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Penguins for the planet

3 September, 2021

If the beginning of September is prompting studious feelings, then Penguin Classics’ new Green Ideas series may be the perfect place to turn.  

The publisher has introduced a new canon of environmental writing, showcasing thinking from pioneers in the space. These ‘classics of a movement’ are 20 bitesize books, which, despite being written across seven decades, feel more relevant now than ever. 

Notably, the series incorporates diverse thinking from across disciplines and cultures,. F from Masanobu Fukuoka’s reflections on sustainable farming, and activist Wangari Maathai on the sacred power of trees, to Greta Thunberg’s collected speeches No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference 

Hearing news about the climate crisis can be bewildering, and lead to feelings of powerlessness. Yet rather than turning away, educating yourself can be an empowering act. It’s helpful to read the thoughts of others who have grappled with different aspects of environmentalism, tapping into a discourse that has been developing for decades. While these titles may not offer all the solutions, they provide rich but easily digestible food for thought.  

If you’ve tackled those 20 titles and are still hungry for more, here are a few more recommendations from us:  

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability, Designing for Abundance – Michael Braungart and William McDonough 

In The Upcycle, Braungart and McDonough expand their ‘cradle to cradle’ circular design model by moving beyond just reusing and recycling. They set out how we can use design to not just reduce human impact but to make human activity into something that actually improves the environment. 

How Forests Think – Eduardo Kohn 

This book is inspired by four years of anthropological fieldwork among the Runa people of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Through it Kohn challenges us to think differently about our place as humans as a part of, rather than distinct from our wider ecosystem.  

Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish – Michael Foreman  

Foreman’s story is a great way to get little ones engaging in environmental issues. Although written in the 70s, considering the recent actions of certain billionaires, the plot (which involves a man escaping a destroyed earth on a rocket) seems strangely prescient… 

By Jessie Smith

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