Red and green reading

Ecosocialist Bookshelf: Best of 2019

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This was a bumper year for books of interest to ecosocialists. Here are ten that we found particularly interesting or valuable, or both.

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Climate & Capitalism receives more books than we can possibly review, but we can and do compile a monthly list of those that seem relevant to our mission, along with brief descriptions. The result is one of our most popular features, Ecosocialist Bookshelf.

This year the column included 68 books on subjects ranging from ancient volcanoes to the life of Marx to Malthus. The overall quality was very high, so producing a “10 Best” list hasn’t been easy, but here we go.

Note: This list only includes books that arrived by early November. And, as always, inclusion of a book does not imply endorsement, or that we agree with everything (or even anything!) these books say.

(In alphabetical order by author)

Seth Donnelly
How neoliberals distort data to mask poverty and exploitation

Monthly Review Press, 2019
Donnelly deconstructs claims that global poverty has fallen dramatically, and exposes the spurious methods of poverty measurement and data on which such claims depends. His carefully researched study shows that that global poverty, inequality and misery remain massive, afflicting the majority of the world’s population.

Martin Empson, editor
A Revolutionary Response to Environmental Crisis

Bookmarks, 2019
Marxist essays on the global crisis. Ian Angus on Metabolic Rift; Kohei Saito on Marx’s Ecosocialism; Camilla Royle on the Anthropocene; Martin Empson on agriculture; Amy Leather on plastic; Sarah Ensor on biodiversity; Ian Rappel on ‘Natural Capital’; Suzanne Jeffery on social movements; Michelle Robidoux and Carolyn Egan on tar sands and Indigenous rights.

Robert Henson
University of Chicago Press, 2019
I’m constantly on the lookout for clear and up-to-date accounts of the climate change crisis. This book, produced by the American Meteorological Society, is one of the best I’ve found. The sections on Symptoms, Science, and Debates are very good. The discussion of Actions is weaker, but even that section provides a useful summary of mainstream thinking and proposals. Recommended.

Naomi Klein
The Burning Case for a Green New Deal

Simon & Schuster (in Canada: Knopf) 2019
Of course she needs no introduction — Naomi Klein is a leading advocate for social and environmental justice, whose books and essays have helped to mobilize millions. On Fire combines more than a decade of her long-form essays with new material on the political and economic crises we face today.

Kate O’Neill
Polity, 2019
Waste can be a risk, a resource, and even a livelihood, and it has major implications for governance at local, national, and global levels. O’Neill traces the emergence of the global waste industry, and discusses how we could deal with both the risks and the opportunities associated with the hundreds of millions – possibly billions – of tons of waste we generate each year.

Daniel Pauly
Shifting Baselines and the Future of Global Fisheries

Greystone Books, 2019
Award-winning biologist Daniel Pauly examines the parlous state of today’s global fisheries. Starting with the rapid expansion that followed World War II, he traces the arc of the fishing industry’s ensuing demise, offering insights into how and why it has failed, His practical recommendations for a way forward incorporate a vision of a vibrant future where small-scale fisheries can supply the majority of the world’s fish.

Darrin Qualman
Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future

Fernwood Publishing, 2019
The great strength of our modern word is also its great weakness. Our immense powers to turn resources and nature into products and waste imperil our future. Qualman argues that the transition to linear systems and away from the circular patterns of nature is the foundational error — the underlying problem, the root cause of climate change, resource depletion, and a host of mega-problems now intensifying and merging, with potentially civilization-cracking results.

Timothy A. Wise
Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the battle for the Future of Food

New Press, 2019
The world already has the tools to feed itself, without expanding industrial agriculture or adopting genetically modified seeds. Most of the world is now fed by hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers, people with few resources and simple tools but a keen understanding of what to grow and how. These farmers can show the way forward as the world warms and population increases.

David Wallace-Wells
Life After Warming

Penguin Random House, 2019
If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible. Without a revolution in how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth could become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin N. Waters, Mark Williams, Colin P. Summerhayes, editors
A Guide to the Scientific Evidence and Current Debate

Cambridge University Press, 2019
Top international experts detail the scientific case that a new epoch in Earth history has begun. The scale, manner and rate of global environmental change are placed within the context of planetary processes and deep geological time. An essential guide to the latest findings of Geology and Earth System science about the radical transformation of the planet in our time.