Bertie's Top 5: Climate Reads

Bertie's Top 5: Climate Reads

Following Earth Day on Thursday we’ve turned to our Engineering Director, and keen environmentalist, Bertie Pleass, to give us a run-down of his favourite climate-conscious reads.

Bertie, how long have you been turning the pages of environmental reads? What got you started?

I used to work in sustainable building design before moving to LED lighting. So I think my reading started on understanding the built environment and gradually grew out to understanding our impact on the whole environment

What can we expect from your list? Is it cautious optimism or doom and gloom?

I hope the books mentioned can give an honest overview of the situation. Last year I would have said doom and gloom, but, so far, 2021 has been a positive year for climate action. The US have resigned the Paris Agreement and are showing a willingness to work with China; the EU is taking energy efficiency seriously and the UK’s massive off-shore wind ambitions are already having a big impact.

I have chosen five books that reflect the key issues: the problems; the ‘what-if’ scenario; the solutions to the problem; the human element; and the potential that lies in both technology and knowledge.

Happy reading!

The Problem 

Falter – Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself?
– Bill McKibbin (2019)

This eye-opening book describes the intractable issue of climate change, in equal parts anecdotally, technically and politically, and scientifically.

After taking us on a grim journey detailing our gradual understanding, avoidance, and recognition of the problem, and its severity, McKibbin ends on a hopeful note. Humanity is capable of fantastic endeavors and companies and individuals everywhere are beginning to enact great change.

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What If

The Uninhabitable Earth
– David Wallace-Wells (2019)

The less said about this the better. This is a book about what not to do. It details a range of scenarios that could occur depending on what we do or don’t do, or do more of, going forward.

The more drastic end of the scenarios make better reading as dystopian science fiction, rather than situations we can really imagine arriving at. But Wallace-Wells has done his research and the results can be shocking.

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The Solution

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster
– Bill Gates (2021)

Bill Gates gives an accessible overview of the problem and steps to address the issue, whether you are a government, entrepreneur or individual.

He boldly states that to get to zero carbon emissions, we will have to change the way we do nearly everything; while also acknowledging his passion for hamburgers and private jets, which he refers to as his “guilty pleasure”.

Understandably the Microsoft founder leans heavily on technology, and is at risk of hoping that we can use future technology to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in.

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The Human Element

Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change
– George Marshall (2014)

How can we comprehend something the scale of climate change, let alone factor it into our day-to-day decisions? Marshall explores the idea of addressing the long-term global issue, when we are wired to focus on the immediate and local.

He describes our tendency to describe threats by identifying the (external) perpetrator and understanding the motives. Climate Change evades this identification, and while we are all in this together, who can be blamed for providing for themselves and their families?

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The Potential 

Braiding Sweetgrass – Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
– Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)

Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, mother, and woman, Kimmerer sets out her central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.

In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, to strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass— Kimmerer offers us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices.

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Written by Bertie Pleass