Top Holiday Reads from Sustainability Experts

As this extraordinary year draws to a close, it’s a good time to think about driving positive change for the future. And what better way to do that than to read a good book, recommended by an expert.

As the year 2020 draws to a close, a year that has been extraordinary, frightening, and enlightening in many ways, it is an optimal time to reflect on lessons learned and to start looking to the future. And one of the best ways to get into the right frame of mind when thinking about a better future, is to consult the brilliant minds of others. Hence, I spoke to the experts at responsAbility to discover what they have been reading that could help anyone looking to learn more about sustainability and a better world in general. So without further ado, I give you our top book recommendations for holiday reading.

ON SUSTAINABLE FOOD:

Recommended by: Roland Pfeuti, Chief Investment Officer

BOOK: The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World by Amanda Little

SUMMARY: The sustainable food revolution is underway, but is the future of food looking bleak—or better than ever? This author and award-winning journalist spent three years traveling from an apple orchard in Wisconsin to a remote organic farm in Shanghai, from Norwegian fish farms to famine-stricken regions of Ethiopia. She asks tough questions and throughout her journey, she finds and shares a deeper understanding of the threats of climate change and encounters a sense of awe and optimism about the lessons of our past and the scope of human ingenuity.

ON CREATING PROSPERITY:

Recommended by: Marian Grabowski, Technical Assistance Officer

BOOK: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo.

SUMMARY: This book discusses the different theories regarding poverty and the fight against it and uses randomized control trials to assess the most effective solutions. The authors clearly demonstrate that if we only listen to the affected people, sustainable long-term results can be achieved. We often forget in our industry, that listening to the end-beneficiaries is the most important part of our activities to truly achieve sustainable development.

ON FIGHTING FOR CLEAN AIR:

Recommended by: Paul Hailey, Head of Impact

BOOK: Choked: The Age of Air Pollution and the Fight for a Better Future by Beth Gardiner

SUMMARY: Hundreds of thousands die every year from the effects of air pollution, with millions more suffering long-term health consequences. An environmental journalist interviews those affected from Los Angeles to Delhi, showing how disastrous policy decisions, corporate skulduggery and no-holds-barred growth have contributed to the world’s least-discussed public health emergency. Yet she also looks at how cities, towns and villages are taking action to try and reverse the tide. The author does a fine job of setting out the science behind the problem, as well as the human consequences, in a way that is both credible and highly readable. A book that will stay with you for weeks afterwards.

ON RELATING TO DIFFERENT CULTURES:

Recommended by: Marie-Anna Benard, Technical Assistance Officer and Chair of the Gender & Diversity Advisory Group

BOOK: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This novel tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to the US. It touches on racism, identity, and privilege from the lens of an outspoken and determined woman. It’s an essential book for whoever wants to read about the issue of Blackness in the US as well as the universal human experience and struggles of people who leave their homeland for a better life. It’s the kind of eye-opening story that helps us to get a decentralized and empathetic understanding of what’s hiding behind the numbers.

ON CHOOSING AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY LIFESTYLE:

Recommended by: David Mazaira, Carbon Impact Specialist

BOOK: How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything by Mike Berners-Lee

SUMMARY: Due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, CO2 emissions will go down by about 8%, to their lowest level since 2010. This may not feel like much compared to the changes we have suffered in our day to day lives during lockdowns. However, to maintain this going forward, we must act. Therefore, this book gives you reference points for the CO2 emissions of familar products and daily actions, everything from a pint of beer to a space flight. Hopefully, knowing these facts could help to influence your lifestyle and your daily choices in order to create a less carbon intensive future, one which doesn’t need a pandemic to see significant reductions in our emissions. 

ON COURAGE, TRUTH AND GENDER

Recommended by: Stacy Fiehler, Head of Marketing & Communications

BOOK: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

SUMMARY: If a powerful man can undermine truth with intimidation and silence thousands of people with fear, then often hope is extinguished and lives are ruined in this cycle of violence and silence. This book is a meticulous journalistic excursion into the epic amounts of courage it took to break this cycle and to start a movement for gender equality that continues today. While the story centers on the crimes of Harvey Weinstein, it is also an important source for reflection about the dynamics of power and gender and the key truth that everyone must have the courage, when faced with evil, to call it what it is - and to keep doing so until you are heard.