Continuing our Best Books series, here are our bloggers’ picks for the best environment books of the last decade. Read the full entry to see why they chose their picks. Please comment and suggest your own favorites.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles Mann
Reclaiming Nature: Environmental Justice and Ecological Restoration, edited by James K. Boyce, Sunita Narain, and Elizabeth Stanton
Charles Mann. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. Knopf, 2005.
“This book transforms our understanding of both development and environment. The Western Hemisphere’s pre-Columbian civilizations were far more developed than is generally understood – and iconic examples of pristine nature, from the Amazon rainforest to old-growth forests of the eastern United States, were shaped by human use, and carefully managed by their inhabitants. Charles Mann demonstrates that much of what we think we know is untrue; in a small but striking example, he found no communities of Indians [sic] in the hemisphere who describe themselves as “native Americans.” His comparison of the quality of life under the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) versus the English colonies in the eighteenth century is enough to overturn any traditional narratives of historical progress.”
Reclaiming Nature: Environmental Justice and Ecological Restoration. Ed. By James K. Boyce, Sunita Narain, and Elizabeth Stanton. Anthem Press, 2007.
“This book is one of the (too) few of its kind to look at environmental issues from a “development first” perspective. Ranging from community-based fishery and forestry management to innovative strategies for combating global warming. They advance a compelling new vision of environmentalism, founded on the link between the struggle to reclaim nature and the struggle for social justice. This book advances three core propositions: first, humans can and do have positive as well as negative effects on the natural environment. By restoring degraded ecosystems and engaging in co-evolutionary processes, people can add value to nature’s wealth. Second, every person has an inalienable right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. These are not privileges to be awarded on the basis of political power, nor commodities to be allocated on the basis of purchasing power — they are fundamental human rights. Third, low-income communities are not the root of the problem. Rather they are the heart of the solution. In cities and the countryside across the world, ordinary people are forging a vibrant new environmentalism that is rooted in the defense of their lives and livelihoods.”