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Books recommended by CRICCC members: 

Some reviews are by CRICCC members.

The Book of Hope- A Survival Guide for Trying Times, by Jane Goodall & Douglas Abrams

Reviewed by CRICCC member Reverend Larry Deyss:  

If you want a book that is a delight to read, gives you information and hope for living in our world today, then this is a book that you owe it to yourself to read.  Jane Goodall is a world renowned naturalist, teacher and speaker with a deep love and passion for the earth and all that is therein.  The book is essentially an interview, or actually more of a conversation, between Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams as Jane talks about her life and work spanning several decades.  It is not only about what she has learned and accomplished, it is actually much more.  It is essentially an invitation to hope.  

Jane says: “Probably the question I am asked more often than any other is: Do you honestly believe there is hope for our world?  For the future of our children and grandchildren?  And I am able to answer truthfully, yes.”  The first section in her book opens with a discussion of “What is Hope?  In section two she discussed her four reasons for hope.  Section three is about becoming a messenger of hope.  The fact that she is an accomplished scientist who does things from a strong and credible base, and whose works and accomplishments are known and celebrated, tells me that her intellect, passion, and wisdom are to be trusted and lived in hope.

The New Climate War- The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, by Michael E. Mann

Reviewed by CRICCC member Reverend Larry Deyss:  

Every once in a while a book comes along that is head and shoulders above the rest. I find this book to be one of them. Mann writes in a way that is clear and accessible. He has a deep command of his subject, giving the reader insights into the methods of those who seek to derail the work on climate change. By being better informed we can move ahead more effectively.

In the first chapter, “The Architects of Misinformation and Misdirection,” he writes, “The origins of the ongoing climate wars lie in disinformation campaigns waged decades ago, when the findings of science began to collide with the agendas of power vested interests. These campaigns were aimed at obscuring the public understanding of the underlying science and discrediting the scientific message, often attacking the messengers themselves.”

These practices still continue to fool a large number of the public. Mann names the institutions and organizations engaged in this activity. Furthermore, he takes an in-depth look at the birth of deflection campaigns and the tactics of “divide and conquer” which use wedge issues to derail the climate moment. 

In the chapter titled, “The Non-Solution Solution,” he points out that there are those who want to make it look as if they are really doing something about the problem, but in fact are not. He calls these people, “inactivists.” He writes, “The inactivisits have sought to hijack actual climate progress by promoting “solutions” (natural gas, carbon capture, geo-engineering) that aren’t real solutions at all. Part of their strategy is soothing words and terms- “bridge fuels”, ”clean coal”, “adaption”, resilience” – that convey the illusion of actions but, in context, are empty promises.” This gambit provides plausible deniability; inactivitists can claim to have offered solutions. Just not good ones. They are delay tactics intended to forestall meaningful actions while the fossil fuel industry continues to make windfall profits -what noted climate advocate Alex Steffens has referred to as “predatory delay.” 

In the closing chapter, “Meeting the Challenge”, Mann says he is objectively hopeful and details the reasons for hope. Among these is the fact that extreme weather disasters have vivified the climate change threat. Second, a global pandemic has taught us lesson about vulnerability and risk. Also, we have seen the reawakening of environmental activism across the world. He also says that the collapse of plausible climate change deniability provides us with unprecedented opportunity for progress. Add to that the fact that inactivitis have been forced into retreat from “hard” climate denial to “softer” denial. All of these points, and others, are given in depth coverage in the final chapter which also gives us guidance for our ongoing work. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Amazon Review:  Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on Earth suddenly and dramatically contracted.  Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef.

She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World by Katharine Hayhoe 

Amazon ReviewCalled “one of the nation's most effective communicators on climate change” by The New York Times, Katharine Hayhoe knows how to navigate all sides of the conversation on our changing planet. A Canadian climate scientist living in Texas, she negotiates distrust of data, indifference to imminent threats, and resistance to proposed solutions with ease. Over the past fifteen years Hayhoe has found that the most important thing we can do to address climate change is talk about it—and she wants to teach you how.  In Saving Us, Hayhoe argues that when it comes to changing hearts and minds, facts are only one part of the equation. We need to find shared values in order to connect our unique identities to collective action. This is not another doomsday narrative about a planet on fire. It is a multilayered look at science, faith, and human psychology, from an icon in her field—recently named chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy.  Drawing on interdisciplinary research and personal stories, Hayhoe shows that small conversations can have astonishing results. Saving Us leaves us with the tools to open a dialogue with your loved ones about how we all can play a role in pushing forward for change. 

