Environmental books

Book recommendation De best intensjoner - Oljelandet i klimakampen

De beste intensjoner - Oljelandet i klimakampen by Anne Karin Sæther, or "The Best of intentions - The oil country in the climate battle" is one of the best books I've read this year. It got great reviews when it came out in 2017, and is still a must read for anyone who wishes to understand the ultimate paradox that is how the Norwegian oil industry and climate legislation has been in bed together since day one. 

The book gives you the historical background since we first found oil in 1969 at Ekofisk, and how the newly established Oil Office compiled "the ten oil commandments" that would govern Norwegian oil and climate policies in the years to come. It was decided that the oil should be extracted at a "moderate" estimate. This meant that Norway had given itself a limit to how much oil that should be extracted each year, based on the precautionary measures that we did not know how it would go. Later in the book, it is revealed that this "moderate" estimate were in fact higher than what the earliest oil pioners could ever imagine that Norway would extract of oil, but the principle of a moderate oil extractive pace was established to stay. 

Then, we are presented with how Norway led the way as the climate leading nation, with the worlds first environmental minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland. In 1987 she presented the report "Our common future" in the UN's climate assembly, where she recognised the impact oil extractions would have on our climate. As one of the first nations, Norway presented its first climate law, which was to "stabilise" the CO2 emissions during the 1990s or latest in the year 2000. 

However, in the Norwegian Parliament and oil industry, it was recognised how this climate law would hinder the oil industry. This is when the idea of climate quotas was first invented. It became  crucial for Norway's new and growing industry, that gave Norway so much wealth, to not be strangled by climate legislation. Therefore, in the next UN assembly, the then statistician Jens Stoltenberg, presented for the environmental ministers the idea that emission cuts could be made outside ones own country. It was in Norway's interest that you could pay other countries a quota, in stead of reducing emissions in your own country. 

In the next UN assembly, where Norway was part of negotiating forward a climate agreement, our new politics on CO2 emissions made us unpopular. Norway was criticised for caring more about national interests, than the climate, and that our protectionism was delaying the work with the climate agreement. 

These are the events the Norwegian oil adventure was based upon. "The best intentions" then goes on and present some of the arguments the Norwegian oil industry has used to defend its further use of more oil extraction in a time when we know how closely linked the oil industry is to climate change and rising CO2 emissions. The myths of "the worlds cleanest oil" and "Norwegian oil to the worlds poor" are dissected and revealed. Further, the book talks about Statoils role in Norway, and how this has affected the Parliament and our politicians. It also discusses modern oil debates, as the Lofoten area.  

This book is for anyone who wishes to understand how and why Norways biggest industry has played such a huge role in our modern history and policy making. It is also for anyone who is interested in Norwegian politics, international climate politics or just wishes to read a really well written book. 

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Eco friendly reading recommendations!

Happy Sunday fellow eco concsiously minded. 

Today, I want to recommend some environmental literature that is still on my to-read list, that I think is worth reading: 

1st book out is "The Nature Fix" written by Florence Williams. From the recommendation at Amazon: "The Nature Fix demonstrates that our connection to nature is much more important to our cognition than we think and that even small amounts of exposure to the living world can improve our creativity and enhance our mood. In prose that is incisive, witty, and urgent, Williams shows how time in nature is not a luxury but is in fact essential to our humanity. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas―and the answers they yield―are more urgent than ever."

2nd book out is "Earth in Human Hands" by David Grinspoon. From Amazon: "For the first time in Earth's history, our planet is experiencing a confluence of rapidly accelerating changes prompted by one species: humans. Climate change is only the most visible of the modifications we've made--up until this point, inadvertently--to the planet. And our current behavior threatens not only our own future but that of countless other creatures. By comparing Earth's story to those of other planets, astrobiologist David Grinspoon shows what a strange and novel development it is for a species to evolve to build machines, and ultimately, global societies with world-shaping influence."

I also have two recommendations of books that I have almost finished, but not written a review of yet, which is: 

"Silent Sprint revisited" by Conor Mark Jameson - (from Amazon"American scientist and author Rachel Carson is said to have sparked the modern day environmental movement with the publication of Silent Spring in 1962. She made vivid the prospect of life without birdsong. But has her warning been heeded? Fifty years on, Conor Mark Jameson reflects on the growth of environmentalism since Silent Spring was published. His revealing and engaging tale plots milestone events in conservation, popular culture and political history in the British Isles and beyond, tracing a path through the half century since 'zero hour', 1962. Around this he weaves his own observations and touching personal experiences, seeking to answer the question: what happened to the birds, and birdsong, and why does it matter?" 

