Since we launched this new climate change project at New Mexico In Depth, several people have asked for book recommendations to help them learn more about warming and its impacts here in the southwestern United States.
Since I love making lists, I jumped at the chance to share some of the titles on the bookshelf next to my own desk.
Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States: A Report Prepared for the National Climate Assessment (2013)
Don’t be scared off by the title. This surprisingly readable report breaks the issues down into manageable sections and chapters on everything from water, energy and human health to impacts on cities, U.S.-Mexico border communities and traditional cultures. There’s even a “summary for decision makers.” The bound book was published by Island Press and it’s also available online: http://www.swcarr.arizona.edu/
A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, by William deBuys (2011)
Bill deBuys has written plenty of great books about New Mexico, including River of Traps: A New Mexico Mountain Life and Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range. In A Great Aridness, he puts his amazing storytelling skills to work and brings to life the challenges the Southwest is facing as the region warms.
Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country, by Courtney White (2014)
The founder and creative director of the nonprofit Quivira Coalition, Courtney White has another new book, Two Percent Solutions for the Planet: 50 Low-Cost, Low-Tech, Nature-Based Practices for Combating Hunger, Drought, and Climate Change. During his long career working on holistic livestock grazing, White has picked up lessons that can be applied to everything from absorbing carbon dioxide in soils to reducing energy use.
The Tree Rings’ Tale: Understanding Our Changing Climate, by John Fleck (2009)
Journalist John Fleck wrote this book for students, but it’s great for adults, too. You can also read Fleck’s work online at http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/ or search through the Albuquerque Journal archives for the 200+ stories he wrote about climate change during his career at the daily newspaper.
Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming, and the Future of the American West, by James Lawrence Powell (2008)
James Lawrence Powell looks at the dams and reservoirs of the Colorado River, starting with Lake Powell, tracing its rise—and wondering about its inevitable fall. It’s a provocative and engaging book. “Though the scientific consensus that humans are the principal cause of global warming grow stronger every month, to forecast trouble ahead for the Colorado River basin, one does not have to get into causes. Global warming is well underway in the western United States and, regardless of the cause, it will continue for decades,” Powell writes. “Nothing that the West can do in the short run to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have any effect on the Colorado River. The supply of its water is going to fall; our best bet is to focus on demand. But that will take a degree of political will and leadership seldom seen in hydraulic societies.”
Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, by Elizabeth Kolbert (2006)
As a staff writer, Elizabeth Kolbert writes about climate change for The New Yorker. In Field Notes, she manages to convey the complex science behind things like climate change, Arctic sea ice, and sea level rises with both wit and compassion. She is, without a doubt, one of the nation’s best writers on the issues surrounding climate change.
Asserting Native Resilience: Pacific Rim Indigenous Nations Face the Climate Crisis, Edited by Zoltán Grossman and Alan Parker (2012)
While Native American tribes in the southwestern United States are grappling with things like increased desertification, non-native plant invasions, wildfire, and erosion, tribes along the Arctic and Subarctic are facing sea level rises, the loss of fisheries, and the destruction of entire communities. Although this book is focused on the Pacific Rim, it highlights two crucial issues: Worldwide, Indigenous people are facing some of the most immediate and severe threats from climate change—and many Indigenous elders, scholars and young people are offering up innovative solutions and ideas on how to thrive in the future.
Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, by James Hansen (2009)
NASA scientist James Hansen was among the first to bring climate change to the public consciousness. In 1988, he testified before Congress, declaring that the agency was 99 percent certain that human activities were responsible for a trend of warming global temperatures. Hansen has only become more outspoken in the past two decades. In Storms of My Grandchildren, he writes: “Politicians are happy if scientists provide information and then go away and shut up. But science and policy cannot be divorced.”
In 2010, Sandia National Laboratories released a report demonstrating a risk-assessment methodology for evaluating uncertain future climatic conditions—and took a state-by-state look at what inaction on climate change would do to each state’s economy. The report’s authors looked at the gross domestic product and employment impacts at the state level, interstate population migration, effects on personal income, and consequences for the U.S. trade balance. They found that “the mean or average risk of damage to the U.S. economy from climate change, at the national level, is on the order of $1 trillion over the next 40 years, with losses in employment equivalent to nearly 7 million full-time jobs.” In New Mexico, the risk of damage to the economy—if nothing is done—would result in the loss of $26 billion in gross domestic product and more than 217,000 jobs.
As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay in Denial: A Graphic Novel, by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan (2007)
Trust me, I know how hard it is to read about climate change. It’s complicated. It’s overwhelming. That’s why sometimes, it’s necessary to set aside the reports and academic tomes—then pick up something that allows us to shake our heads at the ways humans deal with a crisis.
If you’re looking for some good online resources, I can also recommend:
State of the Climate 2014 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
And readers! Share your favorite books or authors in the comments section below, please.