10 CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND OUR ENVIRONMENT

In case you haven’t heard, a climate disaster is looming. The effects of climate change—like rising seas and intensifying weather patterns—are already here. Even though the worst is yet to come, there are still things that we can do to fight for our planet. One thing you can do right now is to educate yourself by reading climate change books.

10 Climate Change Books to Help You Understand Our Environment

CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS ABOUT SCIENCE

HOT, HUNGRY PLANET: THE FIGHT TO STOP A GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS IN THE FACE OF CLIMATE CHANGE BY LISA PALMER

By the year 2050, Earth’s population will be closing in on 10 billion people. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Journalist Lisa Palmer’s book Hot Hungry Planet digs into the possibilities of famine and food scarcity and the innovations that might save us all from hunger.

sixth-extinction-coverTHE SIXTH EXTINCTION: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY BY ELIZABETH KOLBERT

What will the future look like? The past may have a clue. Over the ages of our planet’s history, there have been five mass extinction events, one of which all but wiped out the dinosaurs. In the Anthropocene period, the next casualty may be us. In The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a closer look at the past to tell us more about our future.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS ABOUT HEALTH

FEVERED: WHY A HOTTER PLANET WILL HURT OUR HEALTH—AND HOW WE CAN SAVE OURSELVES BY LINDA MARSA

We’re getting more used seeing images of stranded polar bears and hearing about our dwindling bee population, but most reporting on climate change leaves out what it can do to our own health. Linda Marsa’s Fevered delves into the increasing rate of illnesses associated with global warming, like asthma, allergies, and mosquito-borne diseases, just to name a few.

THE GREAT DERANGEMENT: CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE UNTHINKABLE BY AMITAV GHOSH

The past few generations have taken advantage of the planet, polluting the oceans, ravaging the land, and filling our skies with smoke. What were we thinking? In The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh argues that we weren’t, we have been deliberately blind to the disasters looming in our future—until now.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS ABOUT PEOPLE

PLASTIC: A TOXIC LOVE STORY BY SUSAN FREINKEL

One of the scariest things about plastic is that it’s kind of immortal. It can churn in the ocean for hundreds of years before it finally breaks down. Humans fell in love with this toxic material in 1950s, and since then, it has managed to work its way into almost everything we touch. Susan Freinkel recounts this love story in Plastic by digging deeper into the ways plastic affects our lives and the life of the planet.

STAYING ALIVE: WOMEN, ECOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENTStaying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development book cover BY VANDANA SHIVA

Originally published in 1988, activist Vandana Shiva’s seminal work, Staying Alive, explores the relationship between women and our natural world. In many places, the freedom of the women is directly related to a country’s outlook. More recent research has shown that women’s rights directly impacts sustainability. You could say that Shiva is the mother of that idea.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS ABOUT POLITICS

THE MADHOUSE EFFECT: HOW CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL IS THREATENING OUR PLANET, DESTROYING OUR POLITICS, AND DRIVING US CRAZY BY MICHAEL E. MANN AND TOM TOLES

Research has shown that climate denialists do, in fact, have brains. It’s just that they haven’t been using them. We have been manipulated, and logic has been twisted to distort the truth. In The Madhouse Effect, climate scientist Michael E. Mann comes together with cartoonist Tom Toles to create a funny, sad portrait of the mad world we’re living in.

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: CAPITALISM VS. THE CLIMATE BY NAOMI KLEIN

From the author of The Shock Doctrine, this book delves into the war between capitalism and the planet. In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein argues something that many of us already know: we have to change our destructive habits that are rooted in capitalism. It may be the only way we can save our environment before it’s too late.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS ABOUT RACISM

DUMPING IN DIXIE: RACE, CLASS, AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY BY ROBERT D. BULLARD

Not everyone will experience climate change equally. The poor and working class are already disproportionately affected by the problems of climate change. In Dumping in Dixie, Robert D. Bullard, a professor and environmental justice activist, asserts that living in a healthy environment is a right for all Americans, regardless of their race, class, or social standing.

Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential MobilityTOXIC COMMUNITIES: ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM, INDUSTRIAL POLLUTION, AND RESIDENTIAL MOBILITY BY DORCETA E. TAYLOR

For years, poor and minority communities have found themselves becoming the dumping ground for businesses hoping to get rid of waste on the path of least resistance. Shockingly, entrenched segregation and zoning laws have paved the way to make this possible, making communities of color sick for years—literally.

By , January 
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5 Ways That Technology’s Evolution Pushes the Boundary of Fiction

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The Martian. Science fiction, or not? For many the answer is obvious: it’s about an astronaut living on Mars. Pure SF. Hard SF. No question about it. And yet it turns out the answer is something of a black-and-gold dress or, to use a more recent mind-bending metaphor, can be heard as either “Laurel” or “Yanny.”

I attended a local book club recently (not one limited to SF books) to discuss The Martian. The group of twenty was pretty evenly split as to whether or not it was SF. And it was all down to how the individual reader perceived the likelihood of the events, and the technology being portrayed. “We landed on the Moon,” “People live in the desert to simulate this stuff,” “Pathfinder is a real thing,” “We’ve got robots on Mars!”

For what it’s worth, I see The Martian as very much SF. But the discussion was interesting and it got me thinking about the interaction between technology and storytelling and, in particular, how the evolution of technology pushes at the boundary of fiction and science fiction.

Here are five ways in which technology and storytelling interrelate, in no particular order.

1. Fictional technology quickly becomes reality: I grew up watching “Star Trek: TNG” and, while the show rests primarily on the premise of warp drive, the little nuggets of day to day technology were the things that at once seemed so real and yet were completely out of reach: food replicators, holodecks, tablet computers…

Younger members of my family are far less impressed. Tablets are in all our homes, and aren’t replicators just fancy 3D printers? Travelling in the opposite direction, when my parents first watched the original “Star Trek,” the things that stood out to them were handheld communicators and doors that opened automatically when someone approached them – neither of which appeared at all odd to me when I was watching it!

One of the most interesting aspects of this phenomenon is the feedback loop between fiction and technology: those consuming science fiction shows tend to try and create the amazing tech that they’ve watched as a child. After all, who wouldn’t want a go on Marty McFly’s hoverboard?

2. Technology changes the rules: While technology does open new possibilities for storytelling, its rule benders can also pose serious problems for authors. Two examples are the cellphone and the internet. After all, how can a protagonist be put in danger when they can simply call for help? And how can satisfying puzzles be set for our characters, when those same cellphones give them access to the sum of humanity’s knowledge?

The fact that technology is constantly changing doesn’t just cause headaches for science fiction. Would we believe a story, for instance, that didn’t include characters using credit cards (which first appeared in Edward Bellamy’s 1887 story, Looking Backward)? Or a modern crime novel that didn’t include forensics, etc. etc.?

When writing my new novel, The Synapse Sequence, I was thinking about some of the ways in which policing is likely to change in the very near future. So when a teenage girl goes missing, would the police assign a grizzled detective to the case – or would they be more likely to get an AI to judge the evidence and use facial recognition to try and find her? At the time of writing, I considered this to be very much science fiction. Now though, I can almost hear the members of my book group objecting – and certainly similar systems are being introduced in certain parts of the world (notably China).

The main component of The Synapse Sequence, however, is more speculative. It involves the use of technology that allows an investigator to explore the memories of witnesses. A little more far-fetched than using AI’s and algorithms? Nope. All stuff that’s in development, and being reported on in science journals.

