Ecosocialist Bookshelf, December 2023

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Eight important new books for the rebels and revolutionaries on your list

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Ecosocialist Bookshelf is a monthly column, hosted by Ian Angus. Books described here may be reviewed at length in future. Inclusion of a book does not imply endorsement, or that C&C agrees with everything (or even anything!) it says.

Monica Zurowski
The Wildfire Season that Shocked the World

Greystone Books
A harrowing portrait of Canada’s most devastating wildfire season ever, the effects of which could be felt and seen across the world. In 2023, over 6,000 wildfires devoured more than 15 million hectares of forest, and tens of thousands of people fled their homes, seeking shelter in evacuation centers across the country. Ontario and dozens of American states were blanketed with choking wildfire smoke, registering the worst air quality in the world for several days. A dramatic, extensively illustrated account of the impact of climate change.

Helena Sheehan
Long Distance Life on the Left

Monthly Review Press
Most westerners glimpsed the breakup of the Soviet Union at a distance, but some, like Helena Sheehan, personally experienced a world turning upside down. In her new autobiographical history from below, she shares what she witnessed first-hand and close-up, as hopes were raised by glasnost and perestroika, only to be swept away in the bitter and brutal counterrevolutions that followed. The central storyline of the book is her political activism as waves of history swept through the left and challenged it in ever more formidable ways.

Ashley Dawson
How Global People’s Movements Are Leading the Fight for Our Planet

Haymarket Books
A global account of the grassroots environmental movements on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Scholar and activist Ashley Dawson constructs a gripping narrative of these movements of climate insurgents, from international solidarity organizations like La Via Campesina and Shack Dwellers International to local struggles in South Africa, Colombia, India, Nigeria, and beyond. Building on longstanding traditions of anticolonial struggle, environmentalism from below is a model for a people’s movement for climate justice—one that demands solidarity.

Ed Conway
The Six Raw Materials that Shape Modern Civilization

Alfred A Knopf
A “ground up” perspective on the history of civilization. Sand, salt, iron, copper, oil, and lithium have created empires, razed civilizations, and fed our ingenuity and greed for thousands of years. Without them, our modern world would not exist.

Brett Christophers
Why Capitalism Won’t Save the Planet

Why isn’t the world moving to end emissions and stop fossil fuels? The problem is not that transitioning to renewables is too expensive, but that saving the planet is not sufficiently profitable. Brett Christopher argues that the global economy is moving too slowly toward sustainability because the return on green investment is too low. He argues we can only advance by taking energy out of the private sector.

Mark Stoll
An Environmental History

Polity Books
A story of incredible ingenuity and villainy that begins in the Doge’s palace in medieval Venice and ends with Jeff Bezos aboard his own spacecraft. Mark Stoll’s revolutionary account places environmental factors at the heart of capitalism’s successes and reveals the long shadow of its terrible consequences.

Vijay Prashad
A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations

Monthly Review Press
While applauding itself as the great defender of democracy, the United States, in reality, is a superpower intent on infiltrating foreign governments, obliterating entire cultures, and carrying out murderous military interventions in developing countries the world over. Historian and journalist Vijay Prashad delivers a scathing indictment of U.S. imperialism, from the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup in Iran, to the twenty-first-century ouster of Evo Morales in Bolivia.

Steve Nichols
How Insects Conquered the Earth and Why Their Fate Will Determine Our Future

Princeton University Press
A beautifully illustrated journey into the history and activities of the most numerous of all animals. Life depends on insects, but global populations of these teeming creatures are currently under threat, with grave consequences for us all. Combining spectacular photos with clear and informative science writing, Nichols goes inside the hidden realm of insects and reveals why their fate carries profound implications for our own.