2010 Global Sustainability Summer School-ParticipantSuggestions

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2010 Global Sustainability Summer School

A few of us thought it might be helpful to have a section of books or readings that participants thought were valuable to the sustainability discussion, or at least good reads! Feel free to change categories, add books, or contribute your own thoughts to books already listed.

Environmental Studies

  • "Classics in Environmental Studies" - Nico Helissen (1997).
Contains excerpts of books and reports from Malthus and Carson to Harrison and Gore. A good way to ramp up quickly on some of the commonly discussed environmental literature. Note the copyright is quite old, so newer stuff is not found in the book.

Change / Sustainability

  • Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed. 2007. Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, and Michael Patton.

A MUST READ: The Collapse of Complex Societies, by Joseph Tainter (1988)
Review from Amazon: "Political disintegration is a persistent feature of world history. The Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will therefore strike a chord throughout the social sciences. Any explanation of societal collapse carries lessons not just for the study of ancient societies, but for the members of all such societies in both the present and future. Dr. Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than 2000 years of explanations. He then develops a new and far-reaching theory that accounts for collapse among diverse kinds of societies, evaluating his model and clarifying the processes of disintegration by detailed studies of the Roman, Mayan and Chacoan collapses."

A clever approach to a tricky idea - The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

  • Global Sustainability - A Nobel Cause. When we were at SFI last week, some of you saw the book on display that [Veronika] was involved in editing. [Veronika] just wanted to mention that the book is an open access publication. You can freely download all chapters at: It is a book targeted at a broad audience, but some of the essays are definitely interesting for experts as well. If you want to read again about Geoffrey West's research, [Veronika] strongly recommends chapter 2.
  • Climate Change and the Integrity of Science -- This is the letter to Science with many authors that John Schellnhuber showed in his 3rd lecture link
  • The bridge at the edge of the world: capitalism, the environment and crossing from crisis to sustainability. 2008. James Gustave Speth.

Science of Climate Change

Here is a good and easy to read text about the effect from increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. The text explains why one cannot conduct a laboratory experiment to measure the impact from increasing CO2 levels and it offers good arguments against to common skeptic argument of CO2 saturation.


I think this is the paper driving many of Doyne's comments on CBA, though I should probably ask the man himself :^)
I assigned it to my CBA class last semester, after a long semester of hard work on CBA, they were not pleased... he he he
Martin L. Weitzman (2009). Additive Damages, Fat-Tailed Climate Dynamics, and Uncertain Discounting.
Economics: The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Vol. 3, 2009-39.

Ecological Economics

This is a web-based course on ecological economics with open access to course materials. *

Policy instruments

The book Policy Instruments for Environmental and Natural Resource Management by Thomas Sterner provides a good overview over available policy instruments for the environment, how they function and what kinds of costs they imply.

Energy Matters

How we subsidize fossil fuels. (Via chartporn)

Online Resources


A narrative of three journeys with David Brower, first executive director of the Sierra Club and founder of Friends of the Earth. In each journey, David Brower is paired with a mineral engineer, a dam builder, and a real estate developer. A fabulous and quick read with many take aways.
  • "Control of Nature" - another great John McPhee book
  • Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water. Marc Reisner. 1993. - Fantastic (if interestingly verbose) account of western water policy.
  • Beak of the Finch: A story of evolution in our time. Jonathan Weiner.
  • Desert Solitaire. Edward Abbey.
  • "The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet" by Reif Larsen. Excellent story of a twelve-year-old cartographer's journey to a fellowship at the Smithsonian. Beautiful illustrations. Geographers should especially appreciate the detail of the drawings and mapping of the world.