3. The world becomes both smaller and larger: In the decades leading up to the end of the 20th Century, technology was increasing the scope of stories, and opening up constrained settings: Phileas Fogg traveled around the world in eighty days, whereas nowadays it takes a few hours. Similarly, it’s possible to find out what’s happening on the other side of the globe on the evening news. So our stories are not limited to a single place, and characters like James Bond can hop from the Caribbean to Moscow to Japan between a few chapters…

…but this effect has also led to revisions to once staple story elements. We now know there is no life on Venus or Mars, we can be certain there are no sea creatures that once adorned ancient maps, and the rough sketches of exotic animals drawn by early explorers have long since been replaced by definitive photos. The answer? We’ve had to create more complex alien worlds and fantastical settings. The aliens no longer inhabit Mars, but interdimensional spaces!

4. Technology allows us to tell stories in different ways: I live quite close to the only place in the UK which has cave art (dating back 13,000 years). Alongside oral traditions, it represents some of the earliest forms of storytelling. Of course, writing itself can be viewed as a technology. The development of the printing press allowed mass communication and (arguably) accelerated the loss of local languages. And the personal computer has transformed our ability to edit and craft our work.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to claim we’re living through a period of rapid storytelling innovation. As some debate whether the novel is “doomed,” storytelling itself seems to be in rude health. A Golden Age in television drama is giving us hours of astonishingly complex worlds and plotting; computer games are delivering on the promise of truly interactive entertainment; and new social media tools (Twitter/Instagram) are quickly becoming a hybrid of oral, printed word, and visual traditions.

5. Technology changes the way we look at ourselves: One of the most important contributions of the space race was to transform our understanding of Earth’s place in the universe. The Hubble Space telescope – and its astonishing deep field view – provided a glimpse of thousands of galaxies from a tiny segment of space. Many have written about the environmental narrative being strengthened by photos of the pale blue dot, but I would also suggest that it has had another more subtle impact. Aliens are no longer of sole interest to science fiction – there is growing mainstream scientific interest in the search for life beyond our planet and indeed our solar system. The view increasingly seems to be that we are not alone, which might explain growing interest in speculative fiction within mainstream genre circles.

* * *

And that’s my list (typed on a very old, but serviceable, laptop). So how will technology affect storytelling in future? I can’t wait to find out!

9 Books That Bridge the Gap Between Faith and Science

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Nominally, religious faith and science are viewed as opponents in a grand rhetorical debate. And yet, there’s plenty of interesting debate to be witnessed by those authors who’ve set out to examine the grey areas in which science and belief overlap. In some cases, these are scientists seeking a common ground with the theologians who ponder some of the same questions, albeit from a very different angle. In others, these authors have one foot in each camp, blending a deeply held faith with a background in the scientific method and a rigorous logic to boot.

These books offer a host of perspectives on the places where faith, logic, science, and religion all converge. Regardless of your perspective on the cosmos and the world around us, you may well find plenty to ponder and debate within these pages.

The cover of the book Searching for Stars on an Island in MaineSearching for Stars on an Island in Maine by Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman’s own background is in theoretical physics; he’s also written a host of books exploring the ways in which science interacts with our daily lives and overlap with the ineffable. In Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, Lightman ponders questions of mortality, the nature of the universe, and the inexplicable questions that the universe poses. The result is a charming, candid, thought-provoking book.

 

The cover of the book The CreationThe Creation by Edward O. Wilson

In Lightman’s book, he explores the ways in which science and religion converge and diverge on some of the grand questions that humanity asks the universe. That isn’t the only way in which scientists and theologians can find common ground, however: in Edward O. Wilson’s The Creation, Wilson makes an argument for environmental preservation designed to encompass both the deeply religious and the scientifically rigorous.

 

The cover of the book Buddhism and Science: A Guide For the PerplexedBuddhism and Science: A Guide For the Perplexed by Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

Discussions of the debate between science and religion frequently focus on science’s relationship to the Abrahamic religions. It’s important to not overlook the way that other belief systems can relate to science as well–and thus, this 2008 book from Donald S. Lopez Jr., which explores the numerous ways in which Buddhism and science each approach some of the same questions, and how the two have inspired one another.

