This list was compiled by the Ted Scripps Fellowship Advisory Board and CEJ staff.
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: This book of Abbey's early writings from the area around what is now Arches National Park is his best. If you've never read it, grab a copy and take it to Moab for the weekend. Right now.
Janine Benyus, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature: Science writer discusses "technological inventions that mimic and learn from the natural world," which may hold the key to more sustainable living.
Henry Beston, The Outermost House: Set on Cape Cod, it's a wonderful book about solitude, nature and our tenuous place in it. Think Thoreau, but with a heart.
Bruce Brown, Mountain in the Clouds: A Search for the Wild Salmon: "Brown's thoughtful study of the decline of the wild Pacific salmon shows that men conquered fish not with 'ingenuity' but with brute force, ignorance and greed…As he documented in the course of three years of research on the rivers of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula, the salmon are today dying out even in remote areas…Neither sentimental nor simple, Mountain in the Clouds is a model of ecological history." --New York Times Book Review
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring: "The outcry that followed the 1962 publication of this book forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land and water. Carson's book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement." --Amazon.com editorial review
Alston Chase, In a Dark Wood: A slightly more conservative take on environmental issues, an intellectual challenge to the concept of biocentrism. Told through the Pacific Northwest's battle over the spotted owl, Chase tells a story without any real villains while shaking up conventional environmental thought about ecosystems, endangered species and ecology. Recommended for two reasons: a fascinating effort to weave hard news about the environment with philosophy, and a good counterbalance to the standard fare environmentalists and environmental journalists tend to read.
William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground (two recommendations): A diverse group of essays challenging the conventional environmentalist wisdom about the meaning of nature, the purpose of conservation and other ideas that don't get as much critical consideration as they ought.
Mike Davis, Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster: "Although this book is specifically about Los Angeles, its lessons about the relationship between urban developments and natural ecosystems and about the dangerous influence of class politics on environmental safety policy are applicable to any city. Anyone with a serious interest in natural history or urban policy should make a point of reading this book." --Ron Hogan, Amazon.com editorial review
William Dietrich, The Final Forest: Tells all sides of the Northwest timber debate. And from Kirkus Reviews: "A sensitive, intelligent review of the ongoing controversy over the logging of the remaining stands of old-growth forest in western Oregon and Washington; by [a] Pulitzer-winning science writer for The Seattle Times. Using the timber town of Forks, Washington, as a primary focal point in the polarized world of environmentalists and the logging industry, Dietrich returns time and again to the stories of individuals involved in and affected by a struggle that has gone on for…years. Mixing history, anecdote, biography, and poetic description of the battleground: a moving assessment of an ecological dispute with global implications."
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: A masterful work, a modern-day Walden, Dillard's Pulitzer-Prize-winning book is a lengthy, personal exploration of the beauty and horror of the natural world.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, The Everglades, River of Grass: This book recently came out in a 50th anniversary edition. Jeff Klinkenberg of the St. Petersburg Times wrote: "Her book helped put the Everglades, and the environmental problems of South Florida, on the map of national consciousness. It is filled with beautiful prose, solid reporting, and a prickly defense of place."
Kathie Durbin, Tongass: Pulp Politics and the Fight for the Alaska Rain Forest: Not global in significance, but of interest to anyone covering logging, temperate rain forests, or forest management in general. Also recommended on this subject: The Book of the Tongass, Carolyn Servid and Donald Snow, eds.
Dan Fagin and Marianne Lavelle, Toxic Deception: How the Chemical Industry Manipulates Science, Bends the Law and Endangers Your Health: "Investigative reporters, with funding by the Center for Public Integrity, show chemical companies successfully working to keep known health threats profitably on the market. The authors suggest one industry method for prosperity: nearly half the top officials who left the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the last 15 years now work for these companies, directly or indirectly--which might explain why the industry is essentially responsible for testing the toxic effects of its own chemicals and then reporting the results to the EPA…The result is that their products continue to contaminate our air, water, and food." - Brian McCombie, Booklist
Bill Greider, One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism, and Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy: Two angry and beautifully reported works by Greider, a journalist unrivaled at unraveling and explaining how governments hitch the fates of their economies, their natural environment, and their citizens to the demands of corporate power.
