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Question of the Week: What books have you read that influenced your thinking about the environment?

2009 June 1

Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold – many authors have inspired us to think deeply about protecting the environment. Share which books you’ve read.

What books have you read that influenced your thinking about the environment?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

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107 Responses leave one →
  1. Natasha permalink
    June 2, 2009

    Reading the Rocks by Marcia Bjornerud

    It’s an autobiography of the Earth’s history told by a geologist. It’s an inspiring book that motivated me to reevaluate my values and actions taken towards the planet. It’s a great read for non science reader!

  2. Friendly giant permalink
    June 2, 2009

    “Organic Chemistry”
    “The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics”

    It helped me to realize that Al gore and the EPA are full of Bologna

  3. Steve permalink
    June 2, 2009

    Bill McKibben, “The End of Nature”
    E.O. Wilson, “Biophilia”
    James Gustave Speth, “The Bridge at the End of the World”
    John Barry, “Rising Tide”
    David Abrams, “The Spell of the Sensuous”
    Annie Dillard, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”
    Bill McKibben (Ed.), “American Earth: Environmental Wiritings Since Thoreau”
    Anything by Loren Eiseley

  4. Anonymous permalink
    June 2, 2009

    Tragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin (article). So simple and yet it explains all our ecological problems (and why we are SOL to stop them).

  5. Lillia permalink
    June 2, 2009

    Some years ago I read Earth in the Balance by Al Gore. I really liked the way he brought to the forefront for me, the real cost of doing business when you take into consideration the restoration work, or even taking care of the gargage. This caused me to equate ecology and economy systems. We all make choices each day that have a consequence in the bigger picture. Possibly we should be coining a new word like Echo-Me to make the point that my choices are not isolated in a sound proof chamber. We all affect the Earth we share.

  6. Pat permalink
    June 2, 2009

    nice choices, last child in the woods is a must read for anyone with kids. it has a great sense of balance and is very holistic.

  7. Stephanie permalink
    June 2, 2009

    Mostly as a child, my school science text books. I loved my science classes, especially Earth Science in Junior High. As a small child, learning about the earth and how it works was so fascinating that I wondered why would any one would pollute it.

    In college I became a geology major and one of the books I read that made an impression was “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin

  8. Caitlin Purdy permalink
    June 2, 2009

    Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things.

    The two authors are working towards a world where economic growth is synonymous with environmental protection.

  9. Bonnie Aylor permalink
    June 2, 2009

    Actually, I have read several books that influenced that decision, mostly nonfiction but some were fiction as well, for instance The Lord of the Rngs and Th Hobit, in book form, are excellent environmental book. One book that was very interesting was Environmental Endgame. This book talks about neoclassicism and how business owners get around environmental regulations by housing their work in free trade zones, outside of the US, where they don’t have to follow rules. They then dump whatever they feel they need to at those sites and degrade the environmental as much as possible. The coincidence is that these free trade zones are located in the poorest countries with the largest environmental issues. Kind of mind boggling how people could abuse so much over so little profit.

  10. steve clark permalink
    June 2, 2009

    “Hot Flat and Crowded” by Tom Friedman

  11. Douglas permalink
    June 2, 2009

    I have read books that share extremely different views on the environment. The last two that I finished in May (Green Hell and Red Hot Lies) finally give the regular citizen the opportunity to learn about the tactics and twisted “facts” that liberals use to push their Green Agenda. Even though the environment does deserve our attention, with high priority, the general public has not been fortunate enough to hear the common sense arguments that would be a sobering experience that could help address the draconian measures that government is ready and willing to take at the cost to the people they are claiming to help

  12. Adam permalink
    June 2, 2009

    “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn. It was required reading for my ecology class in college. It is extremely thought provoking. “With man gone, will there be hope for gorilla?”

  13. M Youel permalink
    June 3, 2009

    I recently read Sally Ride’s new books about the environment. She has a very interesting perspective based on her experience as an astronaut and scientist. Highly recommend ‘Mission Planet Earth’ and ‘Mission Save the Planet.’

