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These Books Show Why Earth Day Matters

Climate change, according to the U.N. secretary general, is now the biggest threat to humankind.

So, where do we—as readers, as Americans, as citizens of the world—go from here?

We’ve put together a list of nonfiction books published in the last few years that shed light on some of the biggest challenges to the planet’s ecosystem. These books, written by scientists and journalists, chronicle the ongoing crisis of climate change and can arm readers with information, understanding, and maybe even inspiration to try to make change. These books go deep, and they demonstrate why Earth Day matters now more than ever.  

water

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell
Goodell, a Rolling Stone reporter, organized this book into a dozen chapters set in different locations around the world to highlight the alarming effects that rising sea levels have on each place.

 

 



 

farewell to ice

A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic by Peter Wadhams
Melting glaciers pose a multifaceted threat to the planet. Wadhams, a polar researcher for nearly 50 years, combines math and hard science with experience and opinion to form a compelling polemic against climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

sixth

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
Kolbert, a prominent science journalist, examines the five previous extinctions and traces the outline of the sixth, current, human-caused crisis that she predicts will decimate life on Earth. This Pulitzer Prive-winning book is compelling and readable, destined to become a classic.

 

 

 

 

 

ends of the world

The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen
Another “sixth extinction” book that looks back into history and pairs well with Kolbert’s examination. The  subtitle of this book—“volcanic apocalypses, lethal oceans, and our quest to understand Earth's past mass extinctions”—says it all.

 

 




 

countdown

Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? by Alan Weisman
In this a follow-up to Weisman’s groundbreaking A World without Us, published in 2007, the author visits more than 20 countries searching for solutions to climate change, overpopulation, and the imbalance in the Earth’s ecosystem.

 

 




 

hot hungry planet

Hot, Hungry Planet by Lisa Palmer
Climate change has a direct impact on food security, which Palmer names as a global crisis. She approaches the problem from a public policy angle, detailing an interconnected system that’s already stretched to the breaking point by food shortages and growing populations.


 

 

 

 

death

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan
As the world’s largest body of freshwater, the Great Lakes’ importance extends far beyond the northern United States. Egan reported on the Lakes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a decade.

 

 

 

 

 

atmosphere

Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis by Tim Flannery
Let’s end on a hopeful note: Check out ideas to combat climate change, such as seaweed farming and seeding the stratosphere, from a former head of the Australian Climate Change Commission.

 

 

 


 

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Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you'd recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

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