Mark Hertsgaard, Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of our Environmental Future (three recommendations): The author travels the planet trying to answer the question: what are the chances of the human species surviving? It's depressing, perhaps, but illuminative in its analysis of how humanity is soiling its own bed. Plus it's a great descriptive travelogue…ever so readable.
Allison Jolly, Lucy's Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution: "A primatologist's musings on evolution, with special attention to the myriad changing roles of the sexes and to the development of intelligence and human interdependence. She tells a good tale in her quest to explain where we came from and where we're headed ('Biology offers an increasingly coherent view of human nature and humanity's place in nature'), and she shows us that 'human interdependence grew with our species' history, and now gallops forward to engulf the biosphere.'" --Kirkus Reviews
Joe Kane, Savages: "In this impressive, funny and moving work, Kane tells the story of the Huaorani, a tribe living in the deepest part of the Amazonian rain forest in Ecuador…But the modern world is reaching them quickly; for better or worse--usually worse--they live astride some of Ecuador's richest oilfields. Oil production in the Amazon has opened the forest to colonization and industrialization, often with alarming results: about 17 million gallons of raw crude more than in the Valdez spill in Alaska, were spilled from a Amazon pipeline between 1972 and 1989. Kane, who lived with the Huaorani for months, immaculately reports on the tribes' connections with the old world and its battles with the new one." --Amazon.com editorial review
Craig L. LaMay and Everette E. Dennis, eds., Media and the Environment: "Should environmental reporting offer advocacy or objectivity? How can the media explain complex issues of science and technology without oversimplifying? Does the prevailing definition of 'news' limit the media's ability to report on the environment? This is the first book to explore these and other questions about how the media cover the environment." --Amazon.com
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (two recommendations): An all-time favorite. A month-to-month chronicle of the seasons on Leopold's Wisconsin farm. It's a beautifully written account of life in this part of the country, what makes it special, how it is threatened and a call to save it.
Patricia Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: "The settling of the American West has been powerfully perceived…as a series of quaint, violent and romantic adventures-most with happy endings-and a process that came to an end with the "closing" of the frontier in the 1890s. But in fact, Limerick argues, the American West has a history grounded in primary economic reality - in hardhearted questions of profit, loss, competition and consolidation. In The Legacy of Conquest she interprets the stories and the characters in a new way: the trappers, traders, Indians, farmers, oilmen, cowboys and sheriffs of the Old West 'meant business' in more ways than one, and their descendants mean business today." --from the book jacket
Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Recommended not because of agreement with Lomborg--he's wrong about a lot of things, and wrong-headed about the rest--but because he does a brilliant job of demonstrating the sneaky arguments, fact-twisting and artful omissions for which journalists must be on guard. (Yes, the greens do it, too.)
Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism: A book that breaks open new ways of thinking about environmental stewardship--not as a way of wrecking the planet a little more slowly, but of rebuilding systems so we don't wreck it at all…you may not be able to take every one of Amory's assertions to the bank, but the book is worth having just for the source material identified in the footnotes. (And if you don't want to buy it, you can download it free from the Rocky Mountain Institute.)
Peter Matthiesen, Birds of Heaven: Matthiesen's account of the plight of cranes around the world is built around his visits to every single corner of the globe hoping to see every species of crane (which he succeeds in doing). What is remarkable about this book is the degree to which he connects what is happening politically, culturally and socially in each area with the threats to these birds' survival. It is by turn hopeful and hopeless, but mostly it provides tremendous insight into the complexity of threats to endangered wildlife the world over.
Bill McKibben, The End of Nature: A terrifying and lyrical look at the meaning of global climate change and also…an example of journalism that does an interesting job of addressing scientific uncertainty--a continuing challenge for folks who write about the environment.
John McPhee, The Control of Nature (four recommendations): McPhee's book…examines the folly and heroism of human efforts to control nature. Engrossing short stories about people facing off with nature. This book explores [people's] misguided efforts to keep the San Gabriel Mountains from sliding into Los Angeles, prevent the Mississippi River from flowing where it pleases, and stop the lava from an Icelandic volcano from wiping out a fishing harbor.
