Reading List

Environment and Ecology: Verso Student Reading

Environment-

It is increasingly evident that the climate crisis is fundamentally linked to the regime of capital accumulation. How should we think through such looming climate catastrophe? Here we present a reading list which aims to tackle one of the greatest issues facing us today. 

Free Resource: An urgent ebook that asks: should we start blowing up pipelines, occupying coal mines, and destroying property to address global climate change? Download it here!

In the end, winning the climate struggle will require an internationalist approach based on planetary working-class solidarity.

Mainstream approaches to the crisis assume that hyper-consumerism in the Global North can continue unabated. It can’t. Instead, we must plan new energy systems, large-scale rewilding, and food production for the common good.

Test out the strategies proposed in this book in a video game format at play.half.earth

Feminism and environmentalism must bring about a new “mutation”—an overthrow of not just male power but the system of power itself. As d’Eaubonne prophesied, “The planet placed in the feminine will flourish for all.”

Read more about the origins of eco-feminism here!

The fossil fuel industry must come to an end but will not depart willingly; governments must intervene. By embracing a politics of rural-urban coalitions and platform governance, climate advocates can build the political power needed to nationalize the fossil fuel industry and use its resources to draw carbon out of the atmosphere.

Since the 1970s, neoliberal economists have used climate change as an argument for creating more “flexibility” in society, for promoting more market-based solutions to environmental and social questions. This book unveils the political economy of this potent movement, showing how some powerful actors are thriving in the face of dangerous climate change and even making a profit out of it.

The Tragedy of the Worker is a brilliant, stringently argued pamphlet reflecting on capitalism’s death drive, the left’s complicated entanglements with fossil fuels, and the rising tide of fascism. In response, the authors propose Salvage Communism, a programme of restoration and reparation that must precede any luxury communism. They demand a future capable of repairing the ravages of capitalism and restoring the world.

In the first study of the far right’s role in the climate crisis, White Skin, Black Fuel presents an eye-opening sweep of a novel political constellation, revealing its deep historical roots. Fossil-fuelled technologies were born steeped in racism. No one loved them more passionately than the classical fascists. Now right-wing forces have risen to the surface, some professing to have the solution—closing borders to save the nation as the climate breaks down. 

In the age of environmental breakdown, the political status quo has no answer to the devastating and inequitably distributed consequences of the climate emergency. We urgently need an alternative to bring about the rapid transformation of our social and economic systems. As we rebuild our lives in the wake of Covid-19 and face the challenges of ecological disaster, how can the left win a world fit for life? 

The global ocean has through the centuries served as a trade route, strategic space, fish bank and supply chain for the modern capitalist economy. While sea beds are drilled for their fossil fuels and minerals, and coastlines developed for real estate and leisure, the oceans continue to absorb the toxic discharges of our carbon civilisation—warming, expanding, and acidifying the blue water part of the planet in ways that will bring unpredictable but irreversible consequences for the rest of the biosphere. 

In this lyrical manifesto, noted climate scholar (and saboteur of SUV tires and coal mines) Andreas Malm makes an impassioned call for the climate movement to escalate its tactics in the face of ecological collapse. We need, he argues, to force fossil fuel extraction to stop—with our actions, with our bodies, and by defusing and destroying its tools. We need, in short, to start blowing up some oil pipelines. 

Humanity must stop burning fossil fuels within the next thirty years and do so in a way that improves living standards and opportunities for working people. This is the goal of the Green New Deal and, as the authors make clear, it is entirely feasible. Climate change is an emergency that cannot be ignored. This book shows how it can be overcome both politically and economically. 

In Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency, leading environmental thinker, Andreas Malm demands that this war-footing state should be applied on a permanent basis to the ongoing climate front line. He offers proposals on how the climate movement should use this present emergency to make that case. There can be no excuse for inaction any longer. 

A Planet to Win explores the political potential and concrete first steps of a Green New Deal. It calls for dismantling the fossil fuel industry, building beautiful landscapes of renewable energy, and guaranteeing climate-friendly work, no-carbon housing, and free public transit. And it shows how a Green New Deal in the United States can strengthen climate justice movements worldwide.

Building a razor-sharp critique of current conservation proposals and their contradictions, Büscher and Fletcher argue that the Anthropocene challenge demands something bigger, better and bolder.

