In the spirit of the seemingly endless campaign for the presidency of the U.S., I am going to put a little green twist on a question that was raised on the PBS program, Bill Moyers Journal, the other night. Moyers showed clips of one question that CBS’ Katie Couric had asked of all the candidates she interviewed;
“What is the one book, other than the Bible, that you would take with you into the White House as the next president?”
But as soon as I heard the question, my irrational fascination with all things green led me to wonder, what book with an environmental theme would I consider to be an essential read for the next president. I thought about that question a lot and came up with too many answers. Please help me flesh these out a little by helping me answer the green version of Katie Couric’s question:
[Other than the Bible] what ‘green’ book should the next president take into the White House?
Leave a comment with the name of the green-themed book you think is a must read for the incoming president and you could win a book yourself. Here’s the catch, you’ve got to make a case for it.
Valid entries will consist of a reply that is concise, clearly articulated and well-reasoned. One submission meeting those very simple requirements will be randomly drawn to win a copy of …
Power of the People: America’s New Electricity (2008) by NREL‘s Carol Sue Tombari. A winner will be randomly drawn from all valid entries received by Friday February 8 at 5pm MST.
If you choose a book that does not have an overt environmental theme, please be explicit about why you think it should/could be. I am very interested in what you all have to say and I look forward to reading your responses. Be sure to leave a valid email address (that will only be used for notifying the winner).
FYI: Video clips of the candidates’ answers to Katie Couric’s question can be seen here and the text answers are below. Moyers viewers have posted several replies at his blog and he has said he would answer the question soon himself (the non-green version).
- John McCain: Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
- Barack Obama: Team of Rivals (biography of Lincoln) by Doris Kearns Goodwin
- Mike Huckabee: What Ever Happened to the Human Race? by Francis Schaefer
- Mitt Romney: John Adams by David McCullough
- Hillary Clinton: The Constitution and The Federalist Papers (neither of which would I consider a ‘book’ in the traditional sense.)
Photo Credit: Nufkin via Flickr
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
by William McDonough
“Paper or plastic? Neither, say William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Why settle for the least harmful alternative when we could have something that is better–say, edible grocery bags! In Cradle to Cradle, the authors present a manifesto calling for a new industrial revolution, one that would render both traditional manufacturing and traditional environmentalism obsolete. Recycling, for instance, is actually “downcycling,” creating hybrids of biological and technical “nutrients” which are then unrecoverable and unusable. The authors, an architect and a chemist, want to eliminate the concept of waste altogether, while preserving commerce and allowing for human nature. They offer several compelling examples of corporations that are not just doing less harm–they’re actually doing some good for the environment and their neighborhoods, and making more money in the process. Cradle to Cradle is a refreshing change from the intractable environmental conflicts that dominate headlines. It’s a handbook for 21st-century innovation and should be required reading for business hotshots and environmental activists.” –Therese Littleton
In demonstration of the author’s commitment to the subject matter, the book is itself is even printed using the very sustainable production techniques it describes.
There are plenty of used copies available, since any candidates will need to balance our huge budget deficit:
what castle/building is that?
It’s tough to know without actually knowing who the President will be, because each of them need to hear different things. That being said, I would recommend “Green to Gold” by Esty and Winston so that the President would be aware that you don’t have to spend a lot of green to go green.
I’d say Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. It proves that you can condense an environmental message into something a five-year-old can understand without losing anything.
Timothy B. Hurst
All excellent choices thus far. I think Paul’s suggestion for The Lorax may be the most appropriate for the current president, at least in terms of readability
According to the photographer, the castle is “at Hay-on-Wye, all the books are second hand and part of the World’s Largest Second Hand book store.”
I’d recommend “Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution” (amazon), mostly because it’s intensely practical – including many policy and governance ideas that the president could act on immediately. It should also appeal to both Republicans and Democrats alike – which is really saying something in this polarized country!
Actually, I think the Lorax is an excellent choice. That story really spoke to me, even though I was 16 when I read it. It influenced my choice to go green.
Nice article / question presented. I was directed to it by Green Daily. I do wonder if the candidates have actually read the books mentioned above…, but on to your question.
There are a lot of good options for “green” (still an odd term for me as I grew up with sustainable being the norm) books, but I would probably say:
The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Amazon)
Why would this be important. Really the nation needs to look at its food production. Especially since every candidate has proclaimed the wonders of corn ethanol, but few consider the drawbacks. This can lead to a destructive program that can eventually destroy our farm lands (thus no longer being sustainable) while wasting even more fuel on poor fertilizers such as Urea and production methods. While this book doesn’t state that problem directly, it gives enough of a view of the issue for them to consider the health of the nation as a whole.
The book doesn’t have all the answers, but it may help the next ‘ruler’ actually look at the problem as a whole instead of trying to treat the “symptoms” as most of our current sustainable farm bills are treating.
More importantly, if we can address agricultural issues and their false dependences on oil / chemicals, it will be a major step in the right direction.
The Food Revolution by John Robbins.
This is the book that convinced my husband and me to become vegetarians. The research into the business of food – resources required, pharmaceuticals used, and treatment of the animals – provide compelling facts showing that the American diet is harmful to the land and the people that eat it.
The Lorax is good too 🙂
Timothy B. Hurst
Thank you all for your thoughtful responses, and you have raised some very good points. I will address them all individually before drawing the winner (there are actually numbers in a hat right next to me!).
1. I have heard nothing but good things about “Cradle to Cradle” and it is on my short list for books to read.
3. Excellent point about different people probably needing different books. And really it’s a silly question after all because no single book has all of the answers. I have not read “Green to Gold” yet, but I have read some of Esty’s other stuff.
4. “The Lorax.” That’s great. I have shown that movie to undergraduates in one of my classes. “Everyone needs a thneed!”
6. “Natural Capitalism.” Good choice. Like the Lovins’ and Hawken’s other works, very well done and thorough. If you haven’t already, read Amory Lovins'”Soft Energy Paths”, I highly recommend it.
7. I agree, Lisa. (see #4 above)
8. “Ominovore’s Dilemma.” Excellent choice. I just “read” it this summer while weeding in my garden and while driving through Montana. Okay, I actually listened to it. Either way, I am down with Michael Pollan. Good Stuff.
9. Yogahz, yours is the only book I am not familiar with. But I will be sure to become familiar with it, based upon your recommendation.
In case you are curious, and even though I think no single could book can fully capture our environmental predicament or the social, economic and political realities of addressing those predicaments, my choice would be Hermann Scheer’s “Energy Autonomy”. Scheer is a German Parliamentarian who is a tireless advocate for renewable energy and distributed generation. Scheer is one of the primary reasons that Germany is leading the world in renewable energy development.
The book itself is decent. It is full of sentences that are too long and meandering, but I would expect nothing less from a politician. Ask me this question again in 6 months and I will probably have a different answer.
With that said, I am now drawing a number from the hat….
…and the winner is…
…number 6 – Eric Boyd.
Thanks everyone, that was fun. I’m sure I will do it again some time. Eric, I will be contacting you shortly.
I recommend “Lawn People” by Paul Robbins. This very accessible read makes the very real consequences of everyday actions tangible, and is a demonstration of why it is not environmental consciousness but our cultural habits that need to change most.
Though I am late to for my entry, I’m submitting a vote for Last Child in the Woods:Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. We need to instill in children a connection to nature so they can carry, wisely, the Earth’s future on their shoulders some day.
Timothy B. Hurst