John McPhee, Encounters with the Archdruid (two recommendations): McPhee's profile of mountaineer and outdoorsman David Brower, who "has arguably been the single most influential American environmentalist in the last half of the 20th century… McPhee offers up an engaging portrait of a man unafraid of a good fight in the service of the earth, making Encounters an important contribution to the history of the modern environmental movement." --Gregory McNamee, Amazon.com editorial review
John McPhee: The Pine Barrens: If not this book, then something else by him. Nobody's done more for journalistic natural history than McPhee. And from the Amazon.com editorial review, "Contrary to popular opinion, the whole of New Jersey is not a continuous Superfund site enlivened solely by poorly labeled Turnpike exits and skanky diners. In fact, the largest essentially untouched wilderness east of the Mississippi comprises nearly half the state: the New Jersey Pine Barrens… McPhee--one of the finest American essayists of the 20th century--has written an extraordinarily compelling, informative, and insightful book about the botanical, cultural, hydrological, and historical peculiarities of this region. He also details the efforts to save it from the creeping urbanization of nearby Philadelphia and New York City."
John Muir: Something/anything by Muir, possibly Mountains of California.
Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (two recommendations): An essential read, and a good place for any new fellow to start. From Amazon.com's editorial review: "Nash's classic study of America's changing attitudes toward wilderness has received wide acclaim since its initial publication in 1967. The Los Angeles Times has listed it among the one hundred most influential books published in the last quarter century, Outside magazine has included it in a survey of 'books that changed our world,'and it has been called the 'Book of Genesis for environmentalists.'"
Dan O'Neill, The Firecracker Boys: An incredible feat of investigative and environmental journalism that details an amazing Cold War scheme to excavate harbors on the North Slope of Alaska using nuclear bombs.
Michael Pollan: This former fellow recommends all of Pollan's journalism, but especially "Power Steer," New York Times Magazine, March 31, 2001. Pollan's story follows his purchase of a calf and its progress on the way to becoming beef. Pollan has also written an excellent piece on the organic foods industry, "Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex," New York Times Magazine, May 13, 2001. Pollan is also the author of the excellent book, The Botany of Desire.
David Quammen, The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction: This is an extraordinary history of the nascent field of conservation biology. "...Quammen delightfully adds the human dimension to his discussion of science and natural history. Using a canvas as large as the world, he masterfully melds anecdotes about swimming elephants, collecting fresh feces from arboreal primates in Brazil and searching for the greater bird of paradise on the tiny island of Aru into an irreverent masterpiece. That a book on so technical a subject could be so enlightening, humorous and engaging is an extraordinary achievement." --Publishers Weekly
David Quammen, "Planet of Weeds," Harper's, Oct. 1998.
Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Trust Us, We're Experts: Excellent exploration of how the PR industry uses scientists and other supposedly independent authorities to manipulate media.
Janisse Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood: A fascinating read, in which the author, who grew up in a junkyard in rural south Georgia, weaves an account of her life growing up there with a history of the Long Pine forests, which once covered much of Georgia and Florida but today are all but gone.
Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert (four recommendations): The essential introduction to water development in the West--history, politics, economics, people, engineering, environmental impact. Chronicles the ambitious human domination of water in the West, a "must-read" for anyone covering Western water issues. It talks about dam building, water consumption, water wars, etc. A fascinating read.
Marc Reisner, Game Wars. Akin to Cadillac Desert; says it is a "lesser book" (though he recommends both) but "the better read."
Phil Shabecoff, A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement (two recommendations): A concise history of American environmentalism, referred to by one former fellow "several times a week." A history of the people, ideas, and events connected with environmental conservation, told in a lean, compelling narrative by this environmental reporter for The New York Times. --Book News, Inc., Portland, Ore.
Wallace Stegner, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West: Recommended since much of the fellowship program touches on issues in the West. It will also offer a jump-start for any fellows taking the natural resources law class.
Wallace Stegner, Making the Sparrow Fall: A terrific collection of nonfiction pieces, most of it previously unpublished, put together after Stegner's death by his son.
Eileen Welsome, The Plutonium Files: A frightening and revelatory ride through the heart of Cold War deceit.
Joy Williams, Ill Nature: Heartily recommended with the caveat that it's not journalism so much as a sustained rant, but brilliant, ferocious and inspired ranting.
