Faculty Bookshelf

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Anne Rademacher and K. Sivaramakrishnan
Places of Nature in Ecologies of Urbanism (2017)

If twenty-first-century urbanization is understood as a problem, its regional epicenter is the cities in Asia. Facing unprecedented diversity in scale, scope, and environmental dynamics in the Asian urban experience, scholars will need an approach that can truly capture the significance of place and context. The challenge, as this volume illustrates, can be met by the analytic of ecologies of urbanism. Eschewing a rigid, single ecology, the contributors identify multiple forms of nature—in biophysical, cultural, and political terms—that have discernable impact on power relations and human social action. The case studies in this book—including leopards in Mumbai, a network of tubewells in northern India, an island that grows through reclamation in Hong Kong, and a railway continuum linking Khon Kaen and Bangkok—all attest to the versatility of ecologies of urbanism. Guided by urban processes rather than geopolitical boundaries, Places of Nature in Ecologies of Urbanism offers a picture of urban Asia that is composed of varied ecologies of urbanism.

Read more from Columbia University Press

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Tyler Volk
Quarks to Culture: How We Came To Be (2017)

Atoms combine to form molecules, molecules combine to form single-celled organisms. When people come together, they build societies. Our world is nested, both physically and socially, and at each level we find innovations that were necessary for the next level. Physics has gone far in mapping the basic mechanics of the simplest things and dynamics of the overall nesting, as have biology and the social sciences for their fields. But what if anything can we say about this beautifully complex whole? Might there be general processes we can identify? How do phases shape others, and what more can we learn about human existence through understanding an enlarged field of creation and being? Quarks to Culture explores the rhythm within what Tyler Volk calls the "grand sequence," a series of levels of sizes and innovations building from elementary quanta to globalized human civilization. The key is "combogenesis," the building-up from combination and integration to produce new things with innovative relations. Themes unfold in how physics and chemistry led to biological evolution, and biological evolution to cultural evolution. Volk develops an inclusive natural philosophy that brings clarity to our place in the world, a roadmap for our minds. As combogenesis repeats, patterns enrich like an expanding musical progression. Quarks to Culture provides new insights into linkages in our sciences and presents an exciting synthesis of ideas across a sequence of things and relations, from physical to living to cultural. It is high adventure for readers who seek to understand big history and wrestle with questions of how we came to be.

Read more from Columbia University Press

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Christopher Schlottmann, Dale Jamieson, Colin Jerolmack, and Anne Rademacher with Maria Damon
Environment and Society: A Reader (2017)

Environment and Society connects the core themes of environmental studies to the urgent issues and debates of the twenty-first century. 

In an era marked by climate change, rapid urbanization, and resource scarcity, environmental studies has emerged as a crucial arena of study.   

Assembling canonical and contemporary texts, this volume presents a systematic survey of concepts and issues central to the environment in society, such as: social mobilization on behalf of environmental objectives; the relationships between human population, economic growth and stresses on the planet’s natural resources; debates about the relative effects of collective and individual action; and unequal distribution of the social costs of environmental degradation.   

Organized around key themes, with each section featuring questions for debate and suggestions for further reading, the book introduces students to the history of environmental studies, and demonstrates how the field’s interdisciplinary approach uniquely engages the essential issues of the present.

Read more from NYU Press
All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to the NYU Environmental Studies Scholarship Fund.

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Una Chaudhuri
The Stage Lives of Animals: Zooesis and Performance (2016)

The Stage Lives of Animals examines what it might mean to make theatre beyond the human. In this stunning collection of essays, Una Chaudhuri engages with the alternative modes of thinking, feeling, and making art offered by animals and animality, bringing insights from theatre practice and theory to animal studies as well as exploring what animal studies can bring to the study of theatre and performance.
As our planet lives through what scientists call "the sixth extinction," and we become ever more aware of our relationships to other species, Chaudhuri takes a highly original look at the "animal imagination" of well-known plays, performances and creative projects, including works by:

    •    Caryl Churchill 
    •    Rachel Rosenthal
    •    Marina Zurkow
    •    Edward Albee
    •    Tennesee Williams
    •    Eugene Ionesco

Covering over a decade of explorations, a wide range of writers, and many urgent topics, this volume demonstrates that an interspecies imagination deeply structures modern western drama.

