To celebrate summer and 3Degrees’ tenth anniversary, we have asked our employees to share some of their favorite books on environmental topics. The response has been incredible, with a wide range of authors and topics. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing some of the best.
#4. The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley
The Responsible Company, by Yvon Chouinard (the founder of Patagonia) and his nephew, share the steps (and mis-steps) they have taken in running Patagonia as a responsible company. More importantly, it lays out a path for other companies to become responsible to all of their stakeholders, both financially and sustainably. The “older sibling” of Yvon’s first book Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, this book is a road-map to help employees, employers, and businesses identify environmental and social shortcomings and take steps to becoming a successful triple bottom line company.
I was assigned this book for a class in my MBA program and was immediately drawn in by its accessibility. It is a short read, and for those just wanting to boil it down to the main take-aways, there are checklists at the end of the book on what a company should strive to do for its business health, its workers, its customers, its community, and nature. Suggestions range from paying a living wage, to developing lasting partnerships, to toxics reduction and 30 pages more. These suggestions are given weight by the fact that Patagonia is such a successful and financially sound company.
Chouinard and Stanley argue that we should not just look at how something is produced, but also why we choose to design, produce, and consume some things at all. To defend this stance, Patagonia has taken aggressive steps toward being a post-consumerist company, including asking their customers to buy only what they need and reusing and recycling every product that the company makes.
One of my favorite quotes from the book comes from the author’s’ advice to anyone trying to reduce their environmental impact: “Know your impacts, favor improvement, share what you learn”. I feel fortunate to work at a company that is on this path, teaching other companies about their impacts and sharing our knowledge of emissions reductions strategies.
Julie Kelleher is an associate in our carbon markets group.
#3. Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming Edited by Paul Hawken
There is plenty of reason for concern about the trajectory of global warming trends and recent efforts to pull back United States support for the Paris Accord. But wallowing in despair is far from an empowering (nevermind useful) activity. That’s why I was delighted by this recent book of essays that that creates a blueprint of practices and technologies that are “commonly available, economically viable, and scientifically viable.”
With its focus on exploring 100 ideas through essays and beautiful photography, the book’s format is incredibly enticing. When the book arrived at my home, it immediately captured the attention of my husband, an executive with a data and analytics company. He started thumbing through the book and asked if he could bring it with us to read on our family weekend getaway. And yes, he excitedly ploughed through it during our trip.
The book’s ideas span a range of issues including energy, food, land use, transport, and materials. All of the ideas were reviewed by an advisory board that spanned geologists, engineers, agronomists, politicians, writers, climatologists, biologist, economics, financial analysts, architects and activities. The solutions are ranked in term of their potential to avoid or reduce greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. And each of these ideas is explored through a short essay that is thoughtful, informative and inspiring – making the potentially daunting topic of what to do incredibly accessible.
As temperatures rise this summer, consider adding Drawdown to your packing list – whether for an upcoming business trip or vacation. As Paul Hawken noted in the opening, “We see global warming not as an inevitability but as an invitation to build, innovate and effect change, a pathway that awakens creativity, compassion and genius. This is not a liberal agenda, nor is it a conservative one. This is the human agenda.” So with Drawdown in hand, get ready to become part of the human agenda.
Katie Soroye is the vice president of marketing at 3Degrees.
#2. The Climate Casino–Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World by William Nordhaus
The Climate Casino is an excellent primer on the roles policy and economics play in our ongoing fight against climate change. Written in clear language that is accessible to beginners but also engaging to those familiar with the subject, this book offers a variety of problems and possible solutions from a scientific, economic, and social-justice perspective. The Climate Casino caught my attention while reading it for an environmental economics course at Oregon State University because it is not one-sided. The author’s solutions encompass policy solutions on both sides of the aisle and inspired me to dig deeper for a big-picture understanding of the causes of climate change, the effects, and the motivations surrounding any potential solutions.
Within this book Nordhaus highlights one important issue that stood out to me as a social justice advocate: “The problem is that those who produce the emissions do not pay for that privilege, and those who are harmed are not compensated.”
Anyone interested in diving deeper into the economic and political risks and solutions surrounding the climate change debate should find this book an interesting and compelling read. Although I did not agree with every idea the author presents, it is good fodder for further thought and understanding of different perspectives including one big take-away: We must work together through a variety of solutions to overcome this problem.
Lydia Fraser is an outreach coordinator in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
To start us off, we are recommending a classic. Published 55 years ago, this book deserves a place on every environmentalist’s bookshelf.
#1. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Silent Spring, which chronicles Rachel Carson’s investigation into the horrors of DDT use as a pesticide in the 1940s and 50s, was one of the first books I read as an undergraduate in Wildlife Science at Virginia Tech. This book grabbed me like no book ever had. Silent Spring made me realize the important role that every individual plays in preserving our land, air and water for future generations. Silent Spring changed the way I think about my role on this planet and was influential in leading me toward the career I have today.
As I revisited the book recently I came across a quote by Rachel Carson made during an interview just prior to her death. I find this just as relevant today as it was fifty years ago:
“Man’s attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself. [We are] challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves.”
If your idea of fun this summer includes wandering aimlessly through the forest or just relaxing in the great outdoors, this is a great book to pack along. It is one of the great environmental success stories (if you get a new copy it includes an epilogue) that provides us with hope as we look to address our next great challenge – climate change.
Ryan Link is a director of utility partnerships at 3Degrees.