Enough Sadness and Doom-And-Gloom, Let’s Move onto Solutions

I went through a period in my life where I was extremely sad about the peril of our environment. I was hyper aware of my simple, every-day-living decisions and the social and environmental consequences that these decisions had. I was leading the environmental group at my undergraduate institution with my best friend Emily and I felt like it was going nowhere. Despite forward-thinking policy changes, I was so frustrated that change took time. I was impatient because our future depended on the positive action we took as individuals, and also as an institution.

Perhaps I took the easy way out—I stopped leading the environmental group and started running instead. Needless to say, I was much happier. Interestingly, my jock friends cared more about how fast they could run a mile, then the carbon footprint of our five-hour bus ride to Minnesota for a 40-minute cross-country meet (I’ll admit I never cared about how fast I could run when I lead the environmental group). Rather than focusing on everyone who was not being so conscientious, I focused on my own actions and the impact I made.

It is easy to get down, when it seems like change is not happening, and all we hear is doom-and-gloom. Obviously, information is important to frame the issue, but let’s not stop there: I want a solution. As such, I am pretty excited about Gus Speth’s final lecture, Writhing Free of an Old Skin: Forging a New Politics to Drive the New Economy,” the last lecture in his three-part series: America, Rising to Its Dream: Charting Passage From Today’s Decline to Tomorrow’s Rebirth.

For this solution-oriented lecture, Environmental Law Librarian, Christine Ryan and I searched the collection for some solution-oriented titles. We did an “advanced search” in JULIEN for “solutions” and limited the results to the “Environmental Collection.” Below are our favorites.

What I love about the book Local Action: the New Paradigm in Climate Change Policy is that it makes this huge, global issue tangible by focusing on local change. The book is concerned with “local government action to reduce climate change emission at the city and county level.” To illustrate the feasibility of local action, the book provides examples of effective measures that municipalities have taken in Fort Collins, Colorado and Portland, Oregon. The book describes how these cities successfully took action and how we can make similar change in our own communities.

Well known for her book, Diet for a Small Planet, Francis Moore Lappé again challenges us to think beyond the norm in her book, Eco Mind. Lappé says it is not the changes in the environment that threaten our survival, but rather, our way of thinking about the problems that threaten us. Lappé says we need to change the framework through which we attempt to solve these problems—the framework is transformed by confronting challenges with an “eco-mind.”It is through the development of the eco-mind that we can actually see and create new possibilities for the way we live our lives.

Joseph Romm, in Hell and High Water offers pragmatic policy changes that will allow us to confront global warming head-on. The first portion of the book provides a holistic picture of why our country has failed, thus far, to confront global warming. The second portion of the book focuses on solutions and politics. This section includes Romm’s plan of action: reduce greenhouse gas emission by 50% by 2050; adopt a nationwide California-style energy efficiency effort; and embrace hybrid technology.

More solutions-oriented books include:

Danson, Ted and Michael D’orso, Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can do to Save Them. New York: Rodale, 2011.

Derber, Charles. Greed to Green: Solving Climate Change and Remaking the Economy. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2010.

Freilich, Sitkowski, and Seth Mennillo, From Sprawl to Sustainability: Smart Growth, New Urbanism, Green Development, and Renewable Energy. Chicago: ABA, 2010.

Gilbert, Richard and Anthony Perl. Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil. London: Earthscan, 2008.

Wolbarst, Anthony, ed. Solutions for an Environment in Peril. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

A note on research—if you find a book you like in JULIEN, click on the hyperlinked subjects located in the bibliographic information located at the bottom of the page. So for the book Greed to Green: Solving Climate Change and Remaking the Economy there are three subjects. Environmental policy — Economic aspects,  Climatic changes — Economic aspects, Capitalism — Environmental aspects — United States. Click on these subjects to be directed to more books.

So, how am I doing today against the front on global warming? Well, I am no longer running everyday—but I am still focused on my own decisions. I am organizing a festival, in my small rural town next summer, and I am hoping to make environmental awareness a portion of the program, and hopefully we can make it a zero-waste event.  I will write a blog post about my success (hopefully!).