Reading Room

The Reading Room reviews books, magazines and websites of interest to environmental and sustainability concerns.


Break Through:  From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Houghton-Mifflin 2007

Nordhaus’ and Shellenberger’s book was “born from an essay, “The Death of Environmentalism:  Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World,” penned in 2004.  The book’s main thrust is that the environmental movement’s complaint-based approach is largely ineffectual in developing solutions to global climate crisis, because economics in poorer countries takes higher priority than global environmental concerns.  They begin by charting an abbreviated history of the environmental gains of the last 50 years in the US, debunking what they believe are many myths in the environmental narrative’s success stories.  Especially central to their thesis is that “thinking ecologically depends on prospering economically”.

Examples early in the book that illustrate the limitations of regulation-based environmentalism include the accelerated burning of Brazil’s rainforests.  Their argument goes something like this:  While Brazil is considered a rich country, because their economic realities have not been taken into consideration, realities which largely drive development in the rich and vital carbon sink of the rainforest, efforts to get Brazil to regulate and halt the burning of the rainforest—due largely to economic need, have failed.

Their strategy relies on the innovative spirit that has defined many of the other technology-based sea changes in history:  computer technology and innovation, the Apollo space mission, etc.  Solutions for putting many small and less developed countries on board for managing the global climate threat would include investments in those countries in a way that brings them and their people out of poverty and into a realm where Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has shown people shift to post-material and post-survivalist concerns, such as caring for the environment.  According to Nordhaus and Shellenberger, only when the world’s peoples are beyond concerns for survival and a satisfactory standard of living is achieved will they concern themselves with the global climate crisis.

The Low Carbon Diet:  A 30 day program to lose 5,000 pounds by David Gershon of The Empowerment Institute

David Gershon of The Empowerment Institute offers this small book with a concise and easy program for lowering your residential carbon footprint.  The book also offers a detailed plan for meeting with neighbors and supporting one another for a six week period.  A pilot study conducted in Portland, Ore. and reported in the book Creating a Climate for Change suggests the neighbor/support method is highly successful in establishing and maintaining a lower carbon footprint in a residential community.



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