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What to read next: 5 books to make your life greener

Words: Julia Gorodecky

Main illustration: Michelle Mildenberg

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If you’ve finished this year’s pile of summer bestsellers, why not dive into one of these great reads on our fragile environment, and how to fix it? We’ve picked five must-read releases covering climate, conservation, trees, travel, wildlife and white privilege.

The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature, by Peter Wohlleben

Out now from Greystone Books

Human life as we know it would be “unthinkable” without trees, says Peter Wohlleben. “Trees are our most important allies in the fight against climate change,” he says. “But we are also very strongly connected in other ways.” In this book, Wohlleben takes us deep into the habitat of his “favourite creature”. The Heartbeat of Trees explores “the language of the forest, the consciousness of plants, and the eroding boundary between flora and fauna”, and draws on new and cutting-edge discoveries, as well as Wohlleben’s own expertise of forests, to show us how, regardless of our urban lives and addiction to technology, we are still deeply connected to the natural world. He shows us how we can – and need to  reconnect with trees: both through our senses (including our sixth one), and through conservation strategies. With references to history, science, medicine and spirituality, it’s a journey that encompasses the plant world, human behaviour, forestry management practices and climate change.

Interesting fact: When Wohlleben talks about the heartbeat of trees, he means it literally. It’s a phenomenon whereby trees use contractions to pump water gradually up from the roots to the crown.

Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation, by Paul Hawken

Out 14 September from Penguin Books

With the United Nations describing its most recent climate report as a “code red for humanity”, there’s no denying we need to pull our socks up hard to respond. A good place to start looking for help is Paul Hawken’s new book, Regeneration. Hawken believes that in order to reverse global warming, we need to address current human needs, not an imagined future. We need to give humanity attention in order to get humanity’s attention. The ultimate power to change the world relies on respect and compassion – for ourselves, for others and for life. And in this wide-ranging what-to-do manual for all and sundry – which even includes a 12-point climate checklist that we can apply to our lives – the noted environmentalist describes a system of interlocking initiatives and a strategy that puts “life at the center of every action and decision”. It’s a radical new approach that he believes can stem the climate crisis – in just one generation.

Interesting fact: The book – coming out in September – isn’t just a book. It will be accompanied by a streaming video series, curriculum, and podcasts.

Climate Change is Racist: Race, Privilege and the Struggle for Climate Justice, by Jeremy Williams

Out now from Icon Books

Jeremy Williams’ book Climate Change is Racist is not supposed to be a comfortable read – but it’s certainly an important one. In it, the environmental and social justice campaigner addresses a fact that many (but sadly not enough) people already know: that those in majority white, western countries are the main culprits of climate change. While those living in African and Asian countries are the ones who overwhelmingly suffer the consequences. It is a racism that goes beyond the personal prejudice or institutional bias we come across in our everyday lives. In his bid to diversify climate change activism and confront historical structural racisms, Williams takes readers on a journey across the globe presenting us with environmental facts, the experiences of those most affected, and insights from the activists leading the change. All in the hope that we will be left with an understanding of how white privilege affects climate change, and how the climate crisis reflects and reinforces racial injustices. Williams does not seek to blame on an individual level, he simply asks us to take some responsibility and be proactive in redressing the inequality.

Interesting fact: Williams practises what he preaches. He’s making his home zero carbon, has a scheme for growing food in unused spaces around his hometown, and – to his family’s dismay, is fascinated by insect-based food.

Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction, by Michelle Nijhuis

Out now from W. W. Norton & Company

This book by the acclaimed science journalist Michelle Nijhuis tells the story of the modern conservation movement through the lives, actions and ideas of the people who built it. We meet scientists, birdwatchers, hunters, self-taught philosophers, activists and more, all of whom stood or stand at a crossroads in species conservation. The book describes key turning points such as the introduction of conservation laws, and reveals the origins of organisations such as the Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund. But these positive tales are intermingled with the controversies of the movement’s past and some of the people involved, as Nijhuis addresses its darker sides of colonialism, racism and sexist attitudes. And as much as Beloved Beasts is a comprehensive history, it’s also a stark warning that there is still much that needs to be done to protect the natural world, humanity, and the species that are in danger of becoming extinct in the not-too-distant future.

Interesting fact: Michelle Nijhuis spent 15 years living off-grid in Colorado, US. You can read her wonderfully honest glass-half-full-glass-half-empty story about life in the wilderness here.

Sustainable Travel, by Holly Tuppen

Out now from White Lion Publishing

Now that we’re able to travel more freely again, will things return to the pre-pandemic overload where the global tourism industry was taking an ever-increasing toll on the environment? Or has the enforced time-out given us the opportunity to reflect on our approach to travel and consider another way? In Sustainable Travel, Holly Tuppen asks, can we justify travelling in this time of climate crisis? She believes we can – but only if we change our ways. And through the pages of her book, Tuppen takes us on a journey that shows us how. From advice on how we can make more environmentally responsible choices to ensure our trips do more good than harm, to pointers on how to pack responsibly. And from an inspiring and detailed guide to regenerative travel experiences (conservation tours, community-led initiatives, alternative adventures and so on), to interviews with the experts and unsung heroes of sustainable travel. It has everything you need for a low-carbon, positive-impact trip. Just don’t forget to pack your (bamboo) toothbrush.

Interesting fact: Two per cent of the revenue generated from the sale of this book will be donated to the international conservation charity World Land Trust.

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