10 Books on Environment & Ecology to Read this June

June is the Environment Month: June 5 is World Environment Day; June 8 is World Ocean’s Day; June 17 is World Day to Combat Desertification; and June 29 is International Day of the Tropics. So this June, join Belongg in reflecting on the environmental crisis locating it in feminism, capitalism, indigeneity, fascism and the Covid-19 pandemic. Happy reading!

1. Feminism or Death by Françoise d’Eaubonne

Originally published in French in 1974, radical feminist Françoise d’Eaubonne surveyed women’s status around the globe and argued that the stakes of feminist struggles were not about equality but about life and death—for humans and the planet. In this wide-ranging manifesto, d’Eaubonne first proposed a politics of ecofeminism, the idea that the patriarchal system’s claim over women’s bodies and the natural world destroys both, and that feminism and environmentalism must bring about a new “mutation”—an overthrow of not just male power but the system of power itself. As d’Eaubonne prophesied, “The planet placed in the feminine will flourish for all.”

Source: Verso Books

2. Climate Justice: A Man-Made Problem With a Feminist Solution by Mary Robinson

Holding her first grandchild in her arms in 2003, Mary Robinson was struck by the uncertainty of the world he had been born into. Before his fiftieth birthday, he would share the planet with more than nine billion people – people battling for food, water, and shelter in an increasingly volatile climate. The faceless, shadowy menace of climate change had become, in an instant, deeply personal.

Mary Robinson’s mission would lead her all over the world, from Malawi to Mongolia, and to a heartening revelation: that an irrepressible driving force in the battle for climate justice could be found at the grassroots level, mainly among women, many of them mothers and grandmothers like herself.

From Sharon Hanshaw, the Mississippi matriarch whose campaign began in her East Biloxi hair salon and culminated in her speaking at the United Nations, to Constance Okollet, a small farmer who transformed the fortunes of her ailing community in rural Uganda, Robinson met with ordinary people whose resilience and ingenuity had already unlocked extraordinary change.

Powerful and deeply humane, Climate Justice is a stirring manifesto on one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time, and a lucid, affirmative, and well-argued case for hope.

Source: Bloomsbury

3. The Nutmeg’s Cure: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh

Critically acclaimed writer, Amitav Ghosh finds the origins of our contemporary climate crisis in Western colonialism’s violent exploitation of human life and the natural environment.

A powerful work of history, essay, testimony, and polemic, Amitav Ghosh’s new book traces our contemporary planetary crisis back to the discovery of the New World and the sea route to the Indian Ocean. The Nutmeg’s Curse argues that the dynamics of climate change today are rooted in a centuries-old geopolitical order constructed by Western colonialism. At the centre of Ghosh’s narrative is the now-ubiquitous spice nutmeg. The history of nutmeg is one of conquest and exploitation—of both human life and the natural environment. In Ghosh’s hands, the story of the nutmeg becomes a parable for our environmental crisis, revealing the ways human history has always been entangled with earthly materials such as spices, tea, sugarcane, opium, and fossil fuels. Our crisis, he shows, is ultimately the result of a mechanistic view of the earth, where nature exists only as a resource for humans to use for our own ends, rather than a force of its own, full of agency and meaning.

Writing against the backdrop of the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, Ghosh frames these historical stories in a way that connects our shared colonial histories with the deep inequality we see around us today. By interweaving discussions on everything from the global history of the oil trade to the migrant crisis and the animist spirituality of Indigenous communities around the world, The Nutmeg’s Curse offers a sharp critique of Western society and speaks to the profoundly remarkable ways in which human history is shaped by non-human forces.

Source: The University of Chicago Press

4. The Great Adaptation by Romain Felli

When capitalism doesn’t fight climate change but rather tries to make a buck out of it

The Great Adaptation tells the story of how scientists, governments and corporations have tried to deal with the challenge that climate change poses to capitalism by promoting adaptation to the consequences of climate change, rather than combating its causes. From the 1970s neoliberal economists and ideologues have used climate change as an argument for creating more “flexibility” in society, that is for promoting more market-based solutions to environmental and social questions. The book unveils the political economy of this potent movement, whereby some powerful actors are thriving in the face of dangerous climate change and may even make a profit out of it.