What A Waste: Trash, Recycling and Protecting our Planet by Jess French

Reviewed by CRICCC member Kevin Conley:  

What A Waste is a fun-to-read, attractive educational book for children that covers many areas important for the environment, including air pollution, deforestation, renewable energy, plastic, food and fashion waste. For each topic, the author describes the challenge we face and what we can do care for the earth. The graphics are astounding and the tone is positive and action-oriented. Though targeted to elementary and middle-school readers, the book provides information for all of us. The author finishes the book with a list of organizations and charities that can provide more information. I borrowed this book as a resource for Vacation Bible School and readily purchased a copy for our church library. 

Trash Revolution: Breaking the Waste Cycle by Erica Fyvie and Bill Slavin

Reviewed by CRICCC member Kevin Conley: 

Trash Revolution is an informative and surprisingly comprehensive book, given that it is geared for ages 8-12 and is only 62 pages. In the Introduction it explains that each chapter will cover something that the reader may carry in a backpack to school. I believe that it does a good job presenting the topics in a relatable way and the illustrations help to keep the material interesting. It covers a broad range of topics, including: the water cycle, food waste, plastics and clothing manufacturing, overconsumption, e-waste, etc. The book includes a glossary, index and sources for more information.

Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist  by Kate Raworth

Amazon Review:  Economics is the mother tongue of public policy. It dominates our decision-making for the future, guides multi-billion-dollar investments, and shapes our responses to climate change, inequality, and other environmental and social challenges that define our times. Pity then, or more like disaster, that its fundamental ideas are centuries out of date yet are still taught in college courses worldwide and still used to address critical issues in government and business alike.  That’s why it is time, says renegade economist Kate Raworth, to revise our economic thinking for the 21st century. In Doughnut Economics, she sets out seven key ways to fundamentally reframe our understanding of what economics is and does. Along the way, she points out how we can break our addiction to growth; redesign money, finance, and business to be in service to people; and create economies that are regenerative and distributive by design.  Named after the now-iconic “doughnut” image that Raworth first drew to depict a sweet spot of human prosperity (an image that appealed to the Occupy Movement, the United Nations, eco-activists, and business leaders alike), Doughnut Economics offers a radically new compass for guiding global development, government policy, and corporate strategy, and sets new standards for what economic success looks like.  Raworth handpicks the best emergent ideas―from ecological, behavioral, feminist, and institutional economics to complexity thinking and Earth-systems science―to address this question: How can we turn economies that need to grow, whether or not they make us thrive, into economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow?  Simple, playful, and eloquent, Doughnut Economics offers game-changing analysis and inspiration for a new generation of economic thinkers.

Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery 

Amazon Review:  Dirt, soil, call it what you want―it's everywhere we go. It is the root of our existence, supporting our feet, our farms, our cities. This fascinating yet disquieting book finds, however, that we are running out of dirt, and it's no laughing matter. An engaging natural and cultural history of soil that sweeps from ancient civilizations to modern times, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the compelling idea that we are―and have long been―using up Earth's soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations. A rich mix of history, archaeology and geology, Dirt traces the role of soil use and abuse in the history of Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, China, European colonialism, Central America, and the American push westward. We see how soil has shaped us and we have shaped soil―as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt. David R. Montgomery sees in the recent rise of organic and no-till farming the hope for a new agricultural revolution that might help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations.

Forest Talk: How Trees Communicate by Melissa Koch

Reviewed by CRICCC member Kevin Conley:  

Forest Talk is billed as a good book for science classes - I'm guessing Middle School level - but I found it to be a good leisurely read. It describes the many ways that trees help us. They are a source for pharmaceuticals, generate rain, prevent flooding, provide coastal protection, filter air, capture and store carbon, provide a meditative environment for our mental health and even release phytonicides that kill tumors and virus infected cells. What I found most enjoyable were the chapters of the book describing the work of fungi, particularly the mycorrhizal fungi that connects trees in what the author calls a "wood wide web." This network allows trees to share carbon and nutrients - not only among trees of the same family, but among different species of trees. Her description of this wood wide web underscores the importance of biological diversity and mirrors the interdependence of human life. The last chapter lists organizations focused on protecting trees and suggests various actions that we can take. One that I found particularly intriguing is planting a microforest, a dense forest of diverse trees in a 1000 square foot area, an action that can be taken on a vacant lot in an urban area (see Afforest and Natural Urban Forests).


The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here by Hope Jahren

Amazon Review:  Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist, a brilliant writer, a passionate teacher, and one of the seven billion people with whom we share this earth. In The Story of More, she illuminates the link between human habits and our imperiled planet. In concise, highly readable chapters, she takes us through the science behind the key inventions—from electric power to large-scale farming to automobiles—that, even as they help us, release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere like never before. She explains the current and projected consequences of global warming—from superstorms to rising sea levels—and the actions that we all can take to fight back. At once an explainer on the mechanisms of global change and a lively, personal narrative given to us in Jahren’s inimitable voice, The Story of More is “a superb account of the deadly struggle between humanity and what may prove the only life-bearing planet within ten light years" (E. O. Wilson).