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Duncan Purves, Adrian Walsh, and Säde Hormio
The Ethical Underpinnings of Climate Economics (2016)

Despite their obvious importance, the ethical implications of climate change are often neglected in economic evaluations of mitigation and adaptation policies. Economic climate models provide estimates of the value of mitigation benefits, provide understanding of the costs of reducing emissions, and develop tools for making policy choices under uncertainty. They have thus offered theoretical and empirical instruments for the design and implementation of a range of climate policies, but the ethical assumptions included in the calculations are usually left unarticulated. 

This book, which brings together scholars from both economics and ethical theory, explores the interrelation between climate ethics and economics. Examining a wide range of topics including sustainability, conceptions of value, risk management and the monetization of harm, the book will explore the ethical limitations of economic analysis but will not assume that economic theory cannot accommodate the concerns raised. The aim in part is to identify ethical shortcomings of economic analysis and to propose solutions. Given the on-going role of economics in government thinking on mitigation, a constructive approach is vital if we are to deal adequately with climate change.

This volume will be of great interest to students and scholars of environmental ethics, economics, political science, political philosophy and the philosophy of economics. 

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Jennifer Jacquet
Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool (2015)


An urgent, illuminating exploration of the social nature of shame and of how it might be used to promote large-scale political change and social reform.


In cultures that champion the individual, guilt is advertised as the cornerstone of conscience. But while guilt holds individuals to personal standards, it is powerless in the face of corrupt institutions. In recent years, we as consumers have sought to assuage our guilt about flawed social and environmental practices and policies by, for example, buying organic foods or fair-trade products. 

Unless nearly everyone participates, however, the impact of individual consumer consciousness is ineffective.

Is Shame Necessary? presents us with a trenchant case for public shaming as a nonviolent form of resistance that can challenge corporations and even governments to change policies and behaviors that are detrimental to the environment. Jennifer Jacquet argues that public shaming, when it has been retrofitted for the age of social media and aimed in the proper direction, can help compensate for the limitations of guilt in a globalized world. Jacquet leaves us with a new understanding of how public shame, when applied in the right way and at the right time, has the capacity to keep us from failing other species in life’s fabric and, ultimately, from failing ourselves.

Read more from Penguin Random House

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Dale Jamieson
Love in the Anthropocene (2015)

An audacious collaboration between an award-winning novelist and a leading environmental philosopher, Love in the Anthropocene taps into one of the hottest topics of the day, literally and figuratively—our corrupted environment—to deliver five related stories (“Flyfishing,” “Carbon,” “Holiday,” “Shanghai,” and “Zoo”) that investigate a future bereft of natural environments, introduced with a discussion on the Anthropocene—the Age of Humanity—and concluding with an essay on love.

The “love” these writer/philosophers investigate and celebrate is as much a constant as is human despoliation of the planet; it is what defines us, and it is what may save us. Science fiction, literary fiction, philosophical meditation, manifesto? All the above. This unique work is destined to become an essential companion—a primer, really—to life in the 21st century.

Read more from OR Books

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Una Chaudhuri
Research Theatre, Climate Change, and the Ecocide Project (2014)

Theatre is a uniquely powerful site for the kind of thinking called for by the crises of climate change. The growing scientific and public consensus about the many looming crises following from climate change is matched by an increasing interest, on the part of artists and scholars, to identify creative strategies and practices capable of mounting adequate and appropriate responses to those crises. Encompassing academic research, theatre work-shopping, playwriting, dramaturgy, and theoretical writing, this book offers a practical, theoretical, and critical engagement with the urgent issue of making art in the age of climate change.

Read more from Palgrave Macmillan

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Dale Jamieson
Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed --and What It Means for Our Future (2014)

From the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference there was a concerted international effort to stop climate change. Yet greenhouse gas emissions increased, atmospheric concentrations grew, and global warming became an observable fact of life.

