A Green Book List

November 19, 2008 in Editorials

EcotopiaI am a librarian by occupation. I appreciate books as a written record of our culture, society, civilization and history. I had been working recently in the “J” section of my library’s collection where the political science books are located and while there were many books about the Democratic Party and the GOP, the Libertarians and Labour, Socialists and Communists, there were very few books, academic or otherwise, about the Green Party. This could be partially due to the fact that “Green Politics” is often found outside of political science – either in peace activism, environmental movements, sustainability and urban planning.

Nonetheless, I know I am not alone in my desire to put together a Green Book List. What kind of books would it include? Histories of Green Parties? Books by Greens? Biographies of Greens? Green Politics? Green Fiction? I don’t know yet.

The questions I pose to you are:

  • What book(s) have influenced your thinking as a Green?
  • What book(s) moved you to take action as a Green?
  • What book(s) would you recommend to non-Greens to introduce them to Green Party concepts?
  • What book(s) could not possibly be left off of a Green Book List?

Please use the comments to offer your wisdom in collection development toward this Green Library Project!

But of course, I may as well start it off:

The Long Emergency (2005) by Jim Kunstler – I love a good “we’re all going to die!” book, and while Kunstler’s book doesn’t go that far, it comes close. But more than that it very efficiently outlines many of the crises that our building up around us that our nation, and the world, are failing to deal with. It then offers a picture of what life in America will likely be like “post-peak oil”, region by region. The book is alarming, and a wake up call.

The Great Turning : From Empire to Earth Community (2006) by David Korten – I confess I am just starting to finally read this, but I love it so far. Korten is affiliated with the Earth Charter movement, which is built on the same pillars as the Green Party. Korten argues that we are at a critical moment in our history, one that could be a “Great Turning” from a period of Empire (greed, death & violence, denial of the feminine) to a period of Earth Community (material sufficiency for all, life and love, balance between feminine and masculine), or it could be a Great Unraveling, that can end catastrophically for all of us.

Ecotopia (1975) by Ernest Callenbach – this “pre-Green Party” work of fiction really got my attention, and showed me what a state might look like if Green Party principles were enacted across the board. I quote from Wikipedia: “The importance of this book is not so much to be found in its literary form, as in the lively imagination of an alternative and ecologically sound lifestyle on a greater scale, presented more or less realistically. It expressed on paper the dream of an alternative future held by many in the movements of the 1970s and later.” This book still moves me, as well as its pre-quel, Ecotopia Emerging.

Against All Odds : the Green Transformation of American Politics (1999) by John Rensenbrink – Should be owned by every library and read by every Green. A professor recommended it to me as a great short history of Green Politics in America.

What would you recommend?

10 responses to A Green Book List

  1. Crashing the Party by Ralph Nader – Nader’s autobiographical account of his 2000 campaign for president. I think this eye-opening book, more than anything else, influenced me to register Green and become active in the movement. I always offer to lend it to my friends and relatives, and they always come away with a more open mind and deeper appreciation of the role that Greens are hoping to play.

  2. I’ve started Crashing the Party but didn’t get very far. (For a librarian, I actually don’t read very often due to time constraints…). Rensenbrink’s book is really a history up to 1998-99, so I imagine Nader’s book is the natural continuation to a “Green Party History” series.

  3. These aren’t really Green Party related, but they’ve influenced my thinking in green ways…

    The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food both by Michael Pollan. Great books on food, how it’s grown, how it affects us, and how we affect it. An example of how this might change your thinking: Pollan argues that while it might seem we are dominant over corn, corn has really had its way with humans. It is a plant that we continue to depend on even though its health and environmental effects are detrimental. We have planted millions of acres with nothing – literally nothing, because nothing can possibly grow there after being treated with all of the chemicals its treated with – but corn, and it’s a plant that wouldn’t even survive more than a generation without humans. So who’s winning in that scenario?

    Cradle to Cradle… I forget the authors, but it’s basically about how there should be no waste stream. Everything we design should be designed not only for its lifetime but to be “upcycled” into an infinite number of other lives.

  4. Guess there’s a first time for everything…:-)

    So, on top of the computer cabinet, I pulled off the shelf several of my Green Party-related books I have in my possession (all 8 of them). Here they are:
    1. “The Wild Bird’s Song” by Jim Coplen [1998], from ex-GPUS co-chair and now Indiana Green Party [INGP] co-chair, about his travels along the Appalachian Trail;
    2. “Dare To Hope: Saving American Democracy” by Jason West [2005]; need we say more?
    3. “Getting A Grip” by Frances Moore Lappe [2007]; or — for that matter, ANY book by Frances Moore Lappe, especially “Diet for a Small Planet” or “Hope’s Edge”
    4. “Green Politics: The Global Promise” by Charlene Spretnak and Fritjof Capra [1986]; history of the German GP;
    5. “The Spiritual Dimension of Green Politics” by Charlene Spretnak [1986]; for the spiritual Greens;
    6. “Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train: Errant Economists, Shameful Spenders, And A Plan to Stop Them All” by Brian Czech, PhD [2000]; formost expert in ecological economics;
    7. “Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability and Peace” by Vandana Shiva [2005]; 1993 winner of the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize.

    and, last, but certainly not least….

    8. “Sam Smith’s Great American Political Repair Manual: How to rebuild our country…” [1997]; essentially, this is the Green Party of the United States’ Bible and should be required reading for anyone that wants to be involved in political movements. It’s from the editor of the Progressive Review (www.prorev.com) — and DC Statehood Green member — Sam Smith.

    Hope this helps. Take care.

    Sarah Dillon
    Indiana Green Party (INGP) NC delegate

  5. I’m loving it!

    I did read “Dare to Hope” and we have that in our library. Also “Green Politics” by Spretnak and Capra, I have a copy of that somewhere. There is a great chapter on America – “It can happen here” or something like that.

    The Wild Bird’s Song by a long time Indiana Green reminds me that I should include “Walleye Warriors – the Chippewa Treaty Rights Story” by early Wisconsin Greens Walt Bresette and Rick Whaley. I would like to read more works by early Green thinkers in America like this.

    The food books sound great, deserves its own category. I’m thinking of putting all of these in an annotated bibliography page on the site for future reference.

  6. Ohh…one more series of books I almost forgot about: The “Oddball” series (Oddball Indiana, Oddball Illinois, etc) by Jerome Pohlen [who, this year, ran for US House of Representatives in Illinois' 3rd congressional district]; I have the Indiana’s version. I’m also awaiting to get his newest book “Progressive Nation: A Travel Guide with 400+ Left Turns and Inspiring Landmarks”. All are great travel guides.

    ALSO, there’s a section on GPUS’ website about other books. You can find it

  7. I forgot one – Citizen Power by Mike Gravel. (You can buy it here – http://www.citizen-power.us .)

    It addresses grassroots democracy by promoting ballot initiatives on all levels of government, the National Initiative for Democracy – http://www.ni4d.us .

  8. Green Party of England and Wales principal speaker Derek Wall’s ‘Babylon and Beyond: The Economics of Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Globalist and Radical Green Movements’ is a really good one. A good bit of it can be read online here:

  9. Anything by Edward Abbey and “The Greening Of America” by Charles A. Reich