Celebrating Earth Day

A collection of books and articles offering climate solutions and reflections on the natural world

The first-ever Earth Day took place over 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970. Since then, it has provided an opportunity for people worldwide to come together to celebrate our planet and mobilize for climate action. To mark the occasion we’re highlighting a few of our books and journal articles that offer solutions to the climate crisis—from carbon capture technology to artificial intelligence—as well as a few that promise to reinvigorate how we think about our residency on Earth and connect with the natural world.


Brave Green World: How Science Can Save Our Planet by Chris Forman and Claire Asher

Brave Green World

In nature, there is little chemical waste, with nearly all the available matter remaining in a perpetual cycle. By contrast, human systems of energy production and manufacturing are linear: The end product is waste. In Brave Green World, Chris Forman and Claire Asher show what our linear systems can learn from the efficient circularity of ecosystems, offering a vision of a future in which we can combine biology and manufacturing to solve our central problems of waste and pollution.

“An ingenious, if highly speculative, save-the-planet proposal that emphasizes science over politics.” —Kirkus Reviews


Tomorrow's Economy: A Guide to Creating Healthy Green Growth by Per Espen Stoknes

Missing file.

In Tomorrow's Economy, Per Espen Stoknes reframes the hot-button issue of economic growth. Going beyond the usual pro-growth versus anti-growth debate, Stoknes calls for healthy growth. Healthy economic growth is more regenerative than wasteful, repairs problems rather than greenwashing them, and restores equity rather than exacerbating inequalities. Stoknes—a psychologist, economist, climate strategy researcher, and green-tech entrepreneur—shows that we already have the tools to achieve healthy growth, but our success depends on transformations in scaling innovations, government practices, and individual behaviors. Stoknes provides a compass to guide us toward the mindset, mechanisms, and possibilities of healthy growth.

“Stoknes's growth compass is a crucial tool to guide us toward a finer future.” —Hunter Lovins, co-author of Natural Capitalism

Read an excerpt on the MIT Press Reader: What 250 Years of Innovation History Reveals About Our Green Future


Cycling for Sustainable Cities edited by Ralph Buehler and John Pucher

Cycling for Sustainable Cities

Cycling is the most sustainable means of urban travel, practical for most short- and medium-distance trips—commuting to and from work and school, shopping, visiting friends—as well as for recreation and exercise. The sport promotes physical, social, and mental health, helps reduce car use, enhances mobility and independence, and is economical for both public and personal budgets. Cycling for Sustainable Cities shows how to make city cycling safe, practical, and convenient for all ages and abilities.


The Next 500 Years: Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds by Christopher E. Mason

Missing file.

Inevitably, life on Earth will come to an end, whether by climate disaster, cataclysmic war, or the death of the sun in a few billion years. To avoid extinction, we will have to find a new home planet, perhaps even a new solar system, to inhabit. In The Next 500 Years, Christopher Mason argues that humans have a moral duty to do just that—and he lays out a 500-year plan for undertaking the massively ambitious project of reengineering human genetics for life on other worlds.

“An eye-opening and insightful tour-de-force of a genetically altered possible future for humans in space.” —Sara Seager, MIT, author of The Smallest Lights in the Universe


To Know the World: A New Vision for Environmental Learning by Mitchell Thomashow

To Know the World

How can we respond to the current planetary ecological emergency? In To Know the World, Mitchell Thomashow proposes that we revitalize, revisit, and reinvigorate how we think about our residency on Earth. He describes why environmental learning is crucial for understanding the connected challenges of climate justice, tribalism, inequity, democracy, and human flourishing, and provides rationales and approaches for doing just that.

“[Thomashow’s] range of curiosity, insight, and learning is remarkable, and remarkably useful to us all!”  —Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?


Carbon Capture by Howard J. Herzog

Carbon Capture

The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide (CO2), and these CO2 emissions are a major driver of climate change. Carbon capture offers a path to climate change mitigation that has received relatively little attention. In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Howard Herzog offers a concise guide to carbon capture, covering basic information as well as the larger context of climate technology and policy.


AI in the Wild: Sustainability in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Peter Dauvergne

AI in the Wild

Drones with night vision are tracking elephant and rhino poachers in African wildlife parks and sanctuaries; smart submersibles are saving coral from carnivorous starfish on Australia's Great Barrier Reef; recycled cell phones alert Brazilian forest rangers to the sound of illegal logging. The tools of artificial intelligence are being increasingly deployed in the battle for global sustainability. In AI in the Wild, Peter Dauvergne avoids the AI industry-powered hype and offers a critical view, exploring both the potential benefits and risks of using artificial intelligence to advance global sustainability.

