10 Books on the Environment that you should read.

by Stephanie Young

Lockdown gave me the opportunity to catch up on a bit of reading (including BFT’s new book) to reduce the large pile of books next to my desk.  Here’s a few of my favourites, including a couple which I picked off the bookshelf to read again and, they didn’t disappoint the second time round.

Ecological Restoration

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers.  In Braiding Sweetgrass, she shows how other living beings – asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass – offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. Beautifully written and rich in reflections, this book will make you think about how we develop our ecological consciousness and what that might mean for our planet.

A Journey in Landscape Restoration: Carrifran Wildwood and Beyond edited by Philip and Myrtle Ashmole. Carrifran Wildwood is an inspirational example of ecological restoration and the extraordinary story of how a group of motivated people can revive nature at a landscape scale. This is the story of the Borders Forest Trust, how we came about, what we have achieved and where we are going next. 40 contributors chart the history and challenges of the bold initiative to transform the Carrifran valley from denuded land to a restored mosaic of woodland and moorland habitats, over the last 20 years.  A core part of the book is devoted to how nature asserts itself when given a chance. The book includes ‘before and after’ surveys, describes vegetation changes, documents dramatic changes in birds and animals, fungi and mosses, many of them newly-recorded in the area. The book concludes with discussion of the role of restoration ecology in addressing the biodiversity crisis and climate change.  It also offers a glimpse of other projects like Patrick Laurie’s Galloway Farmdescribed in his new book Native, Life in a Vanishing LandscapeInvesting in the oldest and most traditional breeds of Galloway cattle, he describes how cows once shaped people, places and nature. During the twentieth century, the people of Galloway deserted the land, the much loved curlew declined and the moors were transformed into commercial forestry. Centuries of tradition and custom may have disappeared but this is a hopeful story.

Nature Deficit Disorder?

As a child I climbed trees and made dens, built sandcastles and wandered through the woods.  We roamed free and wild, exploring the outdoors and connecting with nature in practical ways.  These are the things that childhood memories are made of.  And yet, the reality for many children is very different. The studies tell us that we are raising a generation who are so alienated from nature that they can’t identify the commonest birds or plants, they don’t know where their food comes from and spend their time connected to electrical sockets.  Richard Louv’s wellresearched and thought provoking Last Child in the Woods, explores the idea of ‘nature deficit disorder’, why this matters, and what we can do to make a difference. In Wild Child, nature writer Patrick Barkham draws on his own experience as a parent and a forest school volunteer to explore the relationship between children and nature.  In I Love My World, the playful, hands on, nature connection guidebook by Chris Holland, you will find an excellent guidebook on to connect children with nature. Full of bushcraft, environmental art, nature awareness and outdoor play activities (for all ages and stages), as well as mentoring tips, this book will make you want to pack your bags, step out and celebrate our wonderful natural world.

The Influencers

Now recognised as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring exposed the destruction of wildlife and the dangers to humans through the widespread use of pesticides.  Despite condemnation in the press and heavy-handed attempts by the chemical industry to ban the book, Carson succeeded in creating a new public awareness of the environment, inspiring today’s ecological movement.  It was this book (along with her other major work The Sea Around Us) that raised my awareness of the challenges we face.

Once described as one America’s most dangerous women, novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, describes her family’s attempt at eating only local food, much of it from their own garden, for a year.  Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, she explores farmers market and diversified organic farms at home and across the USA. Full of original recipes that celebrate healthy eating, local food cultures, sustainability and the pleasures of good food. 

As Scotland prepares to host COP26, The Future We Choose is a timely passionate call to arms from former UN Executive Secretary for Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, and Tom Carnac, senior political strategist for the Paris Climate Change Agreement (COP25). A practical, optimistic and empowering book about how we can stave off the worst and manage the long-term effects of climate change, but we have to act now.