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It’s Our Turn to Lead: A Reading List for Earth Day 2015

By Christian Coleman


2015 marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. This could be the most dynamic year in environmental history. Economic growth and sustainability, once mutually exclusive, have begun a symbiotic relationship. Citizens and experts have set up defenses for their homes and the survival of other species from the encroaching effects of ecological devastation and extinction. New business ventures have transformed renewable energies into a viable market. As challenging and daunting as these issues are, it has become more apparent that we still have a chance of preserving our home. This Earth Day, we at Beacon Press are featuring titles that showcase individuals and organizations taking a stand for our home and encourage readers to take the stand with them.

Environmental journalist Fred Pearce presents a unique twist on a taking the lead on progress. In The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation, he implores environmentalists of the twenty-first century to celebrate the dynamic nature of invasive species and the new ecosystems they create. The case for keeping out invasive species is not only flawed, but also contradictory to the environment’s capacity for change, accelerated now by climate change and widespread ecological disaster.

California’s limited water resources have made headlines at the start of this year. It won’t be long until the rest of the country is affected by threats of shortage. Journalist Cynthia Barnett calls for the simplest and least expensive call to action in Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis. Selected as one of the Boston Globe’s top ten science books of 2011, it outlines a water ethic to reconnect Americans with our rivers, aquifers, and other freshwaters .  This blue movement will turn us to “local water” the way the green movement turned us to local foods.

Sapped water resources are but a piece of what threatens the health of our home. Veterinarian Michelle Bamberger and pharmacologist Robert Oswald have written The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale-Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food togive voice to the people at ground zero of the fracking debate. Small farmers lose their livelihoods and livestock to contamination at drilling sites. The property value of rural families sinks as drillers invade their towns.  And with the health of their animals beset by pollution sounding the alarm, these small farmers and rural families band together to recover their communities.

Animals in the wild live in the same precarious situation as their domesticated cousins on farms. Luckily, Nancy J. Merrick carries on the tradition of her former professor and colleague, Jane Goodall, to advocate for the lives of chimps. In Among Chimpanzees: Field Notes from the Race to Save Our Endangered Relatives, Merrick recounts her human paradigm shift when she discovers the civilizations of chimpanzees as a field assistant in Goodall’s famous Gombe Camp. Merrick returns to Africa decades later after working with Goodall to find that human agriculture and logging have driven chimps to extinction in four of the continent’s countries. She connects with primatologists and conservationists to turn the protection of our relatives a humanitarian cause.

Lastly, Philip Warburg’sHarvest the Wind: America’s Journey to Jobs, Energy Independence, and Climate Stability shows how a transformative industry fights for sustainability as hard as activists. In Cloud Country, Kansas, Meridian Way Wind Farm stands as a beacon of green economy. Farmers, factory workers, biologists, and high-tech entrepreneurs come together to combine innovative technologies and practical solutions in a quest to take on global warming while investing in the future of our planet.