Worried about the Planet? These Titles Will Change Your Outlook

Chances are that you’ve experienced some climate anxiety as record wildfires, droughts and extreme weather events have overtaken the news cycle and continue to warn of a dire future without carbon reductions. 

Without collective action to reduce carbon emissions, however, it can be hard to channel your anxiety into something productive. Continually reading news reports that warn of the impending impacts of climate change can prove exhausting.

Recently, I’ve found that seeking out nature-minded reads that remind me of the beauty of the natural world or address the pervasive impacts of industrialization have quelled my own fears. These recent reads have proved insightful by changing my own perceptions of the problems we face 

Reading these titles can help alleviate that sense of dread by providing insights into the extent of the problems we face and tangible solutions to begin solving them.


Heather Hansman’s rafting journey in ‘Downriver’ warns of what’s at stake as cities expand

Where does your water come from? Chances are slim that you know the exact source your tap water originated from. In increasingly urban areas, water sources are becoming more abstract from the people they supply. 

One of the most prescient case studies of this phenomenon is in the American West. Cities and suburbs around Phoenix, Denver, Seattle and San Diego have boomed in the past 50 years, in large part due to extensive Bureau of Reclamation projects that created vast reservoirs and dams, giving Western cities massive water sources to use.

Water will only continue to be a precious resource as it is exacerbated by the ever-pressing needs of a demanding population. 

In her book, Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West, Heather Hansman explores the interdimensional complexities of water rights through her rafting journey down the Green River, one of the last Colorado River tributaries that hasn’t been fully allocated. 

Her narrative combines history, politics and economics as she winds from Fontenelle and Flaming Gorge reservoirs to Dinosaur National Monument and Ouray Fish Hatchery, painting striking contrasts between local residents and bureaucracies often lost in discussions of the urban-rural divide. 

If you’re looking to expand your understanding of water rights and usage, Hansman’s personal account provides a comprehensive picture of the historical and political implications at play. 

With increasing water scarcity, demanding cities, and over-allocated rivers that provide the personal tangibility of rafting down the Green, it proves the power of having personal connections with the landscapes we inhabit without actually having to.


Change your fashion habits with ‘The Conscious Closet’, a comprehensive guide for shopping sustainably

Admittedly, I was doubtful if a singular book would be enough to completely change my closet — or my spending habits. But fashion is one of the largest industries that contribute to climate change and is greatly influenced by individual decisions.

Elizabeth Cline’s The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good provides an in-depth look at the fashion industry and quantifiable actions in each chapter that can be put into practice immediately. 

I found the step-by-step breakdown in each chapter to be very helpful — by determining specific style preferences, cataloguing my own closet and considering the different carbon footprints of fabric types before buying anything, it provided an individual course of action to make my buying habits more sustainable and eco-friendly.

Cline’s guide also offers useful insights into the world of thrift shopping, which can be hit-or-miss for fashion finds. Knowing the differences among stitching styles, fabric content and clothing fit can prove useful when scanning through racks of pre-loved clothing. 


Jenny Odell’s ‘How to Do Nothing’ offers an antidote to social media burnout — by reconnecting with the natural world

With the past year and a half spent in quarantine, technology has become our collective method of connection. 

That’s why Jenny Odell’s critique of capitalism, social media and our disconnection from each other — as well as the natural world — is an excellent read for the modern age. 

How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy challenges the dominance of ever-increasing social platforms that monopolize our time and stress us out to keep us engaged, while at the same time providing a compelling argument for mindfully connecting with our surroundings.

Ironically, Odell herself lives in Silicon Valley and provides the reader with firsthand insights from the hub of the “attention economy” itself.

By cultivating mindsets that recognize the pervasiveness of the “attention economy,” we can enhance the quality of our lives by instead focusing on the value of the spaces we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with.

While it isn’t a “step-by-step” guide to unplugging from social media, Odell’s reflection allows readers to reconsider their relationship to monetized platforms and change their habits. 

Her analysis of the concept of “bioregionalism,” or recognizing the distinct qualities of the environments we inhabit by their specific ecosystems and settings, proves that changing our natural relationships is a crucial step in challenging ecological destruction. 

If we can cultivate balanced and personal relationships with our landscapes, then we can begin to create long-term, tangible solutions to the environmental crises we face — and won’t be distracted by our phones in the process.

What ecologically-centered books have you enjoyed? Let us know in the comments!


Corinne Neustadter enjoys writing about a broad range of issues when she isn’t reading.

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