 

The cover of the book AgnosticAgnostic: A Spirited Manifesto by Lesley Hazleton

Lesley Hazleton’s Agnostic is a rigorously-written look at (and case for) skepticism in all things, which does a fine job of establishing agnosticism as a distinct system for interacting with the world. Many of the qualities that Hazleton cites as inherent for agnosticism play a large role in science as well–and the end result is a holistic means of examining and interrogating the world, from the physical to the metaphysical.

 

The cover of the book The Big Question: Why We Can’t Stop Talking About Science, Faith and GodThe Big Question: Why We Can’t Stop Talking About Science, Faith and God by Alister McGrath

For some writers and thinkers, science and religion are wholly incompatible; for others, they inform one another, leading to a greater understanding of both. Alister McGrath, who has doctorates in molecular biology and theology, falls firmly in the latter camp, and has lectured extensively on the ways in which science and religion can coincide. The Big Question offers many of his thoughts on these ongoing debates, and an examination of the interconnectedness of the two.

 

The cover of the book Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the MultiverseWorlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse by Mary-Jane Rubenstein

As humans study the universe, questions can appear about its nature–including whether our universe is the only one in existence or part of something much larger. Mary-Jane Rubenstein’s Worlds Without End explores several of the questions that arise when pondering the multiverse–along with the religious and philosophical questions that arise when considering a potentially infinite array of distinct universes.

 

The cover of the book Einstein and ReligionEinstein and Religion by Max JammerIn

Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, Lightman returns to questions of Albert Einstein’s own beliefs regarding the universe, which makes for a fascinating counterpoint to Lightman’s musings on the same. Max Jammer’s book offers a more in-depth look at Einstein’s feelings on religion, which defied easy explanation and provide an interesting means by which to consider his scientific discoveries.

 

The cover of the book Faith, Science and UnderstandingFaith, Science and Understanding by John Polkinghorne

John Polkinghorne is both a scientist and a theologian, and he’s been writing about the overlap of the two for several decades now. As its title suggests, Faith, Science, and Understanding is a book that seeks to bring together the two intellectual traditions with which Polkinghorne is most familiar, finding ways in which a belief in God and an understanding of science are fundamentally compatible.

 

The cover of the book The SparrowThe Sparrow: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

Unlike the rest of the books on this list, Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow is fiction. Specifically, it’s science fiction–telling the archetypal story of humanity’s first contact with an extraterrestrial species. But given that a Jesuit priest is involved, this is a narrative in which science and religion are inexorably entangled. That blend of ways of seeing the world has made for several gripping narratives over the decades – see also Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things and James Blish’s A Case of Conscience.

5 Science and History Books Horror Fans Will Love

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Horror is most often considered the purview of fiction, but real life can be plenty scary. Here’s a list of five non-fiction books featuring real-life zombies, vampires, and other terrors.

If you like ghosts, try…
The cover of the book Strange FrequenciesStrange Frequencies
PETER BEBERGAL
Are ghosts real? What happens when we shuffle off this mortal coil? These are questions that people have struggled to answer through art, religion, and more recently, science. In Peter Bebergal’s Strange Frequencies, we learn some of the oddest ways that technology has been used in attempts to breach the wall between this world and the next. Follow Bebergal as he explores voicemails from the dead, spirit photography, and other odd topics in this entertaining and ever so spooky read.

 

If you like zombies, try…
The cover of the book Plight of the Living DeadPlight of the Living Dead
MATT SIMON
Forget “walkers” and flesh-eating ghouls: Mother Nature’s own zombies are more horrifying than anything you can find on screen. Matt Simon introduces us to predatory wasps, burrowing worms, and parasitic fungi with the uncanny ability to zombify their animal and insect prey. Worst of all, Simon suggests that we may be victims of some of these ourselves. Could it be that we’re all obeying the impulses of tiny creatures deep within our own bodies?

 

If you like vampires, try…
The cover of the book Dark BanquetDark Banquet
BILL SCHUTT
There’s no such thing as vampires, but that doesn’t mean that your blood isn’t on the menu. In Dark Banquet, author Bill Schutt ventures into the shadowy world of the sanguivore: creatures that eat blood. Prepare to learn more about bed bugs, vampire bats, and other bloodsuckers you can’t repel with a crucifix than you ever thought you’d want to know.

