I’m trying to find a popular science book to use for my Environmental Studies class I’m teaching in the fall. In the past, I’ve used The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunslter, and The Little Earth Book, by James Bruges. The only problem is The Little Earth Book is now out of print, and a bit out of date. So, I’m looking for a new book to replace it. Essentially, what I want is a collection of essays on different environmental topics to spark discussion in the class. The Little Earth Book had short, two-page essays. I’m open to longer writings, but I want a variety of topics. It seems the book I’m looking for is rather difficult to find, though. I looked at several possibilities before I found what I wanted.
First I looked at American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, edited by Bill McKibben. The subtitle made it sound promising, but it didn’t deliver. Problem number one, the book is 900 pages long! That’ll scare off any student, even if I only used parts of it. It also tended to include excerpts of larger works that relate to environmental issues, instead of writings specifically about environmental issues. Not what I’m looking for.
Ok, how about Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman? It’s billed as a YA nonfiction book, which might work for an introductory science course where no one has background on the topic. However, it’s a bit too flashy for me and doesn’t really cover the breadth of topics I’m looking for. It seems to introduce the idea of greenwashing and paying attention to what’s really happening in the environment, but once again, not what I’m looking for.
All right, how about Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Lester R. Brown? There have been three other Plan B books, with revisions every few years to update progress in improving the environment. This one was published in 2009, so it’s recent enough to accurately reflect the current science. It addresses many of the pressing environmental problems and then proceeds to provide potential solutions to those problems. I’m definitely interested in this book, but more to replace The Long Emergency. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to read this book and see if it will work for the class before I have to make textbook decisions, but I’m still going to read it for future reference. If you’re interested, the Earth Policy Institute provides a free pdf of the book at their website. So, looks good, but not a series of essays so still not what I need for the coming semester.
Finally, I found the book I was looking for: Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues by Thomas A. Easton. This is exactly what I want, although since it’s printed by a textbook company, it’s a bit more expensive than I was hoping for. However, it provides a brief summary of an environmental issue, an excerpt from primary literature in both the pro and con position, and a summary. It also covers a wide variety of environmental issues and is designed to encourage debate, critical thinking, and discussion in the classroom. Perfect! Just what I was looking for! I was starting to get worried I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for, but my diligence paid off. I have my second book choice for the semester.
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