In this book, philosopher Dale Jamieson explains what climate change is, why we have failed to stop it, and why it still matters what we do. Centered in philosophy, the volume also treats the scientific, historical, economic, and political dimensions of climate change.

Our failure to prevent or even to respond significantly to climate change, Jamieson argues, reflects the impoverishment of our systems of practical reason, the paralysis of our politics, and the limits of our cognitive and affective capacities. The climate change that is underway is remaking the world in such a way that familiar comforts, places, and ways of life will disappear in years or decades rather than centuries. 

Climate change also threatens our sense of meaning, since it is difficult to believe that our individual actions matter. The challenges that climate change presents go beyond the resources of common sense morality -- it can be hard to view such everyday acts as driving and flying as presenting moral problems. Yet there is much that we can do to slow climate change, to adapt to it and restore a sense of agency while living meaningful lives in a changing world.

Read more from Oxford University Press

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Andrew Needham
Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest (2014)

In 1940, Phoenix was a small, agricultural city of sixty-five thousand, and the Navajo Reservation was an open landscape of scattered sheepherders. Forty years later, Phoenix had blossomed into a metropolis of 1.5 million people and the territory of the Navajo Nation was home to two of the largest strip mines in the world. Five coal-burning power plants surrounded the reservation, generating electricity for export to Phoenix, Los Angeles, and other cities. Exploring the postwar developments of these two very different landscapes, Power Lines tells the story of the far-reaching environmental and social inequalities of metropolitan growth, and the roots of the contemporary coal-fueled climate change crisis.

Andrew Needham explains how inexpensive electricity became a requirement for modern life in Phoenix—driving assembly lines and cooling the oppressive heat. Navajo officials initially hoped energy development would improve their lands too, but as ash piles marked their landscape, air pollution filled the skies, and almost half of Navajo households remained without electricity, many Navajos came to view power lines as a sign of their subordination in the Southwest. Drawing together urban, environmental, and American Indian history, Needham demonstrates how power lines created unequal connections between distant landscapes and how environmental changes associated with suburbanization reached far beyond the metropolitan frontier. Needham also offers a new account of postwar inequality, arguing that residents of the metropolitan periphery suffered similar patterns of marginalization as those faced in America’s inner cities.

Telling how coal from Indian lands became the fuel of modernity in the Southwest, Power Lines explores the dramatic effects that this energy system has had on the people and environment of the region.

Read more from Princeton University Press

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Dan Fagin
Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation (2013)

The riveting true story of a small town ravaged by industrial pollution,Toms River melds hard-hitting investigative reporting, a fascinating scientific detective story, and an unforgettable cast of characters into a sweeping narrative in the tradition of A Civil ActionThe Emperor of All Maladies, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

One of New Jersey’s seemingly innumerable quiet seaside towns, Toms River became the unlikely setting for a decades-long drama that culminated in 2001 with one of the largest legal settlements in the annals of toxic dumping.

A town that would rather have been known for its Little League World Series champions ended up making history for an entirely different reason: a notorious cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution. For years, large chemical companies had been using Toms River as their private dumping ground, burying tens of thousands of leaky drums in open pits and discharging billions of gallons of acid-laced wastewater into the town’s namesake river.

In an astonishing feat of investigative reporting, prize-winning journalist Dan Fagin recounts the sixty-year saga of rampant pollution and inadequate oversight that made Toms River a cautionary example for fast-growing industrial towns from South Jersey to South China. He tells the stories of the pioneering scientists and physicians who first identified pollutants as a cause of cancer, and brings to life the everyday heroes in Toms River who struggled for justice: a young boy whose cherubic smile belied the fast-growing tumors that had decimated his body from birth; a nurse who fought to bring the alarming incidence of childhood cancers to the attention of authorities who didn’t want to listen; and a mother whose love for her stricken child transformed her into a tenacious advocate for change.

