Two Environmental Books I Love

I read a lot. Sometimes I need to remind myself to stop reading and start writing.

Tonight I compromised: here are my thoughts on two environmental books that have shaped the way I think about and approach the environment and climate problems that humanity faces today.

“Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change” by George Marshall

This book is an “easier” read (less dense than the other), but it still asks a lot of its reader, mainly to take responsibility and change your behavior based on what you learn from it. Marshall does a great job laying out a Western psychology-based case for why it is so difficult to generate collective action to improve climate change problems.

He quotes veteran ABC journalist Bill Blackmore saying that

“climate change isn’t the elephant in the room; it’s the elephant we’re all inside of.”

After Marshall explains why climate change is so difficult to accept and take action on, he gives his best suggestions for moving forward. The thing that stuck out the most to me is that the “enemy narratives”, even against fossil fuel companies, will not be enough for collective action because

“Climate change is different. The missing truth, deliberately avoided in these enemy narratives, is that in high-carbon societies, everyone contributes to the emissions that cause the problem and everyone has a strong reason to ignore the problem or to write their own alibi.”

He also says that

“I have been convinced that the real battle for mass action will not be won through enemy narratives and that we need to find narratives based on cooperation, mutual interests, and our common humanity.”

“Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age” by Mary C. Wood

This amazing book begins with the following premise, which is difficult to swallow but critical to accept:

“Despite entrenched presumptions that environmental law remains effective, the proof lies in the health of the ecosystems themselves. Society now violates Nature’s laws not only at the level of species and individual ecosystems but also at the level of atmospheric function, ocean health, and biodiversity – a truly global level.”

Wood has meticulously researched and explained the history of how environmental law has gone astray and become the subject of corruption since the 1970’s.

Then Wood explains that there is a better legal framework based on the Public Trust Doctrine, an ancient legal principle that is part of the U.S. Constitution (as well as the founding documents and laws of many states and countries). An incredibly generalized version of the legal framework goes like this: the natural world and its natural resources form Nature’s Trust, on which the health of society (local, natural, global) depends, and the government is responsible for managing Nature’s Trust with a level of care that restores it and then keeps in healthy for current citizens and future generations of citizens.

The Nature’s Trust principle can be the basis of lawsuits against governments who are not taking proper care of Nature’s Trust, forming new laws that protect the environment and society, and a populist principle that can rally citizens together to create a better world.

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