Charles Wilkinson, Crossing the Next Meridian (two recommendations): CU law professor Wilkinson's book covers the history of environmental law as it pertains to forestry, mining, ranching, fishing and water rights in the West. The single best, most readable source for the rather broad subject matter… I not only read it during my fellowship but refer to it all the time.
Charles Wilkinson, Fire on the Plateau: The best of Wilkinson's books, in this recommender's view. Epic, personal. His deep insights into environmental and Indian issues are woven together in this history/travelogue, personal journey.
E.O.Wilson, The Future of Life: E.O. at his best, connecting the dots and trying to remain optimistic about the future of biodiversity.
Susan Zakin, Coyotes and Town Dogs: Intriguing story of the radical Earth First! group, featuring a cameo appearance by Ted Danson as a youthful billboard-toppler.
Dianne Dumanoski Recommends
And below is a long list of recommendations from Dianne Dumanoski, Ted Scripps Fellowship advisory board member, many of which she has used in the courses she teaches. Her list is not completely annotated but is divided by general topic.
Recent environmental histories:
- McNeill, J.R. and Paul Kennedy. Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World. W.W. Norton & Company, 2001.
- Steinberg, Ted. Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History. Oxford University Press, 2002.
Human origins, human nature, evolution:
- Potts, Rick. Humanity's Descent. William Morrow & Co, 1996. (great account of how climate change drove human evolution and human flexibility)
- Quartz, Steven and Terrence Sejnowski. Liars, Lovers, and Heroes. Perennial Currents, 2003. (synthesis of latest brain science: fascinating, good read, authoritative refutation of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology)
- Raup, David. Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? W. W. Norton & Company, 1991. (Important book that offers more complex perspective than typical biodiversity discussion)
- Margulis, Lynn. Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution. New York: Basic Books, 1998.
- Ehrlich, Paul R. Human Natures: Genes, Culture, and the Human Prospect. Washington: Island Press, 2000.
- Ross Gelbspan. The Heat is On. Perseus Publishing, 1998. (global warming)
- Vaclav Smil. Energy in World History. Westview Press, 1994. (Good writer and synthesizer who provides the overall framework for thinking about energy.)
Problems in Global Systems:
- Vaclav Smil. "Enriching the Earth." (Nitrogen cycle which embraces everything from cars, agriculture, to wetlands.) There was a special scientific session on nitrogen overload at the Johannesburg Summit.
- Cohen, Joel. How Many People Can the Earth Support? New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1995.
Beyond wilderness: cutting edge books on post-mechanistic, post-wilderness vision of nature:
- James Lovelock. Healing Gaia. Harmony Books, 1991.
- Fritjof Capra. The Web of Life. Anchor Books, 1997.
- Cronon, William, ed. Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995.
- Mark Dowie. Losing Ground. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996.
- Kempton, Willett, James S. Boster and Jennifer A. Hartley. Environmental Values in American Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996.
- Marsh, George Perkins. Man and Nature: Or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1864. Belknap edition 1964 edited and annotated with intriduction by David Lowenthal. (If you're going to have Carson and Leopold on the list, the original voice deserves to be there too.)
- Raskin et.al. Great Transition. A publication of the Stockholm Environmental Institute. (Can be obtained from the Tellus Institute in Boston, 617-266-8090.)
- Hammond, Allen. Which World? Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1998.
- McMichael, A.J., 1993. "Planetary Overload: Global Environmental Change and the Health of the Human Species." New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
- Strong, Maurice. Where on Earth are We Going? New York: Texere, 2001.
- Kuttner, Robert. Everything For Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
- Derber, Charles. Corporation Nation. New York: St. Martin's Press Thurow, Lester C., 1996. "The Future of Capitalism: How Today's Economic Forces Shape Tomorrow's World." New York: William Morrow and Company Inc., 1998
- Czech, Brian. Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train: Errant Economists, Shameful Spenders, And A Plan to Stop Them All. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. (This book connects on-the-ground pressures on land and wildlife to the larger social and economic forces. Excellent for linking symptom to system. The Last Stand also does this.)
- Botkin, Daniel. Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
- Bowler, Peter J. The Norton History of the Environmental Sciences. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992.
- Drury, William Holland, Jr. Chance and Change: Ecology for Conservationists. Berkeley: University of California, 1998.