SUGGESTED BOOKS

The Natural Alien – Humankind and Environment

Neil Evernden

In this eloquent and sympathetic book, Evernden evaluates the international environmental movement and the underlying assumptions that could doom it to failure. Beginning with a simple definition of environmentalists as ‘those who confess a concern for the non-human,’ he reviews what is inherent in industrial societies to make them so resistant to the concerns of environmentalists. His analysis draws on citing such diverse sources as Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, and TIME, and examines how we tend to think about the world and how we might think about it.

The book does not offer solutions to environmental questions, but it does offer the hope that there can be new ways of thinking and flexibility in human/environmental relations. Although humans seem alienated from our the natural world, we can develop a new understanding of ‘self in the world.’

The second edition has a new preface and an epilogue in which Evernden analyses the latest environmental catch-phrase: sustainable development.

What We See – Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs

Stephen A. Goldsmith, Lynne Elizabeth, Editors

A timely revisitation of renowned urbanist-activist Jane Jacobs’ lifework, What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs invites thirty pundits and practitioners across fields to refresh Jacobs’ economic, social and urban planning theories for the present day. Combining personal and professional observations with meditations on Jacobs’ insights, essayists bring their diverse experience to bear to sketch the blueprints for the living city.

The book models itself after Jacobs’ collaborative approach to city and community building, asking community members and niche specialists to share their knowledge with a broader community, to work together toward a common goal of building the 21st century city.

The resulting collection of original essays expounds and expands Jacobs’ ideas on the qualities of a vibrant, robust urban area. It offers the generalist, the activist, and the urban planner practical examples of the benefits of planning that encourages community participation, pedestrianism, diversity, environmental responsibility and self-sufficiency.

Bob Sirman, director of the Canada Council for the Arts, describes how built form should be an embodiment of a community narrative. Daniel Kemmis, former Mayor of Missoula, shares an imagined dialog with Jacobs,’ discussing the delicate interconnection between cities and their surrounding rural areas. And Roberta Brandes Gratz—urban critic, author, and former head of Public Policy of the New York State Preservation League—asserts the importance of architectural preservation to environmentally sound urban planning practices.

What We See asks us all to join the conversation about next steps for shaping socially just, environmentally friendly, and economically prosperous urban communities.

Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change

Peter Calthorpe

“Cities are green” is becoming a common refrain.  But Calthorpe argues that a more comprehensive understanding of urbanism at the regional scale provides a better platform to address climate change.  In this groundbreaking new work, he shows how such regionally scaled urbanism can be combined with green technology to achieve not only needed reductions in carbon emissions but other critical economies and lifestyle benefits.  Rather than just providing another checklist of new energy sources or one dimensional land use alternatives, he combines them into comprehensive national growth scenarios for 2050 and documents their potential impacts.  In so doing he powerfully demonstrates that it will take an integrated approach of land use transformation, policy changes, and innovative technology to transition to a low carbon economy.

To accomplish this Calthorpe synthesizes thirty years of experience, starting with his ground breaking work in sustainable community design in the 1980s following through to his current leadership in transit-oriented design, regional planning, and land use policy. Peter Calthorpe shows us what is possible using real world examples of innovative design strategies and forward-thinking policies that are already changing the way we live.

This provocative and engaging work emerges from Calthorpe’s belief that, just as the last fifty years produced massive changes in our culture, economy and environment, the next fifty will generate changes of an even more profound nature. The book, enhanced by its superb four-color graphics, is a call to action and a road map for moving forward.

The Evolution of Urban Form: Typology for Planners and Architects

Brenda Case Scheer

Most of the built environment is constructed following a few physical building patterns that occur over and over, or types. Planners, consciously and unconsciously, refer to building types as they work through urban design problems and regulation. Brenda Scheer’s Typology is the first comprehensive guide to form-based typology and a basic guide for all planners and designers concerned with the physical configuration of the city. This book provides a fundamental understanding of how the physical environment is created, changed, and transformed through ordinary processes over time. Suitable for professional planners, urban designers, and students, it includes practical examples of how typology is used in analytical, urban design, and regulatory situations.

Consuming Life

Zygmunt Bauman

With the advent of liquid modernity, the society of producers is transformed into a society of consumers. In this new consumer society, individuals become simultaneously the promoters of commodities and the commodities they promote. They are, at one and the same time, the merchandise and the marketer, the goods and the traveling salespeople. They all inhabit the same social space that is customarily described by the term the market.

The test they need to pass in order to acquire the social prizes they covet requires them to recast themselves as products capable of drawing attention to themselves. This subtle and pervasive transformation of consumers into commodities is the most important feature of the society of consumers. It is the hidden truth, the deepest and most closely guarded secret, of the consumer society in which we now live.

In this new book Zygmunt Bauman examines the impact of consumerist attitudes and patterns of conduct on various apparently unconnected aspects of social life politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification, communities and partnerships, identity building, the production and use of knowledge, and value preferences.

