Summer School on Global Sustainability-Readings

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Summer School on Global Sustainability

Please note that the Summer School on Global Sustainability-Lectures page may have additional assignments.


The Global Sustainainability Summer School co-directors have recommended the following speech by President Barack Obama as a preface to your time at the program.

Partha Dasgupta

The following papers should be read as supplemental to those lectures given, and for the program at large:

Arnulf Grübler

Dennis Meadows

Please review the Fishbanks Game Manual for Professor Meadows' second lecture on Thursday July 23. Hard copies will be available that day.

Chuck Kutscher

Please read the appendix and "Overview and Summary of the Studies" from the ASES "Tackling Climate Change" report as well as the coal phaseout paper and the column on Concentrating Solar Power.

For those interested, here is the paper by Jim Hansen and his colleagues arguing that atmospheric CO2 must be brought below 350 ppm:

For those interested, student posters from my "Climate Change Solutions" class are on the web at:

Participant-Suggested Readings

Urban Form and Buildings

Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn: What Happens After they are Built offers some clues about how we might conceptualize and approach a reworking of building energy use. - Sam

Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities is an absolutely classic book on the factors that determine the vitality of cities. Highly recommended for anyone who dreams of a reconfigured urban infrastructure. See also Cities and the Wealth of Nations, The Economy of Cities, and The Nature of Economies - Sam


Michael Schuman's The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition discusses the virtues of robust local economies. - Sam

Climate Change

David Archer at the University of Chicago wrote a great primer on climate change science, Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast. --Danny

George Monbiot, a journalist from the UK wrote a well referenced book looking at the plausibility of 90% CO2 reduction by 2030 called Heat: How To Stop the Planet Burning. It's a sector by sector look at mitigation opportunities. Amazon. - Sam

Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming is a great history of the development of the science of climate change. Amazon. - Sam

Ross Gelbspan's Boiling Point: How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists, and Activists Have Fueled a Climate Crisis--And What We Can Do to Avert Disaster reports on the role of the media and special interests in getting the climate story wrong. It is his follow up to The Heat Is On, which documents the energy industry disinformation campaign. - Sam


Willaim Rathje and Cullen Murphy's Rubbish: The Archaeology of Garbage takes an empirical look at how and what we consume. Hint: we lie on surveys! - Sam

The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard is a great web video on the global impacts of consumption. - Sam

Geology & Land Use

Wes Jackson's New Roots for Agriculture describes a potentially new approach to agriculture based on perennial plants that restores rather than destroys habitat. - Sam

Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There is a beautifully written book on habitat, land restoration, and ultimately man's moral relationship with land (aka his Land Ethic). A classic for good reason. - Sam


Alan Weisman's The World Without Us is a sort of speculative disaster ecology book that looks at what would happen to the world if we suddenly disappeared. Neither morbid nor depressing. - Sam


Small is Beautiful by E.F. Shumacher and its supplemental essay A Guide for the Perplexed. Very much in the philosophical spectrum of ecology and economics. A bit dated perhaps, but the material is still very relevant to much of the movement today. -JP

Herman Daley, a world bank economist turned Zero Growth advocate has written several books on the subject. For example, Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. He's not a page turning author, but the ideas and criticisms are fascinating. - Sam

Energy Industry

Daniel Yergin's classic The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil Money and Power on the origin and development of the oil industry. - Sam

David Roe's Dynamos and Virgins is an out of print account of the battle behind energy regulation in California. It gives a great sense of what it takes to change industry practice and is perhaps a glimpse of what is yet to come. - Sam


James Hamilton-Paterson's Seven Tenths: The Sea and Its Thresholds is a collection of beautifully written essays about the oceans. - Sam


"The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100: Europe, America, and the Third World" - Robert William Fogel

Technology & Technological Change

Gil Masters wrote an excellent textbook, Renewable and Efficient Electric Power Systems. The book covers wind, solar PV, and energy efficiency technology analysis comprehensively. Gil's book is great for professional engineers, but also incredibly approachable, requiring no background beyond high school math. Among other things, it gives the tools needed to design home power systems. --Danny

Alexandra Von Meier has a primer on the electricity sector, Electric Power Systems: A Conceptual Introduction. Written for the general post-college audience, it's a must-have for anyone who wants to understand the electricity industry. --Danny

J. R. McNeill's Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th Century World is a history book that argues that environmental change will come to be seen as the 20th centuries most important event. - Sam


"Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability" - Daniel Sperling, Deborah Gordon

"Transportation in a Climate-Constrained World" - Andreas Schafer, John B. Heywood, Henry D. Jacoby, Ian A. Waitz


Vandana Shiva is an Indian Physicist turned activist. Her book Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit reminds us that for many people on earth, access to water is a most urgent concern. Conflicts over water are already changing people's lives. - Sam