A gripping human drama rooted in a centuries-old scientific quest, Toms River is a tale of dumpers at midnight and deceptions in broad daylight, of corporate avarice and government neglect, and of a few brave individuals who refused to keep silent until the truth was exposed.

Read more from Penguin Random House

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Jessica F. Green
Rethinking Private Authority: Agents and Entrepreneurs in Global Environmental Governance(2013)

Rethinking Private Authority examines the role of non-state actors in global environmental politics, arguing that a fuller understanding of their role requires a new way of conceptualizing private authority. Jessica Green identifies two distinct forms of private authority--one in which states delegate authority to private actors, and another in which entrepreneurial actors generate their own rules, persuading others to adopt them.

Drawing on a wealth of empirical evidence spanning a century of environmental rule making, Green shows how the delegation of authority to private actors has played a small but consistent role in multilateral environmental agreements over the past fifty years, largely in the area of treaty implementation. This contrasts with entrepreneurial authority, where most private environmental rules have been created in the past two decades. Green traces how this dynamic and fast-growing form of private authority is becoming increasingly common in areas ranging from organic food to green building practices to sustainable tourism. She persuasively argues that the configuration of state preferences and the existing institutional landscape are paramount to explaining why private authority emerges and assumes the form that it does. In-depth cases on climate change provide evidence for her arguments.

Groundbreaking in scope, Rethinking Private Authority demonstrates that authority in world politics is diffused across multiple levels and diverse actors, and it offers a more complete picture of how private actors are helping to shape our response to today's most pressing environmental problems.

Read more from Princeton University Press

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Colin Jerolmack
The Global Pigeon (2013)

The pigeon is the quintessential city bird. Domesticated thousands of years ago as a messenger and a source of food, its presence on our sidewalks is so common that people consider the bird a nuisance—if they notice it at all. Yet pigeons are also kept for pleasure, sport, and profit by people all over the world, from the “pigeon wars” waged by breeding enthusiasts in the skies over Brooklyn to the Million Dollar Pigeon Race held every year in South Africa.

Drawing on more than three years of fieldwork across three continents, Colin Jerolmack traces our complex and often contradictory relationship with these versatile animals in public spaces such as Venice’s Piazza San Marco and London’s Trafalgar Square and in working-class and immigrant communities of pigeon breeders in New York and Berlin. By exploring what he calls “the social experience of animals,” Jerolmack shows how our interactions with pigeons offer surprising insights into city life, community, culture, and politics. Theoretically understated and accessible to interested readers of all stripes, The Global Pigeon is one of the best and most original ethnographies to be published in decades.

Read more from the University of Chicago Press

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Robin Nagle
Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City(2013)

New York City produces more than twelve thousand tons of household trash and recyclables a day. As quickly as it accumulates, it's hauled away. But who makes that happen? What's life like for the workers with careers built around garbage?


In Picking Up, the anthropologist Robin Nagle takes us inside New York City's Department of Sanitation, a largely unseen and often unloved army responsible for keeping the city alive. 

Nagle spent a decade with sanitation people of all ranks to learn what it takes to manage Gotham's garbage. She even took the job herself, driving trucks and plowing snow while enduring the physical aches, public abuse, and risk of injury that are constant realities of the job. Nagle offers an insider's perspective on the complex hierarchies, intricate rules, and obscure language unique to this mostly invisible world.

Not just a contemporary account, Picking Up charts New York City's four-hundred-year struggle with trash. It traces the city's waste-management efforts from a time when filth overwhelmed the streets to today's far more vigorous practices, which have made the city cleaner than it's been in decades.
 
Complete with vividly evoked characters and memorable descriptions of the sights and smells of the job, Picking Up reveals the vital role sanitation workers play in every city across the globe.

Read more from Macmillan Publishers

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Anne Rademacher
Ecologies of Urbanism in India: Metropolitan Civility and Sustainability (2013)

Essays follow rapidly proliferating and resource-intensive Indian urbanism on everyday environments. Case studies on nature conservation in cities, urban housing and slum development, waste management, urban planning, and contestations over the quality of air, water, and sanitation in Delhi and Mumbai illuminate urban ecology per­spectives thoughout the twentieth century. The collection highlights how struggles  over the environment and one’s quality of life in urban centers are increasingly framed in terms of their future place in a landscape of global sustainability. The text brings histori­cal particularity and ethnographic nuance to questions of urban ecology and offers novel insight into theoretical and practical debates on urbanism and sustainability.