  14. Patekka permalink
    June 3, 2009

    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. A compelling story of the necessity of environmental, health, and safety protection.

  15. Roseann L. permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Reading this list, I had forgotten about Loren Eiseley! Immense Journey was a lif altering reading experience for me. Though I have read it twice over the years, I think I’m over due to read again.

  16. Lori Latimer permalink
    June 3, 2009

    When I was a child, I read the Foxfire series, and read every Mother Earth Magazine I could. I also studied a lot about the Native Americans and how they treated the Earth.

    Their philosophy that the Earth is a living thing that gives us life and nourishment, deserves to be respected and honored has become my philosophy. We can take; yes. It is necessary to give back and not take too much and not with unfettered greed.

    The Earth is amazing in her ability to heal, but let us keep in mind; a living thing can be killed. If we kill our host, we will follow shortly.

  17. Steve permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Immense Journey is pretty awesome, but my favorite Eiseley is The Unexpected Universe. The chapter titled “The Star Thrower” is one the most haunting and inspiring things I’ve ever read.

  18. Druz permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Anything written by H.T. Odum.

  19. Patricia permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Much of Teilhard de Chardin’s writing in “Toward the Future”, was written in the 1930’s. A scientist and Jesuit, he was often forbidden to publish his works. His concepts are seminal to the environmental movement.

  20. LEO BYFORD permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Several books like Environmental Law IN A NUT SHELL. This book delivers a quick look at the laws and provides a quick look at what government and industry are mandated by Congress to follow. I beleive that once one has read the book, one will be provided a good look at what is wrong with many of our environmental issues. Another required reading is the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). This will provide the answers to many questions concerning what laws are being violated by government agencies.

  21. Brenda-EPA permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Rachel Carson- The Silent Spring
    Thomas Friedman-Hot, Flat and Crowded
    The Creation-can’t recall the author

  22. Jennifer permalink
    June 3, 2009

    What happened to God helps those who help themselves?

  23. Jessica B. permalink
    June 3, 2009

    The Wump World- Bill Peet
    Farewell to Shady Glade- Bill Peet
    The Skeptical Environmentalist- Bjorn Lomborg (what a joke!)
    The Monkey Wrench Gang- Edward Abbey

  24. Jaymee permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Spell of the Sensuous – what an eye opener!

  25. Jaymee permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Desert Solitaire and Monkey Wrench Gang, both by Edward Abbey
    Of Wolves and Men, Barry Lopez
    The Legacy of Luna, Julia Butterfly Hill
    Anything by Jane Goodall

  26. Jim-Bob permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer; Silent Spring by Rachel Carson; The Bible, especially the passages on treating your neighbor as you would want be treated (Jay and Jimmy, I’m with you!); Metcalf & Eddy’s Wastewater Treatment (any edition!); Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater.

  27. Charles permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Many people say the Bible means a lot of things that it actually doesn’t mean at all – apart from a narrow or self-serving interpretation. Not saying that yo uare making any sort of unfounded claim. Nevertheless, what exactly does the Bible say about protecting the environment?

  28. Peter permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Absolutley! Desert Solitaire is an incredible tale and brings home man’s relationship with the fragile planet on which we live.

    Another masterpiece is Cadillac Desert by Mark Reisner. A definitive study of water (and thus the environment) in the American West.

  29. Janet Copeland permalink
    June 3, 2009

    These are just some of the great books that I have read and I recommend them highly for improving your awareness on the seriousness of todays environment concerns. For our future and our children’s future. “For the Health of Our Nation”

    “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” by Thomas L. Friedman.

    “Under the Weather” by Pat Thomas.

    “Poisened Profits” A must read for parents, soon to be parents and grandparents and anyone that wonders why society has so many behavior problems.

    An Inconvienent Truth” by Al Gore.