 

If you like were-creatures, try…
The cover of the book The TigerThe Tiger
JOHN VAILLANT
Werewolves hunt at night. So do Siberian tigers, and unlike the lycanthrope of legend, they don’t have to wait until the next full moon to do it. The Tiger is the true story of a man-eating cat who stalked a remote corner of Russia’s Far East, and the elite team of hunters sent to take it down. Warning: This is not a book for the faint of heart.

 

If you like Frankenstein’s monster, try…
The cover of the book Evolving OurselvesEvolving Ourselves
JUAN ENRIQUEZ AND STEVE GULLANS
Thanks to rapidly evolving gene editing technologies like CRISPR, we’ll soon be able to tinker with life in a way that Frankenstein author Mary Shelley could never imagine. According to Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans, the future may be one of designer babies, de-extinct animals, vastly increased lifespans, and even clones. If so, it will also offer moral and ethical quandaries that we’ve never had to face. Can we handle the responsibility?

The Government Bridge – Have you ever wondered…?

Me too!

If you want to learn more about this incredible structure join us for this presentation.

Gov Bridge

Dirt Is Good!

Want to know the benefits of playing in dirt, having pets and spending time on a farm? We’ve got just the poster presentation (and book) for you.

Dirt is Good Poster

We Are Biology: 10 Women Writing About Science

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In “Annihilation,” the film adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, a biologist (played by Natalie Portman) embarks on an expedition with a physicist, a psychologist, a paramedic, and a geologist — all women. The only thing truly unusual about this is that anyone might consider it unusual; after all, women have contributed to every imaginable science, and yet their presence in significant numbers still strikes us as a radical departure, a truly science-fictional element – even in 2018.

This bias extends from the sciences themselves to the tech and literary worlds, where women still struggle for adequate representation. Just look at quote-compiler Goodreads, where you can search the “science” tag for pages and pages without finding an entry by a woman (you may actually run across passages from the Bible first).

We’ve cut through the chaff to offer the following: quotes from women writing about science, whether from within their respective fields or from the sideline as observers of scientific culture.  To all the young women considering scientific careers: never let anyone convince you that your interest or contribution is without precedent. You just may have to do a little extra digging to provide the proper citation.

Marie Curie, from a letter to her brother, 1894
“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”

Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, 1962
“A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.”

Jane Goodall, The Bonobo in All of Us, 2007
“Imagine that we didn’t know the chimpanzee, that all we knew were those bonobos who have sex all the time and are peaceful and female-dominated and that people would say that this is our only close relative. I think we would have totally different theories about ourselves and our background. But, of course, it didn’t happen that way.”

Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, 2010
“Many scientists believed that since patients were treated for free in the public wards, it was fair to use them as research subjects as a form of payment. And as Howard Jones once wrote, ‘Hopkins, with its large indigent black population, had no dearth of clinical material.’”

Ann Druyan, from an interview with Skeptical Inquirer, 2003
“I think the roots of this antagonism to science run very deep. They’re ancient. We see them in Genesis, this first story, this founding myth of ours, in which the first humans are doomed and cursed eternally for asking a question, for partaking of the fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge”. It’s puzzling that Eden is synonymous with paradise when, if you think about it at all, it’s more like a maximum-security prison with twenty-four hour surveillance. It’s a horrible place. Adam and Eve have no childhood. They awaken full-grown. What is a human being without a childhood?”

Rachel Carson, John Burroughs Medal acceptance speech, 1952
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.”

Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science, 1985
“To know the history of science is to recognize the mortality of any claim to universal truth.”

Emily Dickinson, The Poems of Emily Dickinson, 1999
“Faith is a fine invention
When gentlemen can see,
But microscopes are prudent
In an emergency.”

Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, 2003
“We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior, 2012
“For scientists, reality is not optional.”