Climate Church, Climate World: How People of Faith Must Work for Change by Jim Antal and Bill McKibben

Amazon Review:  Climate Church, Climate World argues that climate change is the greatest moral challenge humanity has ever faced. Hunger, refugees, poverty, inequality, deadly viruses, war—climate change multiplies all forms of global social injustice. Environmental leader Reverend Jim Antal presents a compelling case that it’s time for the church to meet this moral challenge, just as the church addressed previous moral challenges. Antal calls for the church to embrace a new vocation so that future generations might live in harmony with God’s creation. After describing how we have created the dangers our planet now faces, Antal urges the church to embrace a new vocation, one focused on collective salvation and an expanded understanding of the Golden Rule (Golden Rule 2.0). He suggests ways people of faith can reorient what they prize through new approaches to worship, preaching, witnessing and other spiritual practices that honor creation and cultivate hope.


Rescuing the Planet: Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth by Tony Hiss

Amazon Review:  Beginning in the vast North American Boreal Forest that stretches through Canada, and roving across the continent, from the Northern Sierra to Alabama's Paint Rock Forest, from the Appalachian Trail to a ranch in Mexico, Tony Hiss sets out on a journey to take stock of the "superorganism" that is the earth: its land, its elements, its plants and animals, its greatest threats - and what we can do to keep it, and ourselves, alive.

Hiss not only invites us to understand the scope and gravity of the problems we face, but also makes the case for why protecting half the land is the way to fix those problems. He highlights the important work of the many groups already involved in this fight, such as the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and the global animal tracking project ICARUS. And he introduces us to the engineers, geologists, biologists, botanists, oceanographers, ecologists, and other "Half Earthers" like Hiss himself who are allied in their dedication to the unifying, essential cause of saving our own planet from ourselves.


Eco-Reformation: Grace and Hope for a Planet in Peril by Lisa E. Dahill, Jim B. Martin-Schramm, et al.

Amazon Review:  In 2017 Christians around the world will mark the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. In the midst of many appeals for reformation today, a growing number of theologians, scholars, and activists around the world believe Reformation celebrations in 2017 and beyond need to focus now on the urgent need for an Eco-Reformation. The rise of industrial, fossil fuel-driven capitalism and the explosive growth in human population endanger the fundamental planetary life-support systems on which life as we know it has evolved. The collective impact of human production, consumption, and reproduction is undermining the ecological systems that support human life on Earth. If human beings do not reform their relationship with God's creation, unspeakable suffering will befall many--especially the weakest and most vulnerable among all species.

Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution by Kenneth R. Miller

Amazon Review:  From a leading authority on the evolution debates comes this critically acclaimed investigation into one of the most controversial topics of our times.  An act of intellectual daring and spiritual integrity...a refreshing departure from the tired polemics of the evolution wars.

Catholic Discordance: Neoconservatism vs. the Field Hospital Church of Pope Francis by Massimo Borghesi and Barry Hudock

Amazon Review:  One element of the church that Pope Francis was elected to lead in 2013 was an ideology that might be called the “American” model of Catholicism—the troubling result of efforts by intellectuals like Michael Novak, George Weigel, and Richard John Neuhaus to remake Catholicism into both a culture war colossus and a prop for ascendant capitalism.

After laying the groundwork during the 1980s and armed with a selective and manipulative reading of Pope John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, these neoconservative commentators established themselves as authoritative Catholic voices throughout the 1990s, viewing every question through a liberal-conservative ecclesial-political lens. The movement morphed further after the 9/11 terror attacks into a startling amalgamation of theocratic convictions, which led to the troubling theo-populism we see today.

The election of the Latin American pope represented a mortal threat to all of this, and a poisonous backlash was inevitable, bringing us to the brink of a true “American schism.” This is the drama of today’s Catholic Church. In Catholic Discordance: Neoconservatism vs. the Field Hospital Church of Pope Francis, Massimo Borghesi—who masterfully unveiled the pope’s own intellectual development in his The Mind of Pope Francis—analyzes the origins of today’s Catholic neoconservative movement and its clash with the church that Francis understands as a “field hospital” for a fragmented world.

Climate Restoration by Peter Fiekowsky

Online Review:  Throughout the book, as Fiekowsky presents the ways in which we could restore the climate, he does a great job explaining complex scientific concepts and methods to a non-specialised audience, and he approaches the most common criticisms and controversies around them, debunking myths with clear data and sources while also addressing common concerns. This has a great persuasive effect on the reader, and by the time you finish this book you will most likely be convinced by his argument – unless, perhaps, if you are very familiar with these topics and already have knowledge which contradicts that of Fiekowsky. Even in this case, as Fiekowsky makes it clear, “with the global climate crisis continuing to spiral out of control, the time for tough conversations about what it will really take to create a healthy future for humanity is here.” This book offers not only that, but an indistinguishably bright glimmer of hope. 