And my fourth book recommendations is one of those books that even thought you've finished it, you've never really finished with it - it is "The Ecology of Wisdom" by Arne Næss. From Amazon: "These writings, full of Naess’s characteristic enthusiasm, wit, and spiritual fascination with nature, provide a look into the remarkable philosophical underpinnings of his own social and ecological activism, as well as an inspiration for all those looking to follow in his footsteps. This is an essential anthology from one of modern environmentalism’s most important and relevant voices."

I hope these books can be an inspiration for furthering your environmental journey, and if you have any books on the topic that you can recommend, feel free to write them in the comments below. 

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What we think about when we try not to think about global warming

Environmental book recommendation of ‘Det vi tenker på når vi prøver å ikke tenke på global oppvarming’ (What we think about when we try not to think about global warming) by Per Espen Stoknes

I must begin with saying that I am happy that this book recommendation can not do justice to reading the book yourself - and that’s a really good thing! Because this is actually, as the book says on the back 'The most important book of the year!'.

The author of the book, Per Espen Stoknes, is both a psychologist and economist, and in this book he presents us with the five key psychological mechanisms that prevents us from acting on climate change. Luckily, he also provides us with new strategies about how we should talk about climate change, and also how detrimental some of the communication around climate change can be. 

There are three main parts of the book: ‘Thinking’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Being’. In ‘Thinking’, the book starts of by thoroughly describing why there are climate deniers and sceptics to climate science. The key findings in this chapter, and also why there are psychological barriers towards climate action is summed up in: 

  1. 1.Distance - the climate cause feels distant to us, ‘it doesn't concern me, yet’. 
  2. 2.Doomsday - with impending doom soon on your hands, it’s easy to feel defeated. 
  3. 3.Dissonance - when we know that the use of fossil fuels amplifies climate change, but we continue to drive our petrol based cars, it can create a dissonance that is uncomfortable to handle. This dissonance is relieved by starting to doubt or trivialise the facts (that our lifestyle created the problem) 
  4. 4.Denial - when we deny the facts, we use it as a tactic to protect ourselves from fear or guilt. By denying climate change altogether, it is easier to lift yourself to the same level as those ‘preaching’ climate facts to you, and rather ridicule them, as a mean of self defence. 
  5. 5.Identity - we look for information that confirms our personal and political values and beliefs, and when the political side you identifies with either express that they believe or do not believe in climate change, it is easier for you to let your cultural identity belief be mirrored, than opposing this. 

However - there are good ways to combat these identified traits to why some denies climate change, and these tactics are described in part 2 - ‘Doing’. The main message here stars of with: Turn the barriers upside down - 

  1. Find a way to make climate change feel close, human, personal and urgent (the opposite from distance). 
  2. Use supportive framing that does not evoke negative emotions (doomsday). 
  3. Create opportunities for a simple and visible climate action (reduces dissonance) 
  4. Avoid emotions as fear, guilt, and the need for self protection (reduces the need for denial) 
  5. Reduce the cultural and political polarising of climate change (to reduce the need to protect your identity) 

From a climate communication perspective, which is my daytime job, this information is golden! Knowing how to not create a ‘them and us’ worldview is vital information when the goal is for climate science to be globally accepted. 

The two main remaining aspect of this first strategy also includes: 

  1. Stick to the positive strategies - whatever we communicate about the climate - the message should be inspiring, sympathetic, and stimulate to togetherness. A solution works so much better when people actually wants it, rather than having it implemented by guilt or fear of repercussions. 
  2. Act as a global citizen, not as a individual - we get further when we act towards societal change, rather than as separate individuals. That being said, we do need those individual acts, as recycling, but it’s when more people join in that a movement is created. 

