TOMORROW IS EARTH DAY. So why not pick up a good book, head outside, and find a nice tree to read under? Here are a few suggestions.
James Lovelock is the inventor of the Gaia Theory, a scientific framework that sees the earth as a self-regulating system that's somewhat akin to an actual living being. For a long time, it was dismissed as a hokey, New Age-y theory, but it is slowly becoming more accepted.
His 2006 book about climate change is almost apocalyptically scary. It makes the argument that we may still be able to stop the worst of climate change, but that it will take immediate and decisive action. It's particularly frightening to read now, 11 years on, and to know that climate change denial is still a major problem. If you need a book to light a fire under your ass, this is it.
As a thought experiment in 2005, journalist Alan Weisman asked the question, "What would happen to our civilization if every human being disappeared all at once?" In 2007, he published this book, breaking it down in fascinating detail. Our pets would become feral, our homes would quickly become reclaimed by nature, and our cities would collapse in on our sewer systems. Some of it would happen blindingly fast -- some of it would last for eons.
It's easy to imagine that the world revolves around us. But life on this planet may well outlive humanity. And Weisman's beautifully written book gives us a glimpse into what that would look like.
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
"Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person." The narrator of Daniel Quinn's 1992 book Ishmael answers the ad and finds that the teacher is, in fact, a telepathic gorilla. The gorilla takes him on as a student and forces him to answer the question: what if humans aren't the pinnacle of evolution? What if humans aren't "above" any other form of life?
What follows is one of the most intensely interesting philosophical books ever written. It will make you reexamine your entire relationship with the natural world, and question the very basis of modern civilization.
Alan Moore's breakthrough run as the writer of the Swamp Thing horror comic is truly spellbinding. In it, he tackles the problem of good and evil, plant morality, the dangers of industrialization, the fight against the apocalypse, and even the sex lives of swamp creatures. It is exciting and thoughtful and it has this incredible lesson which straight up blew my mind when I read it:
"If you wish to understand evil, you must understand the bank, the roots, the worms of the Earth. Aphid eats leaf. Ladybug eats aphid. Soil absorbs dead ladybug. Plant feeds upon soil… is aphid evil? Is ladybug evil? Is soil evil? Where is evil, in all the wood? ... perhaps evil is the humus formed by virtue’s decay and perhaps, perhaps it is from that dark, sinister loam that virtue grows strongest."
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Edward Abbey is the environmentalist movement's angry uncle. The anarchist and pacifist worked for a couple of years as a National Parks ranger at Arches in Utah. During this time, he wrote his masterpiece, Desert Solitaire, which is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing about the natural world that you will ever read. If, on this Earth Day, all you really want is to get in touch with the world around you, this is the book to pick up.