10 books every aspiring environmentalist should read to make a difference

By now, most of us care about the environment. You need to be blind not to see how people affect the planet and all its inhabitants.

Still, for aspiring environmentalists, there’s never enough knowledge, inspiration, and motivation. 

That’s why I’ve made a list of 10 classic, modern, and inspiring books you should read (if you haven’t already) that will open your eyes even more and make you go out and make a difference.  

Classic books on the environment

1) “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson

This groundbreaking book was published all the way back in 1962. It raised public awareness about the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment more than any book before it. 

It also inspired the modern environmental movement

As expected, the book and its author were fiercely attacked by chemical companies. 

Monsanto even published a parody book the same year called “The Desolate Year” that pictured a world of famine and disease caused by banning pesticides.

Unfortunately, Carson was already battling cancer when the book was published, and she died in 1964 before getting a chance to make even more impact. 

2) “The End of Nature” by Bill McKibben

This classic environmentalist book first came out in 1989 and is considered the first book on global warming for a general audience. It was also translated into more than 24 languages.

McKibben’s early work on climate change warns of the irreversible impacts of human activities on the environment.

He explains that for most of human history, nature has been a powerful force that shapes the world and influences everything around us.

However, he argues that because of things like pollution and the burning of fossil fuels, humans have started to change the planet’s climate and environment in a way that has never happened before.

He also emphasizes that this change is a big deal because it means that nature is no longer completely separate from human actions.

3) “Animal Liberation” by Peter Singer

We can’t talk about the environment without thinking of animals. And Singer’s book is considered a cornerstone of the modern animal rights movement. 

It came out in 1975 when most people were oblivious to the treatment of animals and couldn’t care less. 

He argues for the ethical consideration of animals and challenges prevailing attitudes toward their treatment in various industries.

It’s one of the books that had the most profound impact on me. It also introduced me to the term “speciesism,” coined by Richard D. Ryder to describe the exploitative treatment of animals.

Contemporary books on the environment

4) “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

This book challenges the traditional “take, make, dispose” industrial model by proposing a circular economy approach. 

If you’re unaware, it’s where products are designed to be continually recycled and reused, minimizing waste and environmental impact.

Unlike now, where most things aren’t really recyclable, and all the weight and responsibility is on the consumer and not on the manufacturers. 

5) “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate” by Naomi Klein

In this book, Naomi Klein talks about how the way we live, especially the economic system (capitalism), is causing a big problem: climate change. 

She explains that the things we do to make money, like burning fossil fuels for energy, make the Earth’s temperature rise. This causes all sorts of harmful effects like extreme weather and sea level rise.

She calls for transformative changes that challenge the dominance of capitalism to address the climate crisis effectively.

Having read most of her books, this one resonated the most with me. 

6) “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer 

In this book, Foer talks about the choices we make when it comes to the food we eat, especially regarding animals. 

As we all know, we treat farm animals like machines working and eating 24/7 in cramped spaces unworthy of our worst enemies. 

He explores how animals are raised and treated in the food industry, particularly in large-scale farms.

He shares personal stories and interviews people involved in various aspects of the food industry, like farmers, activists, and experts. 

He also talks about his own journey in trying to understand these issues and how he has changed his own eating habits.

Inspiring books on the environment

7) “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming” by Paul Hawken

This New York Times bestseller presents 100 actionable solutions to combat climate change, offering a blueprint for reducing carbon emissions and promoting sustainable practices across various sectors.

These solutions come from various areas, like how we use energy, grow food, and manage our resources.

The book doesn’t just focus on one big solution. It looks at many different ways that, when combined, can positively impact the environment. 

It’s a practical and positive approach that shows we have the tools to make a difference in the fight against climate change.

8) “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference” by Greta Thunberg

Greta became famous for speaking out about the urgent need to address climate change. In her book, she collects some of her speeches and talks that she gave to leaders and at events to raise environmental awareness.

The book’s main idea is that everyone, no matter how young or small, can contribute to making positive changes in the world. 

Greta wants to inspire people to care about the planet and take action to protect it. She shares her own story of becoming an activist, which started with her solo protests outside the Swedish parliament.

9) “Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman” by Yvon Chouinard

Written by Yvon Chouinard, the legendary climber and founder of the outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia

In this book, Chouinard shares his personal journey of building a successful business while staying true to his environmental and ethical values.

The founder of Patagonia shares his insights on responsible business practices, environmental activism, and the importance of aligning personal values with professional endeavors.

It’s a fascinating and inspiring read!

10) “The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Toward a Greener Future” by David R. Boyd 

This book, written by David R. Boyd, looks at the positive side of environmental issues. It talks about how things are improving and getting better in terms of the environment, even though we often hear a lot about problems like pollution and climate change.

Boyd offers a hopeful perspective on environmental progress, showcasing success stories and actionable solutions for a more sustainable world.

The book doesn’t ignore the issues we face, but it emphasizes the progress that’s happening. 

It’s like seeing a glass as half full rather than half empty. It tells us that by working together, we can make a difference in creating a healthier planet for ourselves and future generations.

Related: 7 signs you’re a natural-born conservationist

Picture of Adrian Volenik

Adrian Volenik

Adrian has years of experience in the field of personal development and building wealth. Both physical and spiritual. He has a deep understanding of the human mind and a passion for helping people enhance their lives. Adrian loves to share practical tips and insights that can help readers achieve their personal and professional goals. He has lived in several European countries and has now settled in Portugal with his family. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going to the beach, hiking, drinking sangria, and spending time with his wife and son.

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