Creating Sustainable Communities; Lessons from the Hudson River Region by Rik Scarce

SUNY Press ReviewFrom Mount Marcy to Manhattan and beyond, the Hudson River region has become an incubator for rich and varied experiments in sustainable living. In this fascinating book, Rik Scarce showcases some of these efforts by telling the stories of dynamic individuals and organizations that are remaking the region's landscape through ecosystem stewardship, nurturing agricultural practices, and urban renewal for the twenty-first century, along with those promoting creative land-use planning, richly functioning communities, and green businesses. Together, their achievements point to the potential for other areas of the country to forge sustainable futures, and also remind us of the sobering realities and daunting challenges that await us as we attempt to remake our relationships with the planet and with each other.

Rik Scarce is Associate Professor of Sociology at Skidmore College and the author of Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement. He lives in Averill Park, just up the street from the Wynantskill, a minor but direct tributary of the Hudson River.

The Emergent Agriculture: Farming, sustainability and the return of the Local Economy by Gary Kleppel

Amazon reviewLong embraced by corporations who are driven only by the desire for profit, industrial agriculture wastes precious resources and spews millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year, exacerbating climate change and threatening the very earth and water on which we depend. However, this dominant system, from which Americans obtain most of their food, is being slowly supplanted by a new paradigm.  The Emergent Agriculture is a collection of fourteen thematic essays on sustainability viewed through the lens of farming. Arguing that industrial food production is incompatible with the realities of nature, science, and ethics, this lyrical narrative makes the case for a locally based food system which is: stable in the face of economic uncertainty; resilient in the face of environmental variability; and grounded in stewardship of the land, on attaching value to food and the craft involved in producing it, and on respecting the dignity of farmers, consumer,s and livestock.  A revolution in food production is underway. Written from the vantage point of an ecologist who is also a farmer, The Emergent Agriculture is essential reading for anyone interested in food security and the potential for growing local economies. Food for thought about the future of food.

Gary Kleppel is a professor of biology at the SUNY Albany, where he focuses on sustainable agriculture, conservation-based grazing, and the ecology of human-dominated landscapes. He and his wife Pam are owners of Longfield Farm, where they produce grass-fed lamb, wool, free range chickens and eggs, and artisanal breads.

Two Degrees by Alan Gratz

Review by Kevin Conley (February 2023):  The book is written for a junior high audience. Three story lines are presented: a teen in California experiencing a wildfire, two teens in Alaska who encounter a polar bear that wandered far from his normal hunting grounds due to ice melting and a teen in Florida who lives through a severe hurricane and flooding. Each youth encounters adventures, lives through terror and learns about the impacts of climate change. The end is uplifting and empowering. I recommend it for teens in your faith community. But, I'm not the only one impressed by the book. I recently learned that every middle school student at Greenville School District will receive a copy of Two Degrees next year, will read it as a school and will do projects throughout the year based on the theme of climate change. 

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

Amazon reviewIn his bestselling book, Alan Weisman considered how the Earth could heal and even refill empty niches if relieved of humanity's constant pressures. Behind that groundbreaking thought experiment was his hope that we would be inspired to find a way to add humans back to this vision of a restored, healthy planet-only in harmony, not mortal combat, with the rest of nature.But with a million more of us every 4 1/2 days on a planet that's not getting any bigger, and with our exhaust overheating the atmosphere and altering the chemistry of the oceans, prospects for a sustainable human future seem ever more in doubt. For this long awaited follow-up book, Weisman traveled to more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were probably the most important questions on Earth -- and also the hardest: How many humans can the planet hold without capsizing? How robust must the Earth's ecosystem be to assure our continued existence? Can we know which other species are essential to our survival? And, how might we actually arrive at a stable, optimum population, and design an economy to allow genuine prosperity without endless growth?  Weisman visits an extraordinary range of the world's cultures, religions, nationalities, tribes, and political systems to learn what in their beliefs, histories, liturgies, or current circumstances might suggest that sometimes it's in their own best interest to limit their growth. The result is a landmark work of reporting: devastating, urgent, and, ultimately, deeply hopeful.  By vividly detailing the burgeoning effects of our cumulative presence, Countdown reveals what may be the fastest, most acceptable, practical, and affordable way of returning our planet and our presence on it to balance. Weisman again shows that he is one of the most provocative journalists at work today, with a book whose message is so compelling that it will change how we see our lives and our destiny.