  30. Mariah permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Generation Green By Linda and Tosh Sivertsen

  31. Lisa permalink
    June 3, 2009

    Anything by Wendell Berry, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

  32. Beth permalink
    June 3, 2009

    The End of Nature, Bill McKibben

  33. June 4, 2009

    The Bible – Specifically – Book of Genesis; Psalm 1; Psalm 8; Psalm 19; Psalm 23; Psalm 104; Psalm 139

    Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship (Paperback)
    by Fred Van Dyke (Author), David C. Mahan (Author), Joseph K. Sheldon (Author), Raymond H. Brand (Author)

    For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care (Engaging Culture) by Steven Bouma-Prediger

  34. Knyte permalink
    June 4, 2009

    Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang. The former is a non-fiction classic capturing the beauty of the Southwest. The latter is a rollicking tale of eco-terrorism against unfettered development of the wilderness.

    Coming into the Country by John Mcphee. The author is one of the most lyrical writers of the 20th century. Any of his books are a delight. This book captures the essence of America’s last frontier.

  35. Matt permalink
    June 4, 2009

    I forgot to mention “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy.

  36. Barbara permalink
    June 4, 2009

    In the beginning:
    Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
    Sand County almanac. With other essays on conservation from Round River – Aldo Leopold

    Also: The Lorax

  37. John permalink
    June 4, 2009

    Anything by John Muir

    Sand County Almanac (Aldo Leopold)

    Silent Spring (Rachel Carson)

    Cadillac Desert (Marc Reisner)

    The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

    The Lorax (Dr. Seuss and Theodor Seuss Geisel)

  38. Sherri permalink
    June 4, 2009

    A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold

  39. rspaw permalink
    June 4, 2009

    The books of Jean Stratton Porter that I read as a kid, particularly The Harverster and Freckles.

  40. permalink
    June 5, 2009

    Les 100 meilleurs aliments pour votre santé et la planète” by Doctor L. CHEVALLIER

  41. Pamela Elkow permalink
    June 5, 2009

    In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan

  42. Darlene Boerlage permalink
    June 5, 2009

    With some unexpected time-off work this spring due to rotator cuff surgery, I found myself unable to do the things I usually do since my right arm was in a sling for 6 weeks. (I am right handed)

    My Division Director, Emma McNamara, who happens to be a librarian, suggested that: “It was a good time to catch up on some reading” – she is one of the most intelligent women I know.

    Well, I discovered that my local library had these “Play Aways” i.e. digital books. So, I got a number of books that were read to me – and I didn’t have to use my right arm to change the pages!

    The one book that I had read to me which I had read over 30 years ago, still made the most profound impact on me concerning the environment and the mission of EPA.

    It is Silent Spring, by then NOAA scientist Rachel Carson. Although Dr. Carson’s book was published in 1962, she never got to see her thougths and theories come to fruition. She died an early and untimely death of breast cancer in 1964. She was at that time… a mere civil servant – like many of us. She was also a brilliant marine biologist who wrote many other books about the Sea and marine biology – although she is best know for Silent Spring. I believe women like Rachel Carson and Lois Gibbs (Love Canal – 1960″s) were the impetus behind the grassroots movements that founded the first “Earth Day” in 1970 and that led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency on November 11, 1970.

    Now, 39 years later I can attest to our progress and success. As I mentioned earlier, I was off work for most of the month of April, hence spent a lot of time outdoors doing one-armed gardening.
    I dare say, this April was the most “Unsilent Sping” I have ever experienced. The birds, butterflys, spring peepers, deer, copperheads, frogs, crickets and salamanders were abound in my garden. I put in a rain garden on April 22nd in celebration of the 39th Anniversary of Earth Day – and it has mostly been raining ever since, including this Friday June 5th. Sorry about that – I plan on planting some sunflowers this weekend to cheer everyone up!

