Green Your Summer Beach Reading List
Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler (2012). The book argues a rather refreshing thesis: “The world is on the precipice of another explosion in technology that will soon bring refuge from many of our current problems and abundance to our doorstep,” according to The Book Reporter on Amazon. Diamandis is the chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation and the founder of more than a dozen high-tech companies, holding degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering. Kotler is the writing half of the team. He writes a sport science blog, “The Playing Field,” contributes to PsychologyToday.com and runs the Rancho de Chihuahua dog sanctuary with his wife in New Mexico.
The Book Reporter notes that Diamandis believes in three forces “that are likely to bring us to a state of abundance even quicker than we might otherwise expect,” including the fact that the world’s poorest have recently begun plugging into the world economy… largely as a result of the communications revolution and cell phones, and the rising phenomenon of tech-philanthropists applying their efforts to global solutions and the prevalence of DIY innovation, which he defines as small organizations and even individuals contributing to technological domains such as computing, biotechnology, and even space travel.
Detractors call the book little more than snake oil, fluff, happy talk and The Rational Optimist regurgitated. Caveat emptor.
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired By Nature by Janine N. Benyus (1997). Biomimicry is an interesting concept — which is really just what you might think it is, judging by the name: Learning to copy how nature does things. According to the book description on Amazon, Benyus “takes us into the lab and out in the field with cutting-edge researchers as they stir vats of proteins to unleash their computing power and analyze how electrons zipping around a leaf cell convert sunlight into fuel in trillionths of a second, discover miracle drugs by watching what chimps eat when they’re sick, study the hardy prairie as a model for low-maintenance agriculture and more.”Amazon reviewer J.W.K. notes that “the main point of the book is simple enough for a child to understand. Does it run on sunlight? Does it use only the energy it needs? Does it fit form to function? Does it recycle everything? Does it reward cooperation? Does it bank on diversity? Does it utilize local expertise? Does it curb excess from within? Does it tap the power of limits? And is it beautiful? In order to right our wasteful and dangerously dysfunctional relationship with nature, these 10 questions should serve as guiding principles for design and human interaction.”
Condominium by John MacDonald (1977). This is recommended only half tongue in cheek. MacDonald is responsible for creating one of the truly legendary characters in American fiction, Travis McGee — and just why hasn’t there been a Travis McGee movie yet? He’s the 100 percent All-American boat bum James Bond — MacDonald shows in this novel exactly how the Florida environmental disaster of the go-go condo scams work in one of the funniest, most enjoyable and enlightening reads you’ll pick up this summer.As Knerrd writes on Amazon, “Reading this book you can’t tell whether it is 1977 (which is when it was written) or 2009. And I’m reading it as two hurricanes are churning across the Atlantic. Condo boom in Florida? Check. Unsustainable home values? Check. Corrupt builders/bankers/politicians? Check. Shoddy construction? Check. People looking to fulfill a dream and being severely disappointed? Check. I can’t speak for all the marriage infidelity, but I’m sure that’s happening, too.”
Environmental Overkill: Whatever Happened to Common Sense? by Dixy Lee Ray and Lou Guzzo (1994). According to Amazon’s book description, the book is intended to be “a straightforward analysis that helps readers understand the scientific and political realities of environmental issues and make their own informed decisions about global warming, pollution, endangered species and other environmental issues.” Generally speaking, three-star Amazon reviews are the most helpful and objective, but there are few three-star reviews of books that deal with contentious topics such as the limits of the effectiveness of environmental policy. Everybody’s a five-star fanboy or a one-star pit bull. Still, knowing Dr. Ray’s credentials and experience — brilliant scientist, former governor of Washington and former head of the Atomic Energy Commission — it’s worth a read, being miles from the tiresome “All greenies are Commie whackos!” screeds that seem to infest the debate.
The Green to Gold Business Playbook: How to Implement Sustainability Practices for Bottom-Line Results in Every Business Function by Dan Esty and P.J. Simmons (2011). This book is for those getting serious about actually doing something. The Amazon book description puts it best: “Hard-nosed business advice for gaining competitive advantage through sustainability action in buildings and operations, information technology, product design, sourcing, manufacturing, logistics and transportation, marketing, accounting and other key business functions.” If that sounds like your kind of thing, well, this is your kind of book. It takes the principles outlined in Esty’s 2006 book Green To Gold, co-written with Andrew S. Winston, and shows how to apply them in real life. Amazon reviewer Toby Eduardo Redshaw comments that “in a field awash in hype, this is a straightforward, pragmatic, innovative and just plain useful book. This is beyond a book about green. It is simply about today’s smart business strategy. It is an easy, fast and enjoyable read.”You’ll probably want to pick up the original Green To Gold, as well, if you’re rarin’ to go.
Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future by Robert Bryce (2010). Thanks to Jon Boonefor his in-depth Amazon review of this book, which sums up its qualities as well as possibly can. As Boone says, Bryce, “inspired by the environmental economics of Rockefeller University’s Jesse Ausubel and the University of Manitoba’s Vaclav Smil,” advocates de-carbonizing our machine fuels, since “people will inevitably demand cleaner, healthier, environmentally sensitive energy choices.”Surveying the options for energy production in the future while getting away from coal and oil, Bryce marshals an impressive array of statistics and research to recommend natural gas and nuclear power — which he describes as ” the only always-on, no-carbon source that can replace significant amounts of coal in our electricity generation portfolio.” He fairly examines the “green” alternatives, such as wind and solar, and expertly locates their shortcomings and their probable place in the energy production world of tomorrow.
Prosperity Without Growth: Economics For a Finite Planetby Tim Jackson (2012). The current “it” book on environmental economics. Jackson’s idea is that, sure, developing countries need growth, but the industrialized First World really doesn’t, that it already has all the economic growth we need.Jackson’s a “sustainability adviser to the UK government” and argues, according to the book description in Amazon, that “there is mounting evidence that ever-increasing consumption adds little to human happiness and may even impede it. More urgently, it is now clear that the ecosystems that sustain our economies are collapsing under the impacts of rising consumption.”Amazon reviewer Erminio Di Lodovico sums it up best, saying, “The first part, where the author makes the case for the unsustainability of the ‘growth model’ of the economy was very well written. It cannot be said the same about the second part of the book, which was how will it be possible the revert and fix the problem … I was expecting something more than wishful thinking.”
Watermelons by James Delingpole (2011). If you already think the green movement is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, commanded by a bunch of hardcore anti-West ex-Communists and their fellow travelers who glommed onto green politics as a way to continue their war on the West after socialism in Eastern Europe crumbled under the weight of reality, well, you’ll pretty much find all of your suspicions confirmed here. You’re in the choir to which Delingpole’s preaching.As you might guess, this book gets either five or one-star ratings on Amazon. Reviewer Acolyte notes, “I have reappraised my view of the green movement and even wondered if I might cut off my last green charity.” Greg Cook writes that “Delingpole’s writing is clear and interesting. This isn’t a snarky little book that relies on mockery and emotion to convince. It argues from facts using logic.”Critics of the book on Amazon, such as Martin Lack, write such things as “I don’t need to actually read this book in order to criticize it.” Agree or disagree, Watermelons is probably worth at least a read, although few who know they’re going to disagree with Delingpole will read it.