Five books every environmentalist should read

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It’s not quite cottage season yet, so take advantage of the weather, stay indoors, and catch up on your reading. Let’s face it—once May 2-4 rolls around, you might be too busy swimming, grilling, fishing, and hiking to enjoy a good book.

That doesn’t mean you can’t start getting into the cottage mood, though—and since cottagers tend to be a green bunch, here are five books with an environmental flavour everyone should read. Solar panels and composting toilets may look a lot more appealing when you’re done.

 5. Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”

 silent spring

Both David Suzuki and Al Gore credit Carson’s 1962 book with inspiring them to become environmentalists, and many see it as having launched the modern environmental movement. Now a classic, Silent Spring decried the indiscriminate use of pesticides, especially DDT, paving the way for a widespread strengthening of pesticide regulations and a ban on DDT in the U.S. 10 years later. The book isn’t without its controversy—modern detractors point out that the elimination of DDT in malaria-prone countries has resulted in an avoidable public-health crisis.

 4. Al Gore’s “Earth in the Balance”

 earth in the balance

Earth in the Balance, written in 1992, was the first book by a U.S. senator to hit the New York Times’ bestseller list since JFK wrote Profiles in Courage—and that was before things could go viral. If you want, follow up Earth in the Balance by watching the former vice-president’s Academy Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth—which, nicely, also has a companion book.

 3. Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax”

 lorax

Forget about the movie and take a look at the original book, written by Dr. Seuss in 1971. A colourful parable about the dangers of corporate greed and its effects on the environment, The Lorax is relatively bleak—especially compared to, say, The Cat in the Hat—but not without a small seed of hope. If you’ve got thoughtful kids, this is a good introduction to a greener way of thinking.

 2. “Affluenza: How Overconsumption Is Killing Us, and How to Fight Back” by John de Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor

 affluenza

While not strictly an environmental book, Affluenza nonetheless has a distinctly green tinge. An exploration of materialism and overconsumption, the book is an engaging read on the excesses and waste of modern life—minus the finger-wagging and scolding you might expect. Really, all the authors really want you to remember is that the best things in life aren’t things. And what better place to practice that than at the cottage?

 1. “Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril” by Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson

 moral ground

If you need a break from a scientific or technological approach to environmentalism, Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael Nelson’s book fills in the ethical and moral arguments for charting a more sustainable path. With more than 80 contributors—Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama, activist bell hooks and author Barbara Kingsolver among them—the book is a collection of “testimonies,” including poems, essays, letters and stories. Because the contributions are short, it’s perfect for dipping into in small doses—but don’t be surprised if you read it in one sitting.