Read more from Project MUSE

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Dale Jamieson
Christopher Schlottmann
Reflecting on Nature: Readings in Environmental Ethics and Philosophy (2012)

Spanning centuries of philosophical and environmental thought, Reflecting on Nature: Readings in Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, Second Edition, will inform and enlighten your students while also encouraging debate.

Extensively revised and updated for the second edition, this comprehensive collection presents fifty classic and contemporary readings, thirty-three of them new.

The second edition retains the core readings and insights of the first edition while also updating its coverage in light of the many changes that have occurred over the last twenty years in the intellectual climate and in patterns of environmental concern. The selections are topically organized into sections on animals, biodiversity, ethics, images of nature, wilderness, and--new to this edition--aesthetics, climate change, and food. This thematic organization, in combination with coverage of current environmental issues, encourages students to apply what they learn in class to real-life problems.

Featuring insightful section introductions, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading, Reflecting on Nature, Second Edition, is ideal for use in environmental philosophy, environmental ethics, and environmental studies courses.

Read more from Oxford University Press

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Christopher Schlottmann
Conceptual Challenges for Environmental Education (2012)

Conceptual Challenges for Environmental Education is a critical analysis of environmental education from the perspective of educational ethics. It spells out elements of the conceptual foundations of an environmental education theory – among them implicit education, advocacy, Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, and climate change – that can both advance our understanding of and improve our responses to modern environmental problems. The book is intended to broaden the types of environmental education practiced, specifically by attempting to draw on the integrative strengths of liberal education. At their core, environmental problems require both ethical and integrative understanding as part of their solutions: this book proposes strategies for incorporating such understanding into our educational theories and programs.

Read more from Peter Lang – International Academic Publishers

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Rae Zimmerman
Transport, the Environment and Security (2012)

From a primarily urban perspective, the author illustrates that the fields of transportation, environment (with an emphasis on climate change) and security (for both natural hazards and terrorism) and their interconnections remain robust areas for policy and planning. Synthesizing existing data, new analyses, and a rich set of case studies, the book uses transportation networks as a framework to explore transportation in conjunction with environment, security, and interdependencies with other infrastructure sectors. The US rail transit system, ecological corridors, cyber security, planning mechanisms and the effectiveness of technologies are among the topics explored in detail. Case studies of severe and potential impacts of natural hazards, accidents, and security breaches on transportation are presented. These cases support the analyses of the forces on transportation, land use and patterns of population change that connect, disconnect and reconnect people from their environment and security.

Read more from Edward Elgar Publishing

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Anne Rademacher
Reigning the River: Urban Ecologies and Political Transformation in Kathmandu (2011)

A major contribution to the nascent anthropology of urban environments, Reigning the Riverilluminates the complexities of river restoration in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital and one of the fastest-growing cities in South Asia. In this rich ethnography, Anne M. Rademacher explores the ways that urban riverscape improvement involved multiple actors, each constructing ideals of restoration through contested histories and ideologies of belonging. She examines competing understandings of river restoration, particularly among bureaucrats in state and conservation-development agencies, cultural heritage activists, and advocates for the security of tens of thousands of rural-to-urban migrants settled along the exposed riverbed.

Rademacher conducted research during a volatile period in Nepal’s political history. As clashes between Maoist revolutionaries and the government intensified, the riverscape became a site of competing claims to a capital city that increasingly functioned as a last refuge from war-related violence. In this time of intense flux, efforts to ensure, create, or imagine ecological stability intersected with aspirations for political stability. Throughout her analysis, Rademacher emphasizes ecology as an important site of dislocation, entitlement, and cultural meaning.