In Post-Growth Living, philosopher Kate Soper offers an urgent plea for a new vision of the good life, one that is capable of delinking prosperity from endless growth.

The Case for the Green New Deal argues that economic change is wholly possible, based on the understanding that finance, the economy and the ecosystem are all tightly bound together. Pettifor offers a roadmap for financial reform both nationally and globally, taking the economy back from the 1%. This is a radical, urgent manifesto that we must act on now.

Planetary Mine rethinks the politics and territoriality of resource extraction, especially as the mining industry becomes reorganized in the form of logistical networks, and East Asian economies emerge as the new pivot of the capitalist world-system.

This groundbreaking book charts a possible course to a liveable future. Climate restoration will require not just innovative technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere, but social and economic transformation. Looking at industrial-scale seaweed farms, the grinding of rocks to sequester carbon at the bottom of the sea, the restoration of wetlands, and reforestation, Buck examines possible methods for such transformations and meets the people developing them.

In Our History Is the Future, Nick Estes traces traditions of Indigenous resistance that led to the #NoDAPL movement. 

Climate Leviathan provides a radical way of thinking about the intensifying challenges to the global order. Drawing on a wide range of political thought, Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann argue that rapid climate change will transform the world’s political economy and the fundamental political arrangements most people take for granted. 

In Extreme Cities, Dawson offers an alarming portrait of the future of our cities, describing the efforts of Staten Island, New York, and Shishmareff, Alaska residents to relocate; Holland’s models for defending against the seas; and the development of New York City before and after Hurricane Sandy. Our best hope lies not with fortified sea walls, he argues. Rather, it lies with urban movements already fighting to remake our cities in a more just and equitable way.

We are in the midst of a global climate crisis and experiencing the extreme challenges of urbanization. In Mobility Justice, Mimi Sheller makes a passionate argument for a new understanding of the contemporary crisis of movement.

Available in the UK only

In A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore present a new approach to analyzing today’s planetary emergencies. Bringing the latest ecological research together with histories of colonialism, indigenous struggles, slave revolts, and other rebellions and uprisings, Patel and Moore demonstrate that throughout history, crises have always prompted fresh strategies to make the world cheap and safe for capitalism.

George Monbiot is one of the most vocal, and eloquent, critics of the current consensus. How Did We Get into this Mess?, based on his powerful journalism, assesses the state we are now in: the devastation of the natural world, the crisis of inequality, the corporate takeover of nature, our obsessions with growth and profit and the decline of the political debate over what to do.

How did capital's insatiable addiction to the burning of fossil fuels begin? Andreas Malm's masterful new historical study charts the rise of fossil capital from its origins in the development of steam power to drive the burgeoning cotton industry in nineteenth century Britain to contemporary China's emisions explosion. Malm shows that it is the logic of capital, and not industrialism per se, that has driven us to the brink of climate catastrophe, and that a solution can only be sought in the overthrow of the current economic order.

Read Andreas Malm's essay on COP21 and the French crackdown on protests, 'Our Fight for Survival', on the Jacobin website.

Bringing together the contemporary crises of food, climate and finance into a masterful synthesis, Moore fundamentally refashions the way we see nature and human interactions with it.

Wark's Molecular Red is a search for the new philosophical tools that we need to confront the Anthropocene - the new geological era of man-made climate change. Wark explores the implications of Anthropocene through the story of two empires, the Soviet and then the American. The fall of the former prefigures that of the latter. From the ruins of these mighty histories, Wark salvages ideas to help us picture what kind of worlds collective labor might yet build. 

Scientists tell us that the Earth has entered a new epoch: the Anthropocene. We are not facing simply an environmental crisis, but a geological revolution of human origin. In two centuries, our planet has tipped into a state unknown for millions of years. How did we get to this point?

Does oil wealth lead to political poverty? It often looks that way, but Carbon Democracy tells a more complex story. In this magisterial study, Timothy Mitchell rethinks the history of energy, bringing into his grasp as he does so environmental politics, the struggle for democracy, and the place of the Middle East in the modern world.

In Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology, Andre Gorz expands on the political implications of his prescient and influential Paths to Paradise and Critique of Economic Reason. Against the background of technological developments which have transformed the nature of work and the structure of the workforce, Gorz explores the political agendas facing both left and right.  The crises of work and climate must force new ways of organising politically, as well as a reconfiguration of utopian demands.