Eight Environmental books I read in 2020

4 December 2020
Eight Environmental books I read in 2020


Each year I make a plan to share a list on the blog of all the books I have read. After eight years of blogging I've finally managed to remember. I found the draft blog post from 2019 but forgot to share the books I read then. If you are interested the books related to the environment from my 2019 book haul were:
  • Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta
  • Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
  • Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia Edited by Anita Heiss
  • Hidden in Plain View by Paul Irish
  • The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage
  • A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington
  • Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor
  • Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States by Carl Zimring
  • Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People by Karl-Erik Sveiby and Tex Skuthorpe 
  • Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton
I’ll admit the books I read in 2020 with an environmental theme featured no POC authors. I didn’t even realise until after I made the list. I apologise for this and realise now I should have done better. I also didn't read as many books with an environmental focus. This year I enjoyed more fiction and non-fiction too. Let's get into the eight environmental books I read in 2020


How to Save The World by Katie Patrick

Technically I read this in 2019 but it is one book I have come back to a lot this year appropriately titled How To Save The World. This book originally began as a powerpoint presentation I stumbled across one day. Thankfully author Katie Patrick expanded on it and I'm so glad she did. Katie is an environmental engineer and designer with passion to help people change the world using game design and data.

Over the years I have watched environmental campaigns miss the mark while community driven movements like Plastic Free July and Zero Waste continue to shift habits. It wasn't until I read this book that I began to understand how these two became so popular. Both were focused on behaviour narratives lead by everyday people rather than just direct education full of guilt and doom. Katie's book really drives home that education alone is not going to help change the world let alone save it.

The book looks at how data, game design and behaviour psychology can be harnessed to create programs that will actually work to create change. How To Save The World is divide into ten sections with thoroughly researched actionable ideas alongside well considered case studies and examples of success stories and failures. It's technical but written in a way that makes the content accessible and fun.

Food or War by Jullian Cribb

This book was an interesting read. It was a little depressing at the start as Cribb goes through the ways humans have used food to harm, control, manipulate, and spur conflict on. We see it happening today with heartbreaking famines and the rise of food deserts. The power of controlling food has been overlooked as humans become more and more separated from it where it's being grown and by who. I'd like to think this book wasn’t written purely because of the issues at hand. Instead I hope it's because people are wanting to turn the system around fast. According to Cribb if we could grow more of our food in our cities with the help of tech (depending on location and climate) we'd save up to 20% in emissions used to transport food around the world. This along with other fascinating ideas could help provide more peace and stability in the world.

I don't find many of his proposed ideas too far fetched. Reduce military spending to reinvest in regenerative local agriculture, prioritising food education for children (growing, eating, sharing – you know life skills), accessibility to more healthy food, rethink packaging, sharing innovation, accessible tech for all farmers, rewilding lead by Indigenous leaders, giving farmers pay rises, and put more women in charge. I found myself nodding along to most of these and perhaps you will too.

2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration by Damon Gameau

2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration is to accompany the film. Since I saw the movie after reading the book I can safely say you don't need to have watched the film to enjoy this book.

The book begins with the issues we are facing and what inspired Gameau to make the film. From there the book is then broken up into six chapters, with the first four focused on energy, transport, drawdown & sequester, consumption. Like the film each theme is looked at from two angles; where we can scale up and the individual actions people like you and me can make. There are planet friendly recipes prioritising ingredients that are good for the soil or sequester carbon. It's an uplifting book, inspiring, and easy to read. The only thing I didn't like was the plastic debossing and embossing on the front of the book.

The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen by Lindsay Miles

This is a beautifully illustrated and well written guide to reducing waste in the kitchen. Whether you are starting out or are familiar with zero-waste I can guarantee you’ll learn something from Lindsay Mile’s second book. 

It will help answer those niggling questions beyond packaging and bulk food stores like food miles, carbon footprints, that can make decisions fickle and hard at the start. The type of foods you’ll encounter at a bulk food store and what to do with them. Tips for reducing food waste to landfill. Basic recipes and food preservation to get you started in your less waste no fuss kitchen. 