“A must-read for anyone interested in the global impact of using AI and how those who wield it have the potential to shape our world's environment for the better.” —Engineering & Technology


Deep Time Reckoning: How Future Thinking Can Help Earth Now by Vincent Ialenti

Deep Time Reckoning

We live on a planet careening toward environmental collapse that will be largely brought about by our own actions. And yet we struggle to grasp the scale of the crisis, barely able to imagine the effects of climate change just ten years from now, let alone the multi-millennial timescales of Earth's past and future life span. In this book, Vincent Ialenti offers a guide for envisioning the planet's far future—to become, as he terms it, more skilled deep time reckoners. The challenge, he says, is to learn to inhabit a longer now.

“Ialenti captures a world of possibilities, a future that is not as gloomy as it looks to many.” —Kate Brown, MIT; author of Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future

Read an essay by the author at BBC Future: The benefits of embracing 'deep time' in a year like 2020


Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock

Novacene

James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis and the greatest environmental thinker of our time, has produced an astounding new theory about the future of life on Earth. He argues that the Anthropocene—the age in which humans acquired planetary-scale technologies—is, after 300 years, coming to an end. A new age—the Novacene—has already begun. In the Novacene, new beings will emerge from existing artificial intelligence systems. These hyperintelligent beings will be as dependent on the health of the planet as we are. We will be partners in this project. It is crucial, Lovelock argues, that the intelligence of Earth survives and prospers. Perhaps, he speculates, the Novacene could even be the beginning of a process that will finally lead to intelligence suffusing the entire cosmos. 

“A prophet who deserves every honour the human race can bestow.” —Guardian


Conflicted American Landscapes by David E. Nye

Conflicted American Landscapes

A landscape is conflicted when different groups have different uses for the same location—for example, when some want to open mining sites that others want to preserve or when suburban development impinges on agriculture. Some landscapes are so degraded from careless use that they become toxic “anti-landscapes.” Historian David Nye traces these conflicts to clashing conceptions of nature—ranging from pastoral to Native American to military–industrial—that cannot be averaged into a compromise. Nye argues that today's environmental crisis is rooted in these conflicting ideas about land. Depending on your politics, global warming is either an inconvenient truth or fake news. America's contradictory conceptions of nature are at the heart of a broken national consensus.

Read an excerpt on the MIT Press Reader: America’s Conflicted Landscapes


The Wild and the Wicked: On Nature and Human Nature by Benjamin Hale

The Wild and the Wicked

For years, environmentalists have insisted that nature is fundamentally good. In The Wild and the Wicked, Benjamin Hale adopts the opposite position—that much of the time nature can be bad—in order to show that even if nature is cruel, we still need to be environmentally conscientious. Hale argues that environmentalists needn't feel compelled to defend the value of nature, or even to adopt the attitudes of tree-hugging nature lovers. We can acknowledge nature's indifference and periodic hostility. Deftly weaving anecdote and philosophy, he shows that we don't need to love nature to be green. What really ought to be driving our environmentalism is our humanity, not nature's value.

“A fun, funny, and accessible trip through Benjamin Hale's philosophical argument for being green—even though Nature itself is amoral.” —Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World


Effective Advocacy: Lessons from East Asia's Environmentalists by Mary Alice Haddad

Effective Advocacy

The countries of East Asia—China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan—are home to some of the most active and effective environmental advocates in the world. And the governments of these countries have adopted a range of innovative policies to fight pollution and climate change: Japan leads the world in emissions standards, China has become the world's largest producer of photovoltaic panels, and Taiwan and South Korea have undertaken major green initiatives. In this book, Mary Alice Haddad examines the advocacy strategies that persuaded citizens, governments, and businesses of these countries to change their behavior.

“Provides a terrific, theoretically innovative introduction to the strategies employed by environmental movements in East Asia to effect policy change." —Miranda A. Schreurs, Professor of Environmental and Climate Policy, Technical University of Munich


Global Environmental Politics edited by Steven Bernstein, Matthew Hoffmann, and Erika Weinthal

Global Environmental Politics

Global Environmental Politics examines relationships between global political forces and environmental change, with particular attention given to the implications of local-global interactions for environmental management, as well as to the implications of environmental change and environmental governance for world politics. The journal seeks to publish on a broad range of issues, from water to waste management to climate change.

Recommended articles from Global Environmental Politics:

Worlding the Study of Global Environmental Politics in the Anthropocene: Indigenous Voices from the Amazon” by Cristina Yumie Aoki Inoue

The Practical Fit of Concepts: Ecosystem Services and the Value of Nature” by Hayley Stevenson, Graeme Auld, Jen Iris Allan, Lorraine Elliott, and James Meadowcroft

Prisoners of the Wrong Dilemma: Why Distributive Conflict, Not Collective Action, Characterizes the Politics of Climate Change” by Michaël Aklin and Matto Mildenberger

Planetary Disasters: Wildness and the Perennial Struggle for Control” by Paul Wapner


Explore more of the MIT Press’s books on the environment