environmental books

Building a library of American environmental classics (Part Two)

More recommendations for your home eco-library.

Last week, we gave you a curricular list of some of the most important American environmental books of the late 20th Century.


Readers pointed out egregious omissions like Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac, posthumously published in 1949, and Bill McKibben's The End of Nature(1999).

Here are more from the early 21st Century:

City on Fire: Bill Minutaglio's hidden 2004 classic is on the horrific 1947 ammonium nitrate explosions and fires that killed 581 people and leveled a good portion of Texas City, Texas. Heeding the obvious warnings from Texas City might have spared us the ammonium nitrate disasters in the town of West, Texas, in 2013, the terrorist attack in Oklahoma City in 1995, and this year's explosion in Beirut.

A Fierce Green Fire: From his lengthy stint at the New York Times to his founding of the must-read online Greenwire, Phil Shabecoff is a pioneer on the environmental beat. He published a thorough history of the environmental movement through its leaders, from John Muir through toxics hellraiser Lois Gibbs, in 2003.

The End of the Line: Charles Clover's 2004 book covers the emptying of the oceans. Hardly the only entry to report on overfishing, it's arguably one of the most distressingly complete.

Merchants of Doubt: Ten years ago, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway released their epic indictment of the practice and the players in the doubt industry: Deploying shaky science to slow down action on everything from tobacco to seatbelts to acid rain and climate change.

Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation: This bookearned Dan Fagin the 2014 Pulitzer for nonfiction for its melding of the story of pollution in a Jersey Shore town with a centuries-long telling of the history of environmental health studies.

Michael Grunwald's The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise (2006) chronicles the Everglades' dual images as an ecological quagmire and a political one.

Cynthia Barnett's 2011 book Rain: A Natural and Cultural History is a splendid effort about how a meteorological phenomenon has and will build civilizations. And wreck them.

The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea won the 2018 Pulitzer for History for Jack Davis. From shrimp to petroleum, the book helps us understand both American ecology and American history.

There are a few major topics that still await an equally major book. While Jeff Goodell's BigCoal gives the industry's rap sheet and foretells its demise through its 2006 publication date, I hope someone's working on coal's obituary, not to mention the remains it's left in abandoned mines and coal ash ponds.

An epic history of the never-ending lifecycle of plastics also awaits. And the behind-the-scenes tell of fracking's meteoric rise, and eventual fall. And how the 2009 theft of climate scientists' emails appears to be a trial run for more political cybercrime. And how social media has been a force multiplier for environmental disinformation.

This is by no means a complete list. Some of the omissions here are simply due to my failure to read them all. And I can't wait to see what's written in future books about Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Sen. Jim Inhofe, Donald Trump, Greta Thunberg, PFAS chemicals, and more.

Feel free to send me any titles you think I've omitted to pdykstra@ehn.org or tweet @pdykstra. Thanks!

Check out Building a library of American environmental classics: Part One

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo credit: Latitudes | Barcelona/flickr

Global Plastic Treaty
The third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution negotiations were held in Nairobi, Kenya last November. (Credit: UNEP/Ahmed Nayim Yussuf)

This will be a big year in shaping the future of chemical recycling

The controversial practice looms large in state environmental laws, federal regulation and global plastic treaty negotiations.

With a presidential election looming, a wave of state-level legislation circulating, an international plastics treaty taking form and fights brewing over proposed facilities, 2024 is set to shape the regulatory future of chemical recycling in the U.S.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less
plastic chemical recycling
Credit: Unsplash+

What is chemical recycling?

When you think about plastic recycling, you probably picture plastic being converted into shiny new bottles, boxes and bags.
Keep reading...Show less

Texas faces increased wildfire threats due to climate change

As the Smokehouse Creek fire rages on, Texas grapples with the escalating wildfire risks fueled by climate change, posing significant challenges to property insurance and homeowner costs.

Delger Erdenesanaa and Christopher Flavelle report for The New York Times.

Keep reading...Show less

Harnessing urban stormwater could revolutionize city water management

Cities in the United States have the untapped potential to capture a significant amount of stormwater, which could lead to more sustainable water resource management.

Matt Simon reports for WIRED.

Keep reading...Show less

Pension funds in Canada are behind on addressing climate-induced financial risks, according to a report

A new report criticizes Canadian pension funds for inadequate responses to the financial risks posed by climate change, demanding more proactive measures.

Taylor Noakes reports for DeSmog.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
algoma steel sault pollution

Cleaner steelmaking can’t come fast enough for this Northern Ontario city

Algoma Steel continues to exceed Canada’s standard air pollution limits for cancer-causing compounds and struggles with spills as it pushes toward a “green” makeover.

petrochemical shell pennsylvania plastic

Tracking petrochemical accidents across the US

A new database monitors fires, flares, spills and other accidents at petrochemical plants.

petrochemical houston gulf coast

Lives “devastated’ by petrochemical industry pollution in Texas: Report

New analysis illustrates the climate, environmental, and human rights tolls linked to petrochemical production surrounding the Houston Ship Channel region.

LNG gulf coast

LNG production comes with a price, Gulf Coast communities warn

US takes the global lead on liquid natural gas production and export, as economic promises and environmental worries collide.

LNG gulf coast

La producción de gas natural licuado tiene un precio, advierten las comunidades la Costa del Golfo

Entre promesas económicas y preocupaciones ambientales, Estados Unidos lidera la producción y exportación de gas natural licuado.

Ante la expansión del GNL en la costa del Golfo, la comunidad espera erigirse como un muro de contención

Ante la expansión del GNL en la costa del Golfo, la comunidad espera erigirse como un muro de contención

“La gente no sabe qué haríamos sin el petróleo y el gas. Esto nos sale muy caro”.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.