Earth Day (celebrated this year on April 22) is an international movement dedicated to protecting the planet and securing a more sustainable future. Although the theory of global warming remains contentious, no one can argue against any suggestions for being more conscious about energy consumption or making greater efforts to preserve our wild habitats. While we need to look at solutions for using less energy in the future, we also need to examine mistakes made in the past to ensure they are not repeated.
Reading about environmental disasters is a little like reading true crime books. You want to understand how and why they happened so you can avoid the problem in the future. Visit Sunny Chernobyl And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell is a travel guide from Hell on earth. Most travelers seek out the most beautiful places on earth to visit but Blackwell is a contrarian. Fortunately the author is funny so this guide may make you weep but you will laugh and learn as well.
Two new books look at what American industry has wrought on some of our landscapes. Opportunity, Montana by Brad Tyler examines a little town where millions of tons of toxic copper mining waste were dumped from a century of production. Eventually waste has to be dealt with and this is the story of what it takes to accomplish that.
On the other side of the country is Toms River a small New Jersey town damaged by industrial pollution. Dan Fagin is a science journalist and he describes how corporate interests and corrupt politicians almost turned this town into a toxic wasteland. Tons of waste water from a chemical company found its way into the town’s water supply. Only after the rate of cancer among children was noted, did the environmental alarmists convince the townspeople and authorities that the plant needed to close and a legal settlement was awarded.
Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen looks at another beautiful landscape haunted by the Cold War production of nuclear devices. As a child, she used to ride her horse in the area of her home near Rocky Flats Colorado. While the people who lived there thought Dow Chemical was producing laundry materials, they were really producing plutonium triggers for nuclear devices and doing a poor job of containing radioactive contamination. Meanwhile, residents got sick—especially the children who ran around the surrounding landscape. After published studies, protestors and whistle blowers, finally an FBI raid closed the facility in 1989.
Gretel Ehrlich is famous for her nature writing so it is no surprise that her book on the devastation caused by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami called Facing the Wave is unique for its insight into nature’s power while evoking the reader’s awe and sympathy.
More books on sustainability