond anything we have known in the past."
Brown, Peter and Geoffrey Garver. Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy
Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Garver use the core Quaker principle of "right relationship"--respecting the integrity, resilience, and beauty of human and natural communities--as the foundation for a new economic model. Right Relationship poses five basic questions: What is an economy for? How does it work? How big is too big? What's fair? And how can it best be governed? Brown and Garver expose the antiquated, shortsighted, and downright dangerous assumptions that underlie our current answers to these questions, as well as the shortcomings of many reform efforts. They propose new answers that combine an acute awareness of ecological limits with a fundamental focus on fairness and a concern with the spiritual, as well as material, well-being of the human race. And they outline what each of us can do to enable life's commonwealth.
Buhner, Stephen. The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature
Reveals the use of direct perception in understanding Nature, medicinal plants, and the healing of human disease. Explores the techniques used by indigenous and Western peoples to learn directly from the plants themselves, including those of Henry David Thoreau, Goethe, and Masanobu Fukuoka, author of The One Straw Revolution. Author Stephen Harrod Buhner explores this ... mode of perception in great detail through the work of numerous remarkable people, from Luther Burbank, who cultivated the majority of food plants we now take for granted, to the great German poet and scientist Goethe and his studies of the metamorphosis of plants. Buhner explores the commonalities among these individuals in their approach to learning from the plant world and outlines the specific steps involved. Readers will gain the tools necessary to gather information directly from the heart of Nature, to directly learn the medicinal uses of plants, to engage in diagnosis of disease, and to understand the soul-making process that such deep connection with the world engenders.
Christie, Douglas. Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes on Contemplative Ecology
What might it mean to behold the world with such depth and feeling that it is no longer possible to imagine it as something separate from ourselves, or to live without regard for its well-being? Douglas E. Christie proposes a distinctively contemplative approach to ecological thought and practice that can help restore our sense of the earth as a sacred place. Drawing on the insights of the early Christian monastics as well as the ecological writings of Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, and many others, Christie argues that, at the most basic level, it is the quality of our attention to the natural world that must change if we are to learn how to live in a sustainable relationship with other living organisms and with one another.
Flannery, Tim. The Weather Makers *
The Weather Makers is both an urgent warning and a call to arms, outlining the history of climate change, how it will unfold over the next century, and what we can do to prevent a cataclysmic future. Originally somewhat of a global-warming skeptic, Flannery spent several years researching the topic and offers a connect-the-dots approach for a reading public that has received patchy and misleading information on the subject. Along with a riveting history of how climate change has shaped our planet's evolution, Flannery offers specific suggestions for action for both lawmakers and individuals.
Greer, John Michael. Our Ecotechnic Future
In response to the coming impact of peak oil, John Michael Greer helps us envision the transition from an industrial society to a sustainable ecotechnic world - not returning to the past, but creating a society that supports relatively advanced technology on a sustainable resource base.
Fusing human ecology and history, this book challenges assumptions held by mainstream and alternative thinkers about the evolution of human societies. Human societies, like ecosystems, evolve in complex and unpredictable ways, making it futile to try to impose rigid ideological forms on the patterns of evolutionary change. Instead, social change must explore many pathways over which we have no control. The troubling and exhilarating prospect of an open-ended future, he proposes, requires dissensus - a deliberate acceptance of radical diversity that widens the range of potential approaches to infinity.
Greer, John Michael. The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered.
The Wealth of Nature proposes a new model of economics based on the integral value of ecology. Building on the foundations of E. F. Schumacher's revolutionary "economics as if people mattered," this book examines the true cost of confusing money with wealth. By analyzing the mistakes of contemporary economics, it shows how an economy centered on natural capital—the raw materials that support human life—can move our society toward a more productive relationship with the planet that sustains us all.
Gwyn, Douglas. A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation
A well-known Quaker historian explores the qualities of Quaker faith and practice that contribute to living sustainably in the world today. He explores such paradoxes as equality and community, unity and differentiation, integrity and personal discernment, and other aspects of life that Quakers have worked to bring into balance through their 350-year history. How have Quakers learned to create the kind of individual and community life that can prepare us to live fully and responsibly into a time of social and planetary change?
