Should trees exist? 5 books that will change the way you think about the environment and climate change

We constantly hear serious warnings about the state of environmental and climate emergency, and alternative scientific and technological solutions are usually presented, but experts have drawn attention for decades to the importance and priority of the cultural approach to environmental issues, as major transformations begin with a change of ideas.

In their report, which was published Location Australia’s “The Conversation” authors T-Han Chang and Henry Dix list the top books that will give you an alternative perspective and change the way you think about environmental issues and climate change, contrary to the simplistic view that making some technological and life changes is enough to understand nature and communicate with her.

Gaia by James Lovelock (1979)

In his 1979 book, James Lovelock introduced an entirely new concept of Earth as a self-regulating system capable of correcting for any fluctuations that might make the planet uninhabitable, such as increases or decreases in global temperatures or ocean salinity.

The Gaia philosophy assumes that the Earth is a conscious, self-regulating ecosystem that can be thought of as a single organism.

For example, Lovelock shows how the environment has reduced levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to compensate for the steadily rising sun. This has contributed to keeping global temperatures within a habitable range.

The importance of Gaia lies not only in its bold scientific claims, but also in the way it opens the door to the possibility of marrying science and spirituality, truth and purpose.

“Does the trees have to be standing?” Christopher de Stone (1972)

Christopher Stone claims that no law can be created before starting to challenge its non-existence. Previously, it was impossible to think that institutions would have the same rights as humans, and the same was true of organisms and ecosystems.

Nor does nature itself have rights, unlike people who own or use them. In contrast, Stone argues, we should treat certain natural entities, such as trees, forests, and rivers, like human beings and give them “rights”.

This core idea is increasingly being embraced; Between 2008 and 2009, Ecuador and Bolivia became the first two countries in the world to recognize nature as a moral character in their constitutions. In 2017, New Zealand recognized the Wanganui River as a moral person.

By developing these ideas in the 2010 edition of the book, Stone questions whether climate should also be given legal status. He sees this as problematic but not impossible to achieve, although it would require a legal system beyond the current nation-state structure.

Imitation of Nature by Janine Benius (1997)

Few would deny the fact that technology will play a major role in achieving sustainability. But we often focus on individual technologies, such as electric cars or biodegradable packaging, without rethinking the technology as a whole.

Janine Benius believes that sustainability requires an entirely different approach, based on innovation inspired by nature or “imitation of nature”.

Her book explores the practice of mimicry to solve human design challenges, and provides several case studies that show how mimicry can be applied to nearly every area of ​​innovation, such as solar power generation based on natural photosynthesis.

Perhaps the book’s deeper significance lies in the way it invites us to view nature as a reference to learn both from and from it. In this case, we must stop thinking of ourselves as the only possessors of intelligence and knowledge, and instead recognize the genius of nature.

Sweet Grass Braid by Robin Wall Kemmerer (2013)

Like Janine Benius, Robin and Wool Kemmerer believe that nature has much to teach us. But while Benius focuses on technological innovation, Kemerer is interested in the broader lessons.

In fact, the main theme of his book “The Sweet Grass Braid” is how to fuse indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge together.

In other words, some plants teach us that humans are not outside of nature but a part of nature, and with the right techniques we can enable other species to thrive like us.

Climate of History in the Age of Planets by Depesh Chakrabarti (2021)

By addressing the meaning of climate change through the lens of history, Dipesh Chakrabarti proposes a fundamental shift from thinking about climate change in terms of its “planetary” rather than “global” dimension.

Chakrabarti believes that while the world is preoccupied with solving a “global” problem, we lose sight of what “global” means to us today.

The writer explains that “universalism” is a fundamentally human-centered idea, closely related to post-war globalization and modernity.

Conversely, thinking about the “planet” makes us stop considering humans as the center of everything, allowing non-human views and interests to be taken into account. More importantly, this perspective increases the possibility of discovering new universal values.

Moreover, Chakrabarti asserts that the acceleration of global warming is closely related to the anti-colonial modernization movements of the mid-20th century. Chakrabarti also argues that only by overcoming our constant obsession with growth and development will we be able to ensure the sustainability of the planet.

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