A Short Climate Change Reading List

Climate change is an issue on the minds of many people around the world. After years of unsuccessful attempts to come together around this issue, 195 countries met in December 2015 at the Paris Climate Conference and adopted the first ever universal, legally binding deal to address climate change. Yet the issue of climate change was noticeably absent from the televised political debates leading up to the November 2016 U.S. election. I’ve been struggling to wrap my mind around this complex and contentious issue, and I wanted to share some books that I’ve found to be helpful in cutting through the confusion and malaise.

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben
McKibben is one of the leading environmental activists in the United States. He has covered climate change as a journalist for over 30 years and seen little mobilization to address it. Nevertheless, he remains hopeful that we can change our perspectives and hunker down into small-scale, locally-produced, low-carbon food and products for sustainable living. In fact, it’s already starting to happen in places like his home state of Vermont. Part popular science read, part policy analysis, and part manifesto, McKibben’s work masterfully lays out the realities of what we’re facing as well as guiding principles of what we must do as a human species to live in an inhabitable planet.

The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World by Oliver Morton
Some people have found this book to be too long for its subject and at times jargony and unfocused. Such criticisms are not totally without merit. However, for me this book did have a wonderful stream of consciousness quality where it felt like I was sitting in on a conversation with a really well-read scientific mind, discussing a fascinating topic that deserves more coverage and serious consideration. Morton makes a strong case that we should be putting more research and development into geoengineering because 1) cutting carbon emissions may not be enough, and 2) better solutions may be developed if we take geoengineering as a serious endeavor.

Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis by Tim Flannery
Flannery reaches the opposite conclusion as Oliver Morton, rejecting geoengineering as dangerous and failing to address the real problem: CO2 levels. He’s optimistic that what he calls “third way solutions”- processes that capture and store carbon, from natural approaches like planting trees and kelp to direct air capture using resins- will be able to pull enough carbon out of the air to avoid the widely recognized tipping point of 2 degrees Celsius.

Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World by Bill Nye
True to his roots, Nye sees climate change as an engineering problem just waiting to be solved with a little bit of education and collective will, both of which he aims to improve with this book. Nye debunks many of the common myths and misunderstandings about climate change. He also objects to the status quo of having two-thirds of the energy we put in our cars immediately being thrown out of the tailpipe, calling for more resources to go into engineering our way out of our current predicament. Nye even discusses some strategies for cooling the planet that you may never have heard before, such as creating trillions of reflective bubbles in our bodies of water. This is a fun, optimistic read that reflects the uniquely engaging and charismatic style of Bill Nye.

Climate Change and the Health of Nations: Famines, Fevers, and the Fate of Populations by AJ McMichael
This unique book looks at how human populations have responded to climate changes in the past in order to gain a better understanding of the hazards that may wait us in the future. What can we learn about climate and food yields, climate and human conflict, climate and disease, extreme temperature changes and the adaptive capabilities of humans? McMichael wonderfully threads together history and science, giving insight into the human cost of climate change.

~ posted by Di Z.

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Recommended reading: Fall and redemption from the 1980s Detroit crack epidemic

James White was born in the Detroit of the 1980s to a middle class African American family, but as his family broke apart in a divorce, the rebellious youth found himself a willing recruit into the front line of the burgeoning crack epidemic. 

There his early dreams of being a doctor fell by the wayside; he learned quickly how to deal drugs and live the seductive yet increasingly brutal life of the streets. After being shot and injured in a fight over a girl, he becomes even more defensive, desensitized and angry and begins carrying a gun with him 24/7. Only too soon, he feels occasion to use it and fourteen months later shoots and kills another young man. He is apprehended and in 1991 sentenced to 19 to 40 years in prison. 

This is where the story of his transformation into the Writer Shaka Senghor begins. In a heartfelt style with soul searing honesty, Senghor writes in Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison of the events that led to the fateful day of the shooting and narrates his years in the Michigan prison system, his years in solitary confinement, and his struggles to educate himself and overcome his personal demons in the brutal, racially charged environment. 

Eventually his work and writing allow him to obtain parole after serving 19 years, and his perseverance and drive to help others after re-entering society, bring him to his work with the MIT Media Lab urban renewal efforts in Detroit. 

Both a story of personal honesty and redemption, and an inside critique of the criminal justice system and its impact on communities and families, this book is a gritty and gripping read from start to finishVisit Shaka Sengho’s website and see Shaka Sengho’s TED Talk. Read more on the impacts of Incarceration on Families and Communities in this study produced by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

To learn more about the barriers for successful re-entry, join us for a free documentary screening of the film Beyond the Wall on Wednesday, March 22, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library. Following the film, a panel will discuss local issues, obstacles, and advocacy for people with criminal histories in our community.

Take a sneak peek at Beyond The Wall trailer from Northern Light Productions:

          — Posted by Kay K.


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20 Essential Seattle Books, Part 4: Northwest Classics

For the fourth of our posts suggesting twenty essential books for Seattleites, having focused on history, race and place, we now attempt to suggest some writers whose work best characterizes our “regional literature.” In previous posts we’ve already mentioned Richard Hugo and Sherman Alexie, both of whose works certainly belong on this post. Here are some more Northwest classics for your shelf.

With his mischievous, playful tone, Tom Robbins has certainly helped to define our offbeat Northwest style, but when it comes to picking one book for readers new to Robbins, we’re torn. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction are both classic early gonzo Robbins. Then again, Jitterbug Perfume and Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas are both terrific, and set right here in Seattle. In the end, we’ll go with our heart: Still Life With Woodpecker. Why? Maybe it’s the way he writes about blackberries, how they force their way into polite society, engulfing dogs and small children, entwining the legs of virgins and trying to loop themselves over passing clouds. Maybe we’re still a little sweet on the girl who gave us this book in college. Does it really matter? Read it. Continue reading

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Ralph Steadman: Evocative Frenzy

I am unceasingly inspired by the artistic wizardry of Ralph Steadman, particularly his knack for evocative frenzy. Though clearly an expert draughtsman, he’s made a career out of twisting conventional imagery with a demented cartoon sensibility. What appears at first in his work to be frayed and chaotic ends up revealing character with a greater degree of expression impossible with straight realism.


Bathing in his splatters and scribbles is a great recipe for creator’s block, and luckily the Seattle Public Library recognizes the necessity of such work. Here are a few essential Steadman volumes in the collection: Continue reading

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Seattle Rep’s DRY POWDER: Beyond the Theater

Seattle Repertory Theatre presents DRY POWDER by Sarah Burgess from March 17 – April 15, 2017. Set in the top echelons of today’s morally-compromised financial sector, this dark comedy explores the uneasy relationship between being good and doing well. Librarians at Seattle Public Library created this list of books, CDs and films to enhance your experience of the show: Seattle Rep’s DRY POWDER: Beyond the Theater. Continue reading

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Finding Potter’s Field: Indigent Burial in the United States

A patron recently called the library to ask what happens when someone dies without means to pay for cremation or burial. In some cases, such a person might have no living relatives. In others, the identity of the deceased is simply unknown.

Here’s what we learned: Continue reading

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Handling the Material: Art Techniques, Guides and Processes

In the blink of an eye rubber hits a road, a hand hits the mat, grabs hold of brush or pen as the wrist turns into a twist. Arms do the heavy lifting, the torso pivots. If this were the theater (and it is) the director would shout, “Action!” The whole body is engaged. This is about seeing the thing through. Now is the time to move the idea out of its cerebral cave into the bright light of creation. What necessary implements are needed to complete the task? Continue reading

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