(Late) Summer Reading: Three Books That Break the Ice on Climate Change Molly Colwell

August 10th, 2018

Low Carbon Economy

As summer comes to a close, many of us would probably admit that we forgot about the summer reading list we made back in May.

But before summer ends, and before life rapidly picks up again, I urge you to move three books to the top of that list and to immerse yourself in the insightful and critical ideas that are presented in them.

The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken, The Water Will Come, by Jeff Goodell, and Climate of Hope, co-authored by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope each address one of the most widespread and important issues facing our world today: climate change. Here at Metrus we are constantly working to tackle this issue in any way we can. While all three books offer different perspectives on the issue, each recognizes the perilous effects of climate change and the need for actors big and small to join the fight.

In The Ecology of Commerce, Hawken is back with a revised edition of his 1994 book where he attributed much of climate change to the business community – while also acknowledging businesses have the most potential to solve our sustainability problems. In a thoughtful analysis of the current state of business and how it effects our planet, he asks the big question: Can we create companies that are profitable but that don’t destroy, directly or indirectly, the world around them? Hawken seems to believe this is possible but only if the institutions surrounding commerce are redesigned. Throughout the book, Hawken urges the reader to, “imagine a prosperous commercial culture that is so intelligently designed and constructed that it mirrors nature at every step,” so that there is a, “symbiosis of company and customer and ecology.”

In The Water Will Come, Goodell similarly touches on the causes of climate change, with a point of emphasis on the threats rising sea levels pose to some of the world’s largest cities. Throughout the book Goodell shows how cities all around the world are combating rising sea levels - from erecting flood walls and levies, to physically raising up infrastructure to be higher away from sea level – but not working on ways to address climate change and stop sea level rise in its tracks. Through staggering, sometimes chilling statistics and candid interviews, Goodell forces the reader to come to terms with the deeply unsettling reality that rising sea levels are reshaping the world – and not in a good way.

While recognizing the imminent threat climate change poses to the world, authors Bloomberg and Pope offer a more optimistic view about the future in Climate of Hope. Although from very different backgrounds - Bloomberg is the billionaire former mayor of New York City, and Pope is the former chairman of the Sierra Club - they join forces here to show readers that the way forward won’t come from our governments, but rather a grassroots movement and bottom-up approach. They describe how the, “single most important development in the fight against climate change has been how mayors, CEOs and investors are increasingly looking at climate change not as a political issue, but as a financial and economic one…recognizing that there are gains to me made, and losses to be averted,”. They offer solutions such as retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient (like what Metrus is doing by offering efficiency-as-a-service), increasing public transportation to reduce car use and congestion, and moving away from dirty energy such as coal, towards clean, renewable sources like wind and solar. The authors also enourage us to change the way we speak about climate change, so that it is not a divisive topic but instead one that brings people together to incite change.

All three books come to a similar conclusion: that the only way to combat the threat of climate change is to change our habits and address the underlying causes of the issue; not in the next 10 or 25 years, but NOW. Or, summed up this way in The Water Will Come: “It’s not a pretty picture, but you can’t let yourself be paralyzed by fear…you have to take it one step at a time and do what you can right now.”