The invasion and colonization of the web of human relations by the worldviews and behavioural patterns inspired and shaped by commodity markets, and the sources of resentment, dissent and occasional resistance to the occupying forces, are the central themes of this brilliant new book by one of the worlds most original and insightful social thinkers.

Collapse

Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is the glass-half-empty follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. While Guns, Germs, and Steel explained the geographic and environmental reasons why some human populations have flourished, Collapse uses the same factors to examine why ancient societies, including the Anasazi of the American Southwest and the Viking colonies of Greenland, as well as modern ones such as Rwanda, have fallen apart. Not every collapse has an environmental origin, but an eco-meltdown is often the main catalyst, he argues, particularly when combined with society’s response to (or disregard for) the coming disaster. Still, right from the outset of Collapse, the author makes clear that this is not a mere environmentalist’s diatribe. He begins by setting the book’s main question in the small communities of present-day Montana as they face a decline in living standards and a depletion of natural resources. Once-vital mines now leak toxins into the soil, while prion diseases infect some deer and elk and older hydroelectric dams have become decrepit. On all these issues, and particularly with the hot-button topic of logging and wildfires, Diamond writes with equanimity. Because he’s addressing such significant issues within a vast span of time, Diamond can occasionally speak too briefly and assume too much, and at times his shorthand remarks may cause careful readers to raise an eyebrow. But in general, Diamond provides fine and well-reasoned historical examples, making the case that many times, economic and environmental concerns are one and the same. With Collapse, Diamond hopes to jog our collective memory to keep us from falling for false analogies or forgetting prior experiences, and thereby save us from potential devastations to come. While it might seem a stretch to use medieval Greenland and the Maya to convince a skeptic about the seriousness of global warming, it’s exactly this type of cross-referencing that makes Collapse so compelling. –Jennifer Buckendorff

The Collapse of Complex Societies

Joseph A. Tainter

Political disintegration is a persistent feature of world history. The Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will therefore strike a chord throughout the social sciences. Any explanation of societal collapse carries lessons not just for the study of ancient societies, but for the members of all such societies in both the present and future. Dr. Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than 2000 years of explanations. He then develops a new and far-reaching theory that accounts for collapse among diverse kinds of societies, evaluating his model and clarifying the processes of disintegration by detailed studies of the Roman, Mayan and Chacoan collapses.

The Long Emergency

James Howard Kunstler

Kunstler established a writing career criticizing American suburbia (e.g., The Geography of Nowhere, 1993), and his animosity against his bete noire does not abate here. It’s a wide–casting, statistics-studded ramble through energy production and technologies, world economic and political history, and climatology that culminates in predictions that the suburbs are doomed. His assertions are always self–confident, sometimes immodestly so, as when he dismisses in toto any possibility that the market, or technologists, will rescue contemporary civilization from a world of declining oil production. Discerning an imminent future of protracted socioeconomic crisis, Kunstler foresees the progressive dilapidation of subdivisions and strip malls, the depopulation of the American Southwest, and, amid a world at war over oil, military invasions of the West Coast; when the convulsion subsides, Americans will live in smaller places and eat locally grown food. Credit Kunstler with an energetic argument, but whether he has achieved his stated goal–waking up an ostensibly somnolent public–via his relentless and alarmist pessimism remains to be seen. Gilbert Taylor

Listening to the Land

Derrick Jensen

In this far-ranging and heartening collection, Derrick Jensen gathers conversations with environmentalists, theologians, Native Americans, psychologists, and feminists, engaging some of our best minds in an exploration of more peaceful ways to live on Earth. Included here is Dave Foreman on biodiversity, Matthew Fox on Christianity and nature, Jerry Mander on technology, and Terry Tempest Williams on an erotic connection to the land. With intelligence and compassion, Listening to the Land moves from a look at the condition of the environment and the health of our spirit to a beautiful evocation of eros and a life based on love.

 

eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

The world as we know it has ended forever: that’s the melancholy message of this nonetheless cautiously optimistic assessment of the planet’s future by McKibben, whose The End of Nature first warned of global warming’s inevitable impact 20 years ago. Twelve books later, the committed environmentalist concedes that the earth has lost the climatic stability that marked all of human civilization. His litany of damage done by a carbon-fueled world economy is by now familiar: in some places rainfall is dramatically heavier, while Australia and the American Southwest face a permanent drought; polar ice is vanishing, glaciers everywhere are melting, typhoons and hurricanes are fiercer, and the oceans are more acidic; food yields are dropping as temperatures rise and mosquitoes in expanding tropical zones are delivering deadly disease to millions. McKibben’s prescription for coping on our new earth is to adopt maintenance as our mantra, to think locally not globally, and to learn to live lightly, carefully, gracefully—a glass-half-full attitude that might strike some as Pollyannaish or merely insufficient. But for others McKibben’s refusal to abandon hope may restore faith in the future.

 

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