As many of us find ourselves in a lockdown and unable to go to work or other activities, now is a good time to be thoughtful. There are, of course, fanciful ideas like “An Epoch of Rest”, the utopian idea put forward by the 19th Century utopian socialist, William Morris that have a particular charm about them in a situation where our only option is to rest. Of course, this rest is imposed, and may not be entirely restful for most people. But, when you look at the effects this enforced rest is having on the environment, from a huge drop in air pollution due to the interruption of industry and international travel, from the clearing of the waters in Venice, the value of rest in combating climate change becomes apparent.
This got me thinking - as I write this from home with a cup of chamomile tea, still in my pajamas, safely nestled away in warm comfort - about climate change more specifically. So here I am, writing about something that is particularly poignant given the relationship that is apparent between Covid-19 and the climate.
Now, for the sake of everyone, all the books referenced in this article are available through Overdrive, or the Libby app. So if you get particularly interested in anything here, you will still be able to access it while the physical libraries remain closed.
There is one book that springs to mind almost immediately when I think about combining this radical idea of rest and the climate, and it is Half-Earth by Pulitzer Prize winning biologist Edward O. Wilson. This book proposes that in order to combat climate change, humankind must not only slow down production, but half of the planet must be left to rewild to ensure a viable and strong ecosystem. An idea that Nebula and Hugo award winning science fiction author and one of Time’s Magazines “Heroes of the Environment”, Kim Stanley Robinson is in agreement with. This idea but forward by both of these distinguished authors has the idea of rest central to it. Instead of viewing the world as a resource that must be constantly extracted for the purposes of economic growth, instead we must allow nature to rest, and be symbiotic with it.
Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything is a fantastic book that outlines the present crisis as well. Put simply, the central thesis of the book is that the current economic model is not compatible with the environment. That the constant extraction of resources in pursuit of profits will only lead to environmental degradation. As the book Limits to Growth argues, constant growth is not possible within a closed ecosystem. Here, rest becomes a key part. Not just our rest, but allowing the environment its much needed rest as well.
For a more scientific perspective on this subject, Adam Frank’s - professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester - informative and entertaining work Light of the Stars’ explores what makes a planet habitable, and though not about climate change directly, the ideas discussed are important for understanding life in the universe, and specifically the evolution of life on Earth and humankind’s place within Earth’s ecosystem. This book provides a very interesting perspective on the crisis that is climate change from a scientific perspective pertaining to life on Earth, the environment, and humanity's place within it.
I could go on, there are of course more and more books being published on the subject, this is of course just a taster, and if this has piqued your interest, there will be more in the list at the end of this post. But for now, remember to be restful, and hopefully when all this is over, our rest can be more profound.
At present, many of people have a lot of spare time being imposed onto them by the current lockdown. So here is a list of books that can all be accessed by eBook and/or eAudiobook.
Written by Pulitzer Prize winning biologist Edward O. Wilson, this book has a utopian aspects that is charming. Here, Wilson argues that in order to prevent catastrophic climate change, human kind must share the Earth with nature. He puts forward that half of the Earth must be returned to nature, and humankind must symbiotically live with the Earth.