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Summer Reading for the Climate Crowd

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Climate page and our Organic Transitions page.

Summertime and the reading is easy. Or should be. Which is why climate-themed summer reading may go over as well as a declaration that your kids have to do math homework every morning.

But there is lighter climate reading to be had. Literature even. Trust the staff at Daily Climate – the ones who ferreted out articles about the CO2 dress or Lady Gaga's carbon footprint – to find the gems and the must-reads amid the dense and the doom.

So head to the hammock. Load the Kindle. Surely you can find room between Agatha Christie and Danielle Steele for one or two items on this list.

Besides, like your kids, you need to stay sharp over the summer.


It's summer, so let's start with the blockbusters:

"Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver

"Spillover" by David Quammen

    A-list writers Barbara Kingsolver and David Quammen both came out recently with books exploring our changing environment. Kingsolver sets her story in Appalachia, where a crushingly undereducated, poor, beautiful, bored housewife discovers something horribly amiss: Millions of monarch butterflies, instead of migrating to Mexico, are wintering much farther north in her woods.

    "Flight Behavior" mixes tensions: belief and science, wealth and poverty, education and ignorance. The question is how – or whether – we want to steer the world toward a better place.

    "Spillover" comes to climate change only in the last chapter.

    First Quammen takes us on a global romp tracing the rise of zoonotic diseases – illnesses that jump from animals and other species to humans. Each chapter brings a disease into slow focus: Mysterious deaths, grim symptoms, unsuspected infection pathways. In Quammen's hands, it's gripping stuff.

    The final chapter explores reasons why these diseases are on the rise: Huge human and livestock populations, habitat destruction, global warming. "It could easily become a diatribe," warns the Guardian's Alice Roberts. But Quammen "is careful to emphasize that humans are part of the natural world, not separate from it – and there lies the problem."

"Odds Against Tomorrow" by Nathaniel Rich

    An engaging novel about preparing for worst-case scenarios, "Odds" seemed to predict Hurricane Sandy when the book appeared weeks after the storm hit the East Coast. It didn't, of course, and Rich doesn't once mention climate change. But that's on purpose, and readers will find a surprisingly suspenseful, romantic tale woven amid a story of adaptation and perseverance.

Short stuff

One legit question, as the mercury settles comfortably in the triple digits: Who has time for novels? For those stuck in traffic, or on a train, or simply looking for less commitment, magazine articles – or a podcast – might be the ticket.

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math , by Bill McKibben, Rolling Stone

    Last summer activist and author Bill McKibben launched a movement aimed at castigating fossil fuel companies and pushing for society to call investments in such companies morally wrong. Read the article that set it all in motion.

Obama: Stealth Climate Warrior? by Jonathan Foley, Ensia

    One of the deeper thinkers on planetary limits and climate change argues that Obama deserves props for limiting US emissions – and this before the president's big climate speech last week.

Why are environmentalists taking anti-science positions? by Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360

    A veteran environmental reporter explores the dangers environmentalists run by refusing to listen to science that challenges their views.

Tom Steyer: Billionaire turned climate activist by Michael Krasny, KQED's Forum

    An interview with the San Francisco investor-turned-activist who raised money for Obama – and now finds himself now fighting the president and other Democrats who haven't opposed the Keystone XL pipeline.

Climate of Denial by Al Gore, Rolling Stone

    The former veep takes on the media and the denial industry in a classic essay from 2011.

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