Source: Verso Books

5. Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination by Nicole Seymour

Strange Natures reveals a tradition of queer environmentalism in contemporary literature and film from the Americas. In the process, it challenges the historical disconnect between queer theory and ecocriticism–a disconnect that, as Nicole Seymour shows, emerges from those disciplines’ divergent attitudes toward “nature.”

Nicole Seymour investigates the ways in which contemporary queer fictions offer insight on environmental issues through their performance of a specifically queer understanding of nature, the nonhuman, and environmental degradation. By drawing upon queer theory and ecocriticism, Seymour examines how contemporary queer fictions extend their critique of “natural” categories of gender and sexuality to the nonhuman natural world, thus constructing queer environmentalism. Seymour’s thoughtful analyses of works such as Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues, Todd Haynes’s Safe, and Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain illustrate how homophobia, classism, racism, sexism, and xenophobia inform dominant views of the environment and help to justify its exploitation. Calling for queer environmental ethics, she delineates the discourses that have worked to prevent such ethics and argues for a concept of queerness that is attuned to environmentalism’s urgent futurity and environmentalism that is attuned to queer sensibilities.

Source: University of Illinois Press

6. White Skin, Black Fuel by Andreas Malm and The Zetkin Collective

In this first systematic inquiry into the political ecology of the far-right in the twenty-first century, we have investigated what the main parties have said, written and done on climate and energy in thirteen European countries: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom. We focus on Europe but also look at two countries in the Americas – the United States and Brazil – that have long been recognised for their outsized impact on the climate system and that are both, at the time of this writing, ruled by presidents on the far-right end of the spectrum.

The Zetkin Collective is a group of scholars, activists and students working on the political ecology of the far right. It was formed around the Human Ecology Division at Lund University in the summer of 2018. Conducting research in their native languages, the contributing authors to the book are Irma Allen, Anna Bartfai, Bernadette Barth, Lise Benoist, Julia Bittencourt Costa Moreira, Dounia Boukaouit, Clàudia Custodio, Philipa Olivia Dige, Ilaria di Meo, George Edwards, Morten Hesselbjerg, Ståle Holgersen, Claire Lagier, Andreas Malm, Sonja Pietiläinen, Daria Rivin, Line Skovlund Larsen, Luzia Strasser, Laudy van den Heuvel, Meike Vedder and Anoushka Eloise Zoob Carter.

Source: Verso Books and Zetkins Collective

7. Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency by Andreas Malm

In Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency, leading environmental thinker, Andreas Malm demands that this war-footing state should be applied on a permanent basis to the ongoing climate front line. He offers proposals on how the climate movement should use this present emergency to make that case. There can be no excuse for inaction any longer.

Malm’s latest book, Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency, adds the pandemic to the picture, “a global sickening to match the global heating”. More than 300 new infectious diseases have arisen since 1940: think HIV, Zika, Ebola, Sars, Mers, and innumerable new strains of flu. There is little debate about their immediate origins. Previously unencountered microbes leap to human hosts from other animals in an ongoing “zoonotic spillover”. The causes are no mystery: habitat destruction – mainly deforestation – and industrialised agriculture put large numbers of humans in increasing contact with highly stressed animal populations.

The real virus, Malm suggests, is capitalism, the fossil economy that subsists “solely by expanding”, gobbling up the planet as it does. Capital’s only mandate is to reproduce itself, to eternally seek out opportunities for “growth”. The Earth becomes a collection of commodities. What is not a commodity is waste.

Source: Guardian and Verso Books

8. Meaningful Flesh: Reflections on Religion and Nature for a Queer Planet by Whitney A. Bauman

Religion is much queerer than we ever imagined. Nature is as well. These are the two basic insights that have led to this volume: the authors included here hope to queerly go where no thinkers have gone before. The combination of queer theory and religion has been happening for at least 25 years. People such as John Boswell began to examine the history of religious traditions with a queer eye, and soon after we had the indecent theology of Marcella Althaus Ried. Jay Johnston, one of the authors in this issue, is among those who have used the queer eye to interrogate authority within Christian theological traditions. At the same time, there have been many queer interrogations of “nature,” perhaps most notably in the works of Joan Roughgarden and Ann Fausto-Sterling, and more recently in the works of Catriona Sandilands and Timothy Morton (an author in this volume). However, the intersections of religion, nature, and queer theory have been largely left untouched. With the exception of Dan Spencer, who writes the introduction for this volume and is one of the early pioneers in this realm of thought with his book Gay and Gaia (Pilgrim Press, 1996), and the work of Greta Gaard in developing a queer ecofeminist thought, religion and nature, or religion and ecology, have largely ignored the realm of queer theory.