    Back to Rachel Carson’s book – I think it should be suggested reading for everyone at EPA. I also think we should hold a huge celebration next spring on the Anniversary of her Birthday. Hey – we could have it in the Rachel Carson Green Room – or better yet – we could go out in the courtyard and enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna.

    Thank you Rachel – you are one of my two heroes (my mother is the other one) – I am wearing pink today in honor of “Breast Cancer Awareness Day” and I’ll be walking in the Race for the Cure with your name on the back of my T-Shirt.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    Darlene H. Boerlage
    Office of Water (The Next One)


    (I’ve worked in 4 AA-Ships at EPA and would like to work in most of them before I retire). I have also worked in 3 other Federal Departments/Agencies- EPA, by far is the most progressive.)

  43. Lenita Leufkens permalink
    June 5, 2009

    “Cradle-to-Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things”

    By William McDonough & Michael Braungart

    This book demonstrates that nature-inspired design principles are possible.

    It truly makes you think about all the wasteful things that surround us…and it has changed my thoughts on recycling (in the traditional sense).

  44. Rob permalink
    June 5, 2009

    The Diversity of Life by E.O. Wilson

    The Log From the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck

  45. Judith permalink
    June 6, 2009

    Along similar veins (building a community with the ideals and innovation needed to create a sustainable “topia” where we live in harmony with nature) is the book:

    This fascinating case study of a community in the harsh savanna of Columbia will transform your perception of what we are truly capable of.

  46. theworlddoesnotend permalink
    June 7, 2009

    Ishmael – Daniel Quinn
    The Botany of Desire- Michael Pollan
    Something New Under the Sun – J R McNeil
    Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond
    Hot Flat and Crowded- Thomas Friedman (some of it)

    Though it may be too large a subject to approach in this venue, the real root problem of humanity and the natural environment is the conceit that they are separate things. Nature, ‘The Wild”, etc… are not something outside of us. We are merely something inside of it. The driving force behind all of our environmental problems is the myth that unlimited growth is the ultimate good. In response to some earlier comments on the Bible as an environmentally friendly text, I would like to make a point without being unnecessarily hostile. I have myself read the bible in several translations and cannot ignore the basic premise that is established in creation. I understand this story is not taken literally by most people today, but the main underpinning of the world view is not abandoned along with the literal details. The basic world view goes like this: The world is made for man. Man is to subdue all other life to his purposes. Humanity is the final product of creation. He and his descendants are to be fruitful and multiply.

    This is exactly what we have done and continue to do. As long as we live like this is the one right way (unlimited growth philosophically underwritten by the idea that humans are the pinnacle of creation) we are doomed to live out the prophecy of John. The worldview in Genesis cannot not really undone by the later books. Wether we really believe this consciously is irrelevant. We live it. Look at every nation in the world. They seek one thing universally. Growth. If we follow these instructions we will fulfill the apocolypse ourselves. The World is not in trouble. It is we who are in trouble. There is hope yet, though time grows shorter every day.

  47. John Miller permalink
    June 8, 2009

    Barry Commoner’s “The Closing Circle” had a tremendous effect because it put man’s impact on our environment into perspective.

  48. Dr. Spaceman permalink
    June 10, 2009

    Well Jimmy, I guess all I can say is I hope the invisible man in the sky hears you.

    I’ll just keep making an actual difference, with the EPA, by engineering our future.

  49. Bruce permalink
    June 11, 2009

    Reread the question, stop preaching and use spell check.

  50. Dana Patterson permalink
    June 15, 2009

    These books have an enormous amount of information and insight. They go beyond the typical “take these steps/suggestions to better the environment and stop global warming”. Be prepared when reading them, as the information is shockingly vivid and disheartening, yet factual.

    Cradle to Cradle, McDonough and Braungart
    Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
    Walden, Henry David Thoreau
    Crimes Against Nature, Robert F Kennedy Jr.
    This Moment on Earth, John Kerry
    World Changing, Alex Steffen

    Next on my list is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson!

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