Hamilton, Clive. Requiem for a Species
Sometimes facing up to the truth is just too hard. There have been any number of urgent scientific reports in recent years emphasising just how dire the future looks and how little time we have left to act. But around the world only a few have truly faced up to the facts about global warming. This book is about why we have ignored those warnings, so that now it is too late. It is a book about the frailties of the human species: our strange obsessions, our hubris, and our penchant for avoiding the facts. It is the story of a battle within us between the forces that should have caused us to protect the earth, like our capacity to reason and our connection to nature, and our greed, materialism and alienation from nature, which, in the end, have won out.
Hawken, Paul. Blessed Unrest: How The Largest Movement In The World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
Blessed Unrest explores the diversity of the “movement”, its brilliant ideas, innovative strategies, and hidden history, which date back many centuries. A culmination of Hawken's many years of leadership in the environmental and social justice fields, it will inspire and delight any and all who despair of the world's fate, and its conclusions will surprise even those within the movement itself. Fundamentally, it is a description of humanity's collective genius, and the unstoppable movement to reimagine our relationship to the environment and one another.
Keogh, Martin (Ed). Hope Beneath Our Feet
Hope Beneath Our Feet creates a space for change with stories, meditations, and essays that address the question, “If our world is facing an imminent environmental catastrophe, how do I live my life right now?” This collection provides tools, both practical and spiritual, to those who care about our world and to those who are just now realizing they need to care. Featuring prominent environmentalists, artists, CEOs, grassroots activists, religious figures, scientists, policy makers, and indigenous leaders, Hope Beneath Our Feet shows readers how to find constructive ways to channel their energies and fight despair with engagement and participation.
Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
In her most provocative book yet, Naomi Klein, author of the global bestsellers The Shock Doctrine and No Logo, tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth. Klein exposes the myths that are clouding the climate debate. We have been told the market will save us, when in fact the addiction to profit and growth is digging us in deeper every day. We have been told it’s impossible to get off fossil fuels when in fact we know exactly how to do it—it just requires breaking every rule in the “free-market” playbook: reining in corporate power, rebuilding local economies, and reclaiming our democracies.
Kolbert, Elizabeth. Field Notes from a Catastrophe *
The author approaches the monumental problem of climate change from every angle. She travels to the Arctic, interviews researchers and enviros, explains the science and the studies, draws frightening parallels to ancient civilizations, unpacks the politics, and presents personal tales of those who make their homes near the poles – and, in an eerie foreshadowing, are watching their worlds disappear.
Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction
A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes. The dinosaurs were killed during the Fifth Extinction — which scientists suspect was caused by an asteroid. Now, we are living through an epoch that many scientists describe as the Sixth Extinction, and this time, human activity is the culprit. As one scientist put it: We're the asteroid. Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of the new book The Sixth Extinction. It begins with a history of the "big five" extinctions of the past, and goes on to explain how human behavior is creating a sixth one — including our use of fossil fuels and the effects of climate change.
Lynas, Mark. Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet National Geographic
Based on authoritative scientific articles, the latest computer models, and information about past warm events in Earth history, Six Degrees promises to be an eye-opening warning that humanity will ignore at its peril. Possibly the most graphic treatment of global warming that has yet been published, this compelling book uses accessible journalistic prose to distill what environmental scientists portend about the consequences of human pollution for the next 100 years.
Macy, Joanna. Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth
Showing the deep connection between our present ecological crisis and our lack of awareness of the sacred nature of creation, this series of essays from spiritual and environmental leaders around the world shows how humanity can transform its relationship with the Earth. Combining the thoughts and beliefs from a diverse range of essayists, this collection highlights the current ecological crisis and articulates a much-needed spiritual response to it.
Macy, Joanna and Chris Johnstone. Active Hope (2011) New World Library.
The challenges we face can be difficult even to think about. Climate change, the depletion of oil, economic upheaval, and mass extinction together create a planetary emergency of overwhelming proportions. Active Hope shows us how to strengthen our capacity to face this crisis so that we can respond with unexpected resilience and creative power. Drawing on decades of teaching an empowerment approach known as the Work That Reconnects, the authors guide us through a transformational process informed by mythic journeys, modern psychology, spirituality, and holistic science. This process equips us with tools to face the mess we’re in and play our role in the collective transition, or Great Turning, to a life-sustaining society.