Read more from Duke University Press

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Tyler Volk
Death & Sex (2009)

On DEATH . . .
What is shared by spawning Pacific salmon, towering trees, and suicidal bacteria? In his lucid and concise exploration of how and why things die, Tyler Volk explains the intriguing ways creatures-including ourselves-use death to actually enhance life. Death is not simply the end of the living, though even in that aspect the Grim Reaper has long been essential to natural selection. Indeed, the exquisite schemes and styles of death that have emerged from evolution have been essential to the great story from life's beginnings in tiny bacteria nearly four thousand million years ago to ancient human rituals surrounding death and continuing to the existential concerns of human culture and consciousness today. Volk weaves together autobiography, biology, Earth history, and results of fascinating studies that show how thoughts of our own mortality affect our everyday lives, to prove how an understanding of what some have called the ultimate taboo can enrich the celebration of life.

. . . and SEX 
In Sex, Dorion Sagan takes a delightful, irreverent, and informative romp through the science, philosophy, and literature of humanity's most obsessive subject. Have you ever wondered what the anatomy and promiscuous behaviors of chimpanzees and the sexual bullying of gorillas tell us about ourselves? Why we lost our hair? What amoebas have to do with desire? Linking evolutionary biology to salacious readings of the lives and thoughts of such notables as the Marquis de Sade and Simone de Beauvoir, and discussing works as varied as The Story of O and Silence of the Lambs, Sex touches on a potpourri of interrelated topics ranging from animal genitalia to sperm competition, the difference between nakedness and  nudity, jealousy's status as an aphrodisiac and the origins of language, Casanova and music, ovulation and clothes, mother-in-law jokes and alpha females, love and loneliness. A brief, wonderfully entertaining, highly literate foray into the origins and evolution of sex.

Two books in one cover, Death & Sex unravel and answer some of life's most fundamental questions.

Read more from Chelsea Green Publishing

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Dale Jamieson
Ethics and the Environment: An Introduction (2008)

What is the environment, and how does it figure in an ethical life? This book is an introduction to the philosophical issues involved in this important question, focussing primarily on ethics but also encompassing questions in aesthetics and political philosophy. Topics discussed include the environment as an ethical question, human morality, meta-ethics, normative ethics, humans and other animals, the value of nature, and nature's future. The discussion is accessible and richly illustrated with examples. The book will be valuable for students taking courses in environmental philosophy, and also for a wider audience in courses in ethics, practical ethics, and environmental studies. It will also appeal to general readers who want a reliable and sophisticated introduction to the field.

Read more from Cambridge University Press

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Tyler Volk
CO2 Rising: The World's Greatest Environmental Challenge (2008)

The most colossal environmental disturbance in human history is under way. Ever-rising levels of the potent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) are altering the cycles of matter and life and interfering with the Earth’s natural cooling process. Melting Arctic ice and mountain glaciers are just the first relatively mild symptoms of what will result from this disruption of the planetary energy balance. In CO2 Rising, scientist Tyler Volk explains the process at the heart of global warming and climate change: the global carbon cycle. Vividly and concisely, Volk describes what happens when CO2 is released by the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), letting loose carbon atoms once trapped deep underground into the interwoven web of air, water, and soil.

To demonstrate how the carbon cycle works, Volk traces the paths that carbon atoms take during their global circuits. Showing us the carbon cycle from a carbon atom’s viewpoint, he follows one carbon atom into a leaf of barley and then into an alcohol molecule in a glass of beer, through the human bloodstream, and then back into the air. He also compares the fluxes of carbon brought into the biosphere naturally against those created by the combustion of fossil fuels and explains why the latter are responsible for rising temperatures. Knowledge about the global carbon cycle and the huge disturbances that human activity produces in it will equip us to consider the hard questions that Volk raises in the second half of CO2 Rising: projections of future levels of CO2; which energy systems and processes (solar, wind, nuclear, carbon sequestration?) will power civilization in the future; the relationships among the wealth of nations, energy use, and CO2 emissions; and global equity in per capita emissions. Answering these questions will indeed be our greatest environmental challenge.

