Essential Reads for Green Activists?

My list below has already been widely distributed for comment and debate. It would be good to have an ongoing discussion about which books should be essential reading as Green activists and I would be grateful for your thoughts on this blog. 

I have just received in the mail some copies of James Hansen's "Storms of My Grandchildren" in preparation for his presentation in Gore on May 19. I am anticipating this book will become part of my top ten.


“I can’t read all the books in the world so it’s a good thing that not all books are worth reading” (Ashleigh Brilliant)
I think this is a useful quote because as busy people we want to ensure our precious reading time is used effectively and that we do get around to reading the really useful ones. I want to share the books that have had the most influence on my thinking and world view, and I hope others feel able to share their “must reads” too.

1. “The Shock Doctrine” Naomi Klein (2007)
A well researched and clearly written account of how the neo-liberal financial philosophy has dominated our world. The great thing is that despite the revelations and horror of the content there is hope at the end.

2. “Stuffed and Starved” Raj Patel (2007)
Raj does for food what Naomi did for economics; it is subtitled “Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System”. This is highly readable and gets to the heart of the dominance of the US food industry and the shocking exploitation of people, science and resources by Monsanto and others.

3. “The Spirit Level” Wilkinson & Picket (2009)
A later edition rebuts critics but this gives a well-researched account of the far reaching effects of unequal societies. This book was the key resource for the Greens campaign against inequality in New Zealand.

4. “Prosperity without Growth” Tim Jackson (2009)
This is also subtitled “Economics for a Finite Planet” and was an important resource for shaping the Green New Deal.

5. “The Hollow Men” Nicky Hager (2006)
Nicky is our foremost NZ investigative journalist for those who like transparency in our Government and Industry. While this is really an historical account of the 2005 election the main players are now in power, it is important we understand how they tick!

6. “Secrets and lies” Nicky Hager (1999)
This is subtitled “The Anatomy of an Anti-Environmental Campaign” and if you want to understand the main players in the Bluegreens, this is where they come from. Industry tactics have changed little when public protests get in the way of exploiting a natural resource.”

7. “An Illustrated History of the Treaty of Waitangi” Claudia Orange (2004)
Claudia is our foremost authority on the history of our treaty and this illustrated account gives a good overview of the ongoing injustices with the pictures adding detail beyond the words. This is a must to get your head around our treaty obligations and gives an idea of what may be needed for a true partnership in the future.

8. “The Power of Mothers” Celia Lashlie (2010)
As a past prison warden, Celia has worked closely with those men and women who struggle at the bottom of our society. She has a social conscience that is grounded in reality and an insight and pragmatism that we should all take note of. This book exposes the shocking failings of our welfare system and explains in narrative form both how our worst criminals are created and who has the power to make a real difference.

9. “Man for all Seasons, the Life and Times of Ken Douglas” David Grant (2010)
Not only is this a biography about one of the most remarkable men in our recent history, but it is an accessible history of industrial relations in New Zealand. It explains the rise and fall of the union movement and why a different approach is necessary to bring balance back to the employer/employee relationship.

10. “The Green Peace New Zealand Story” Michael Szabo (1991)
This history of the first 20 years of Green Peace activism in NZ provides a useful background to the ongoing environmental concerns of our pacific neighbours and Antarctica. It also describes our remarkable stand against world powers in establishing our nuclear free status.

Choosing my top ten was quite difficult as I am aware that while I have covered a range of fields I haven’t directly covered all areas, women’s rights or LBGT issues for example. Marilyn Waring’s “Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth”, originally published in 1988, is still very relevant and Chris Brickell’s “Mates & lovers: a history of gay New Zealand” (2008) provides a useful history.


Shane Gallagher said…
I would add Plan B 2.0 by Lester Brown. :-)
bsprout said…
Thanks, Shane, where would you rank it?
bsprout said…
I also see that he has written several Plan B books and has produced a documentary. Are you aware of these too, Shane? is B 2.0 the best one?
Shane Gallagher said…
I would rank it in the top 5 because it is solution focussed and makes the very clear point that we have the solutions to 90 - 95% of the problems we face already - we just need the political will to make the changes.

I have to confess it is the only one I have read of his (am getting through Tim Jackson's book at the moment).
bsprout said…
I have just received a large list of interesting books from Jon Field, some like Rachael Carson's "Silent Spring" are true environmental classics. Here is the content of Jon's email:

...Reading your list made me wonder about my list, so in no particular order I came up with the following.
I am sure as soon as I send this I will remember others that were especially memorable.

Read recently
The Omnivours Dilemma - Michael Pollan - An argument for organic, free range, sustainable food
The Tiger that Isn't - Michael Blastand - A new way of looking at statistics
Heat - George Monbiot - global warming
Freakanomics - Steve Levitt - a way of looking at economics
The Undercover Economist - Tim Hareford - as above

Old favourites from long ago
Siddhartha - Herman Hesse -a way of looking at life
Island - Aldous Huxley - a mind altering way of looking at life
The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State - Frederick Engels - a very early eye opener for my political development
Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell - the best anti war book I have ever read
Silent Spring - Rachael Carson - why we should be Green

I can see my retirement (when ever that happens) as being full of good books

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