Lindsay’s balanced friendly approach will help you find the right choices for your life, without any goading or preaching. This book is a welcome addition to my kitchen I’ll be reaching for again and again.

Eight Environmental books I read in 2020

Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters by By Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Joanna Atherfold Finn

Before I begin I will note the author and founder of Plastic Free July is a friend of mine and I must congratulate her on this book. I know she was a nervous about writing it but I think she has done an amazing job alongside her co-author Joanna Atherfold Finn. I really enjoyed learning about Rebecca's early life, where her inspiration and passion for the environment came from. It set a good grounding for the book and how Plastic Free July would eventually come to fruition. While the book does have tips on reducing plastic this is a story about how Plastic Free July begun and its contribution to the plastic free movement, the people it has inspired, change created, and hope for the future. You might see my name inside its pages ;) 

Ninja Bandicoots and Turbo-Charged Wombats: Stories From Behind The Scenes At The Zoo by By Hazel Flynn

Full disclosure this book is for children. I did start to read parts of it with my kiddo (it's for older children 9-12) but ended up liking it myself. The author packs a lot of easy to digest information about the inner-workings of a zoo and animal hospital. If I had read a book like this as a child I probably would have become a vet or zoologist. There are fun facts about Australian native animals throughout that I had no idea about. I enjoyed reading about the real adventures from actual zoo keepers, how they came to their jobs, skills needed, and the fun they have with their roles. There are chapters on different animals, why they might be under threat, their life in a zoo or wildlife sanctuary. The chapters end with actions we can do to help make sure the animals are protected.

The Waste Between Our Ears by Gerry Gillespie

“The only place that waste exists is between our ears, because waste is not a fact — it is a concept.” This sentence from Gerry Gillespie's book is a ringing reminder the habits (in industry and through the individual) around waste have been formed and that there is a breadth of opportunity to change this.

The author of The Waste Between Our Ears is a zero waste campaigner based in Australia known for his interest and advocacy in the collection of properly sorted organic waste to reuse in the agricultural sector for regeneration. Much of his book is about the need for proper source separation as this would help turn materials back into something of value. Gillespie provides plenty of examples on how different materials could be recycled and reused on a local scale rather than picked up and shipped to a large city in fuel guzzling trucks. It's a timely book with the shake up in the Australian recycling industry.

I appreciated the author reminding us that many solutions won't work everywhere. Instead locally designed systems should be sought to fit with regions to address local issues. While much of the book is about resource recovery through recycling the ending focuses on the need to regulate and redesign if we want to advance any type of zero-waste system. Not just the products but also how the waste and recycling industry is structured. Gillepsie believes the more information the public knows, the more they'll want the current systems to change and to help participate in making that happen. The Waste Between Our Ears is helpful book to do just that.

Connecting With Life by Martin Summer

Living in a densely populated city myself made it easy to connect with Martin Summer's book. And with Melbourne, particularly my suburb, going through the longest Covid-19 lockdown this year had me questioning if it was possible to connect with life when I'm surrounded by so much concrete and brick. This is a well researched and nicely written book. 

Summer details the different challenges a city presents then provides solutions and benefits, most of which are accessible in my city and for me. This might not be the case for everyone and making nature more accessible to all residents in our built up urban environments need to be a priority. There are many tips for enjoying nature where we are, the overarching one being to look a little more closely and it will be there.

Next on my to-read list are Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom and This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson. I'd love to hear any suggestions you have via email or comment on Facebook. 


#trgcollab: The books Connecting With Life by Martin Summer, The Waste Between Our Ears by Gerry Gillespie, Ninja Bandicoots and Turbo-Charged Wombats: Stories From Behind The Scenes At The Zoo by By Hazel Flynn, 2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration by Damon Gameau, Food or War by Jullian Cribb were gifts by the authors and publisher. I use the hashtag #trgcollab to help readers idenifty items or services that were gifted to me or are a paid post. These items were unpaid gifts and I was not compensated financially to post about them. All views are my own. I only accept gifted items or services I would use personally.
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