In part, the blinders to queer theory on the part of eco-thinkers (religious or otherwise) are similar to the blinders eco-thinkers have when it comes to postmodern thought in general: namely, if there are no absolute foundations, how does one create an environmental ethic and a “nature” to save? For this reason and many others, this volume on religion, nature, and queer theory are groundbreaking. Though these essays span many different disciplines and themes, they are all held together by the triple focus on religion, nature, and queer theory.

Each of these essays offers a unique contribution to the intersection of religion, nature, and queer theory, and all of them challenge strict boundaries proposed in religious rhetoric and many discourses surrounding “nature.” Carol Wayne White’s essay draws from a queer reading of James Baldwin to develop an African American religious naturalism, which highlights humans as polyamorous bastards. Jacob Erickson’s essay examines Isabella Rossellini’s “Green Porno” and Martin Luther’s work to develop an irreverent theology. Jay Johnson draws from personal relationships with his late dog, and Master/Pup fetish-play, to blur the boundaries between humans and other animals, specifically within ethical and theological discourse. Whitney Bauman reflects on how the very processes of globalization and climate change queer our identities and call for a queer and versatile planetary ethic. Finally, Timothy Morton leads us through a reflection on queer green sex toys to challenge the ontology of agrologistics. Each of these essays in their own way is concerned with fleshing out more meaningful encounters with the planetary community. Without being too ambitious, we hope that these sets of essays will help to open up a new trajectory of conversations at the intersection of religion, nature, and queer theory.

Source: Punctum Books

9. Who Killed Berta Cáceres? Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet by Nina Lakhani

The first time Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres met the journalist Nina Lakhani, Cáceres said, ‘The army has an assassination list with my name at the top. I want to live, but in this country, there is total impunity. When they want to kill me, they will do it.’ In 2015, Cáceres won the Goldman Prize, the world’s most prestigious environmental award, for leading a campaign to stop the construction of an internationally funded hydroelectric dam on a river sacred to her Lenca people. Less than a year later she was dead.

Lakhani tracked Cáceres remarkable career, in which the defender doggedly pursued her work in the face of years of threats and while friends and colleagues in Honduras were exiled and killed defending basic rights. Lakhani herself endured intimidation and harassment as she investigated the murder. She was the only foreign journalist to attend the 2018 trial of Cáceres’s killers, where state security officials, employees of the dam company and hired hitmen were found guilty of murder. Many questions about who ordered and paid for the killing remain unanswered.

Drawing on more than a hundred interviews, confidential legal filings, and corporate documents unearthed after years of reporting in Honduras, Lakhani paints an intimate portrait of an extraordinary woman in a state beholden to corporate powers, organised crime, and the United States.

Source: Verso Books

10. Democracy in the Woods: Environmental Conservation and Social Justice in India, Tanzania, and Mexico by Prakash Kashwan

How do societies negotiate the apparently competing agendas of environmental protection and social justice? And why do some countries perform much better than others? Democracy in the Woods answers these questions by explaining the trajectories of forest and land rights—and the fate of forest-dependent peasants—in the forested regions of India, Tanzania, and Mexico. To organize a comparative inquiry that straddles the fields of comparative politics, historical institutionalism, and policy studies, this book develops a political economy of institutions framework. It shows that differences in structures of political intermediation—venues that help peasant groups and social movements engage in political and policy processes—explain the varying levels of success in combining the pursuits of social justice and environmental conservation. This book challenges the age-old notion that populist policies produce uniformly deleterious environmental consequences that must be mitigated via centralized systems of environmental regulation. It shows instead that the national leaders and dominant political parties that must compete for popular support in the political arena are more likely to fashion interventions that pursue the conservation of forested landscapes without violating the rights of forest-dependent people. Mexico demonstrates the potential for win-win outcomes, India continues to stumble on both environmental and social questions despite longstanding traditions of popular mobilization for forestland rights, and Tanzania’s government has failed its forest-dependent people despite a lucrative wildlife tourism sector. This book’s political analysis of the control over and use of nature opens up new avenues for reflecting on nature in the Anthropocene.

Source: Oxford University Press Scholarship

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