Read more from MIT Press

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Dale Jamieson
Morality's Progress: Essays on Humans, Other Animals, and the Rest of Nature (2003)

Morality's Progress is the summation of nearly three decades of work by a leading figure in environmental ethics and bioethics. The twenty-two papers here are invigoratingly diverse, but together tell a unified story about various aspects of the morality of our relationships to animals and to nature. Jamieson's direct and accessible essays will convince sceptics that thinking about these relations offers great intellectual reward, and his work here sets a challenging, controversial agenda for the future.

Read more from Oxford University Press

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Harvey Molotch
Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers and Many Other Things Come to Be As They Are (2003)

Molotch takes us on a fascinating exploration into the worlds of technology, design, corporate and popular culture. We now see how corporations, designers, retailers, advertisers, and other middle-men influence what a thing can be and how it is made. We see the way goods link into ordinary life as well as vast systems of consumption, economic and political operation. The book is a meditation into the meaning of the stuff in our lives and what that stuff says about us.

Read more from Routledge

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Tyler Volk
Gaia's Body: Toward a Physiology of Earth (2003)

The concept of Gaia resonates with a wide range of people— from nature lovers, theologians, and philosophers to environmental and earth systems scientists. The term, which scientist James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hyposthesis, borrowed from Greek mythology, refers to the interacting system of life, soil, atmosphere, and ocean. Like the interiors of organisms, Gaia contains complex cycles and material transformations driven by biological energy. Gaia's inclusion of life means that from some perspectives it resembles life. But Gaia also differs from organisms in significant ways. Although it has changed through time, it does not evolve in a Darwinian sense. 

Whereas organisms are open, flow-through systems, Gaia is relatively closed to material transfer across its borders. It exists according to its own level of operating rules, a level as complex as that of organisms and the subject of the emerging field known as Earth physiology, or geophysiology.

Blending science and evocative imagery, Gaia's Body offers an engaging introduction to this new field. It explains how every important chemical in the atmosphere is regulated by living processes—why, for example, strange, spaghetti-like bacteria off the coast of Chile have an intimate connection with the plants in Long Island backyards; why "biochemical guilds" may be Earth's most important unit of life; and how scientists have detected the biosphere's "breathing." The book includes a Preface written for the paperback edition.

Read more from MIT Press

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Tyler Volk
What Is Death? A Scientist Looks at the Cycle of Life (2002)

Answering the question "What is death?" by focusing on the individual is blinkered. It restricts attention to a narrow zone around the individual body of a creature. Instead, how expansive is the answer we receive when we look at the context of death within the biosphere. Death now is tied to all of life, via the atmosphere and ocean. Death supports the awesome biological enterprise of making abundant the green and squiggly life. Talk about death has headed us straight into a contemplation of life, not only individual life, but big life, life on a global scale. Death and life are neatly dovetailed by the supreme cabinetmaker of evolution. Again, the crucial feature is not the death of any one creature per se, but rather what is done with death. To reach into the meaning of death, we must reach out into the wider context of which death is a part.

Read more from Google Books

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Tyler Volk
Metapatterns: Across Space, Time, and Mind (1995)

In the interdisciplinary tradition of Buckminster Fuller's work, Gregory Bateson's Mind and Nature, and Fritjof Capra's Tao of Physics, Metapatterns embraces both nature and culture, seeking out the grand-scale patterns that help explain the functioning of our universe. 


Metapatterns begins with the archetypal patterns of space, both form building and relational. Tyler Volk then turns to the arrows, breaks, and cycles that infuse the workings of time.

With artful dexterity, he brings together many layers of comprehension, drawing on an astounding range of material from art, architecture, philosophy, mythology, biology, geometry, and the atmospheric and oceanographic sciences. Richly illustrating his metapatterns with a series of sophisticated collages prepared for this book, Volk offers an exciting new look at science and the imagination. As playful and intuitive as it is logical and explanatory, Metapatterns offers an enlightening view of the functional, universal form in space, processes in time, and concepts in mind.

Read more from Google Books