Macy, Joanna and Molly Young Brown. Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (1998, 2014) New Society
Since its publication in 1983, Joanna Macy's book, Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age has sold nearly 30,000 copies and has been the primary resource for groups of men and women confronting the challenging realities of our time without succumbing to paralysis or panic. Coming Back to Life provides a much needed update and expansion of this pioneering work. At the interface between spiritual breakthrough and social action, Coming Back to Life is eloquent and compelling as well as being an inspiring and practical guide. The first third of the book discusses with extraordinary insight the angst of our era, and the pain, fear, guilt and inaction it has engendered; it then points forward to the way out of apathy, tio "the work that reconnects". The rest of the book offers both personal counsel and easy-to-use methods for working with groups in a number of ways to profoundly affect peoples' outlook and ability to act in the world.
McKibben, Bill. The End of Nature (1989) *
This impassioned plea for radical and life-renewing change is today still considered a groundbreaking work in environmental studies. McKibben's argument that the survival of the globe is dependent on a fundamental, philosophical shift in the way we relate to nature is more relevant than ever. McKibben writes of our earth's environmental cataclysm, addressing such core issues as the greenhouse effect, acid rain, and the depletion of the ozone layer. His new introduction addresses some of the latest environmental issues that have risen during the 1990s. The book also includes an invaluable new appendix of facts and figures that surveys the progress of the environmental movement. This book, appearing two years after James Hansen's ground-breaking testimony before Congress, was a game-changer, awakening an unwitting public to the new planetary reality.
Moore, Kathleen Dean. Moral Ground (2011)
Moral Ground brings together the testimony of over 80 visionaries — theologians and religious leaders, scientists, elected officials, business leaders, naturists, activists, and writers — to present a diverse and compelling call to honor our individual and collective moral responsibilities to our planet. In the face of environmental degradation and global climate change, scientific knowledge alone does not tell us what we ought to do. The missing premise of the argument and much-needed centerpiece in the debate to date has been the need for ethical values, moral guidance, and principled reasons for doing the right thing for our planet, its animals, its plants, and its people. This book encourages a newly discovered, or rediscovered, commitment to consensus about our ethical obligation to the future and why it’s wrong to wreck the world.
Monbiot, George. Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning (2006)
Today virtually none of us ask, “Is climate change actually happening?” Only one question is worth asking, “Can it be stopped?” George Monbiot thinks it can. And with Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning, he offers us a book that just might save our world. For the first time, Heat demonstrates that we can achieve the necessary cut—a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030—without bringing civilization to an end. Though writing with a “spirit of optimism,” Monbiot does not pretend it will be easy. Our response will have to be immediate, and it will have to be decisive.
With dazzling intellect and ample wit, Monbiot supports his proposals with a rigorous investigation into what works, what doesn’t, how much it costs, and what the problems might be. And he is not afraid to attack anyone—friend or foe—whose claims are false or whose figures have been fudged. There is no time to waste, Monbiot observes, “We are the last generation that can make this happen, and this is the last possible moment at which we can make it happen.”
Muller, Richard A. Physics and Technology for Future Presidents: An Introduction to the Essential Physics Every World Leader Needs to Know
Based on Richard Muller's renowned course at Berkeley, the book explores the essential physics needed to understand today's core science and technology issues, with an eye to supporting the next generation of world leaders. From the physics of energy to climate change, and from spy technology to quantum computers, this is the only textbook to focus on the modern physics affecting the decisions of political leaders and CEOs and, consequently, the lives of every citizen. How practical are alternative energy sources? Can satellites really read license plates from space? What is the quantum physics behind iPods and supermarket scanners? And how much should we fear a terrorist nuke?
Northwest Earth Institute. Choices for Sustainable Living.
A self-led discussion course book designed to spark shared learning, shared stories, and shared action. Includes tips and guidelines to help facilitators organize a course. Read more.
Weisman, Alan. The World Without Us (2007)
In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us. In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; what of our everyday stuff may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe.
Internet Resources
Northwest Earth Institute
NWEI was founded in 1993 with a simple objective: to give people a framework to talk about our relationship with the planet and to share in discovering new ways to live, work, create and consume. We believe change should be fun. There’s no shortage of information about the serious challenges facing our planet – and although most people say they would like to do more, they don’t know where to start. That’s where we come in. For 20 years, NWEI has helped make change more possible, more social, and yes, more fun by helping people connect with their communities and take action, together. We believe the little things make a big difference.

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Last modified: February 27, 2016