Great Essays on Climate Change
November 21, 2020 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for great essays/articles (non-academic/academic) on any aspect of climate change. The target audience is non-science undergrads, with an interest in this issue. I'll be supplying two or three weeks of basic science as a background against which to read the essays. Thank you!

In terms of reading level, something like Spencer Weart's essays on the history of climate change science is appropriate. But as I said any topic is welcome, including impacts on communities, environmental justice, policy, health impacts, mitigation, corporate lobbying, etc. Any source is also welcome. The one thing I'd like to avoid is web pages with any kind of complex/interactive/data-driven graphics, such as zoomable maps, as these are less accessible. Thanks again!
posted by carter to Education (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I liked David Wallace-Wells' book The Uninhabitable Earth. Here's one chapter.
posted by pinochiette at 8:49 AM on November 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Sarah Miller's Heaven or High Water, about Miami real estate.
posted by purpleclover at 9:28 AM on November 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Elizabeth Rush's book, Rising, is a compilation of excellent essays very focused on the American experience of adapting to climate change. You can either assign chapters from the book, or find some of the essays in their pre-book form around the internet. I've found her work on the managed retreat around Staten Island to be especially powerful.
posted by mostly vowels at 10:39 AM on November 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

here's an assortment; apologies for the formatting

Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 2011).

Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (2009): 197–222.

Felix Guattari, The Three Ecologies (London: Bloomsbury, 1999).

Dipesh Chakrabarty. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (2009): 197–222.

Amitav Ghosh. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2016).

Eva Horn, and Hannes Bergthaller. The Anthropocene: Key Issues for the Humanities (London and New York: Routledge, 2020).

Simon L Lewis, and Mark a Maslin. “Defining the Anthropocene.” Nature 519, no. 7542 (2015): 171–80.

Margaret Somerville. Riverlands of the Anthropocene: Walking Our Waterways as Places of Becoming. (Abingdon, Oxon ; New York: Routledge, 2020).

Anna Tsing, ed. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2017).

Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin N. Waters, Mark Williams, and Colin Summerhayes, eds. The Anthropocene as a Geological Time Unit: A Guide to the Scientific Evidence and Current Debate (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).

More general (i.e. less academic)
Tim Flannery, Among The Islands
Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction
Richard Powers, The Overstory
Peter Brannen, The Ends of the World
David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth
Elizabeth M DeLoughrey, Allegories of the Anthropocene
Amin Maalouf, Disordered World
Peter Frase, Four Futures: Visions of the World After Capitalism
Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World
Elizabeth Kolbert, The Ends of the Earth
Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature
Andreas Malm, The Progress of this Storm
Alan Weisman, The World Without Us
Jason W Moore, Capitalism in the Web of Life
Andreas Malm, Fossil Capital
Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann, Climate Leviathan
posted by Ahmad Khani at 11:43 AM on November 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Naomi Klein has a book called On Fire that collates her essays on climate change over the last decade or so.
posted by number9dream at 3:17 PM on November 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

McSweeny's did an issue with a bunch of short stories set in a climate-changed future that are really good.
posted by sepviva at 9:30 PM on November 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed "After Climate Despair," and I think its premise is sufficiently different from most of what's out there that it would get some number of undergrads thinking about climate under their own power in a way they might not have done yet.
posted by Polycarp at 9:41 PM on November 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction, writes for The New Yorker.

Paul Hawken is a terrific writer and thinker. Drawdown is a book and a project.
posted by theora55 at 10:40 AM on November 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I heartily second the Kolbert recommendations. And Weisman’s chapter in The World Without Us describing NYC if all humans disappeared is a compelling read - an illustrative demonstration of the degree to which contemporary civilization consumes energy, materials, etc.

Re: environmental justice, I just assigned the Intro to Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (also listed above), and it made for an excellent discussion. I highly recommend it (with the caveat that the part on environmentalist writers, towards the end, is somewhat literature-focused - depends on who your students are - it wasn’t so relevant for my design-oriented students so I didn’t assign the whole intro).

Lastly, this may be too website-y, but for thought-provoking graphic representations of global climate issues (flat images - no moving parts), you might find Richard Weller’s Atlas for the End of the World useful.
posted by marlys at 11:10 AM on November 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Thank you for Weller’s Atlas for the End of the World, marlys. Somehow missed that site completely.

HKW's Anthropocene Curriculum (and the assorted essays and projects) might also be of interest, as might a dig through Places Journal.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 7:05 PM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

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