Based on this, the book presents us with five new strategies to present climate change: 

  1. Social - use the power of social networks. The best communicators for an idea is someone you look up to or identify with, be it a cultural influencer or a celebrity. This strategy has been successfully used in AIDS campaigns in South-Africa and anti smoking campaigns in the US. The same logic can be applied in communication climate science. In already established communities as sports clubs, organisations etc - find out who different communities looks up to, and let them be spokespeople to their own communities.  
  2. Supportive - use lingual framing that supports the message with positive feelings. Talk about the opportunities to a better life, innovation and job opportunities. Talk about how it promotes better health and wellbeing, how it is better to be prepared and ready for the risk of climate, than staying passive. Talk about it as values for our joint cause. 
  3. Simple - make it simple and practical to act climate friendly. Use ‘green nudges’ as means to making the green choice the simplest.
  4. Story-based - use the force of stories to create meaning and togetherness. We need the vision of how the green future will look like, therefore - tell better climate stories. Avoid the apocalyptic narrative and rather talk about green growth, happiness and the good life, ecological restoration and nature ethics. Also, when you tell the stories, make them personal, personified and concrete. Give them life and make them extraordinary. Visualise, don’t explain. Make them fun and vibrant with a strong narrative and use of emotions and drama. 
  5. Signals - use social indicators that visualise society respons to the climate crisis. Integrate the climate communication with new progress as indicators as towards green growth. 

All in all, this is a very optimistic book, and with fear of that this blog post is going to be too long, I will refrain from covering part 3 ‘Being’. I will just say this, you want to read this book, as it provides you with a lot more visuals and examples than I could cover in this brief overview of what the book contain of ideas. 

While reading it, and after, I have felt a renewed hope in communicating climate science. If Stoknes aim for this book was to spread hope around our joint climate, I will definitely say that he succeeded. 10 out of 10, I can strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in climate, psychology, even economics or communication. 

Thank you for reading this longer than usual blogpost, and remember to talk positively when communicating about the climate. 

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The world without us - by Alan Weisman

I started this book without knowing too much about its content, except that it would describe what will happen to our world if we were all to disappear tomorrow. With this seemingly bleak outlook I started reading, and was instantly surprised by, given the premises for the book, how little troublesome it was to read. 

First of all, the language is beautiful. With sentences like:

‘Unless humankind’s Faustian affair with carbon fuels ends up tipping the atmosphere past the point of no return, and runaway global warming transfigures Earth into Venus, at some unknown date glaciers will do so again.’  

Weisman does a good job at describing what will remain after us, mostly underground cities. But with chapters with names like ‘Polymers Are Forever’ and ‘The Petro Patch’ it’s easy to see where we are headed. It is an environmentalist book through and through. Weisman has gone to some great lengths and apparently traveled the world in the attempt to cover all our misdeeds towards the climate. 

What is most distressing however is not that the concrete will break up and New York will once again be a green canopy, but how long after the toxins we have engineered are staying in our environment. One example is PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) that we stopped using in the 70’s due to how animals who came in contact with it started mutating and changing gender. After remains of PCB were dug deep into the earth, that again found it’s way back into the water (spoiler: Everything finds it’s way back into the water), these toxins have now reappeared in the Arctic, where they are found in breastmilk in Innuit women, and in the fat tissues in seals and fish. 

Weisman leaves us with a thought on the choice ahead — if we as a species will bring the rest of Life with us, or tear it down, with a friendly reminder that we can't really do it alone if nature isn't with us. This is, to my belief, perhaps the core of this book, how closely we are linked with nature. 

If you are into in-debt explanations and a more naturalistic approach to climate change, this could well be the book for you. 

This changes everything

I have finally gotten around to read Naomi Kleins 'This Changes Everything" (2014) (yes, I know, a little late to the game) However, even if you read it now, you will still get some really good insights as to where we are currently in the climate discourse.

Klein is a Canadian journalist, author and political activist, and 'This Changes Everything' draws most of its example from the current day US climate policies. The main idea of the book is that its the current economical system, capitalism, that is ruling how we make all other decisions, including those for the climate. If you are either interested in climate, as I sort of assume you are if you've found your way to this blog, but also if you are interested in how economy influence all aspects of society, then this might be the book for you.

One of my most 'aha!' moments when reading the book, was when she discusses how the fossile fuel industry per definition neither can't stop nor won't stop before they have literally searched every inch of our common Earth. This has to do with how it is financed; oil companies gets new investments based on what they estimate that they will be able to produce. So with this cycle, they can never stop searching. Klein gives some devastating examples in the book about small island communities that perished because of this extractive industry. For a more thorough explanation of this and a lot more, I can really recommend this book. It is also a good road map if you have just gotten into the climate debate, but want to get a bit more back history on how the movement came to be.