Books for Christmas

Here are some books recommended by Green Christian members. It will be updated as more reviews come in.

I have two recommendations for Christmas books …..

The Violence of Climate Change by Kevin O’Brien (2017)  Georgetown University Press. O’Brien draws lessons of resistance from 5 Christian nonviolent activists from over the past 250 years. Although all five lived before the full awareness of human activity on the climate, it is fascinating to discover how O’Brien maps the witnesses across to modern day climate debates …

  1. The creativity of Nonviolence – John Woolman
  2. The structures of Nonviolence – Jane Addams
  3. The courage of Nonviolence – Dorothy Day
  4. The community of Nonviolence – Martin Luther King Jr
  5. The inclusivity of Nonviolence – Cesar Chavez

I was particularly draw to the lessons springing from the anti-slavery movement from John Woolman and  Martin Luther King Jr. 

“John Woolman, the Eighteenth Century, Quaker tailor, was unflaggingly principled in his anti-slavery stance. Impurity he understood as selfishness. He correctly predicted that slavery was embedding violence and oppression deep into the structures of the American colonies. For Woolman, the moral response was resistance. Given the reality of moral finitude, such purity is impossible (Ephesians 4 v20-24) but try to declare, scrutinise, and pursue a life that will cause less harm to the world. The goal is purification, but a movement toward purity that recognises human finitude. Integrity and purity did not end slavery, poverty or oppression. But he did convince some people to free their slaves and give away their wealth. Climate activists have much to learn from John Woolman and we, too, should purify ourselves from the burdens of structural violence. All privileged people who care about climate change can demonstrate our commitments by purifying ourselves. Few concerned people will be able to do this all the time. Everyone is finite, and no one can do it all. But, after facing our limits and applying limits honestly, we can trust that we will have the power to do a great deal – to move toward purification.”

“Many people seek refuge in two emotional responses to climate change: an optimistic expectation that all will work out (looking to economic and technological developments) or a pessimistic resignation that the world is doomed (it is time to mourn and repent). Both take away any responsibility to do anything about climate change. Neither has any reason to act. But HOPE is trust that a better future is possible – it is more than an attitude, it is a virtue. Hope in a world of climate change means living as though human beings in the industrialised world can cause less harm if they seek to, and those in the Global South can help lead the way to a better and less violent world. Martin Luther King Jr. lived out hope and he opposed both optimists who believed that justice was inevitable and pessimists who believed that it was impossible. His witness models the type of profound and realistic hope that is essential for any response to the violence of climate change. The deepest foundation for King’s hope was not human history (ref R Bregman) but faith. He believed the world was made to favour love and justice – the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice (ref abolitionist Theodore Parker). To refuse to hurt others (by fighting inequality or reducing ecological footprints) is to bend along with the universe.”

What we need to do now by Chris Goodall (2019). This book not really from a Christian slant, nevertheless introduces a New Deal for climate in a very readable way. He examines the many sectors that are needed to create a net zero carbon world by 2050 – or earlier. He does not duck the Negative Emissions Technologies controversy nor the geo-engineering controversy and ranges from the macro scale down to what we can do ourselves.

  1. Green Energy
    • Powering (almost) everything with wind, sun …. and hydrogen
  2. Local Grids
    • Taking back local control of our energy generation and distribution
  3. Houses fit for Purpose
    • We need effective insulation of homes and to convert gas boilers to run on hydrogen
  4. Electric Transport
    • A fast tract to electrification, car-sharing and free public transport
  5. Flights and Shipping
    • We need to fly less – the hardest challenge for zero carbon. And shipping should run on hydrogen
  6. Sustainable fashion
    • Without big changes, clothing alone will stop us achieving net zero
  7. Concrete Problems
    • Using less cement and other resources – and replacing fossil fuels in heavy industry
  8. Plant Food Revolution
    • The global climate costs of meat are not sustainable
  9. Reforesting
    • Using forests and woodland to suck CO2 from the air
  10. Carbon Taxation
    • The economist’s answer to the climate crisis
  11. Direct Air Capture of CO2
    • A vital technology for reducing carbon dioxide levels
  12. Should we Geoengineer?
    • Preparing to combat the worst consequences of climate change
  13. What we can do ourselves
    • It’s not just governments – our own actions can make a real difference
      • Buy electricity from renewable resources
      • Get your gas from anaerobic digestion
      • Change your household lighting to LEDs
      • If you can afford it install solar panels
      • Buy really efficient washing machines
      • Reduce heat loss around your home
      • Seek advice on solid wall insulation
      • Keep temperatures at reasonable levels
      • Fly less (and stay longer)
      • Use public transport, or cycle or walk
      • Drive an electric car (and share it if you can)
      • Cut down on eating meat/ choose vegan alternatives
      • Avoid all airfreighted food

Mark Dick

The three most striking “green books” I read this year are: Riders on the Storm: The Climate Crisis and the Survival Of Being  by Alastair McIntosh. This latest book by the Quaker activist and campaigner Alastair McIntosh would be a good starting point for newcomers to green Christian literature. It offers a summary of the latest climate science, a section on climate change denial on the one hand as opposed to climate change alarmism on the other and in the third section a discussion on the psychology and spirituality associated with climate change with pointers to remedies and action points based on the author’s own Hebridean experiences. Very well written and difficult to put down. It deserves to be widely read and discussed especially within Green Christian.

 Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency-War Communism in the Twenty First Century by Andreas Malm This is a challenging indeed a frightening read. It draws with great clarity the links between the pandemic crisis, the climate crisis and the nature of capitalism. Only drastic action can save the race and the author finds the blueprint for such action in the War Communism in the early years of the Soviet Union. Christians wake up! 

Climate Change and the Nation State-the realist case by Anatol Lieven. Lieven is a fine writer and an original thinker. He insists that the nation state is the only entity that can deal realistically with the threat of climate change. Internationalists and utopians take note. Alas human beings cannot bear very much reality. Can greens? 

Peter Grimwood

This little book  (and more specialist sister title ‘Clean Green’) is fab. Packed full of practical changes we can easily make in many different ways of living, travelling, eating, dressing  etc and being kinder to our planet and to one another. I have bought copies of both as Chrissie pressies for friends to encourage them to think about climate change beyond their recycling bins in a fun, easy way. 

Lizzie May

Marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and climate author Katherine Wilkinson (DrawdownBetween God and Green) were frustrated that there were not more environmental books written by women. They knew so many women doing inspiring climate work, but they were too busy to write books about it. But perhaps they’d have time for something short, so they decided to draw together their voices into a collection of essays, and All We Can Save is the result. 
There are activists, scientists, novelists, community organisers, politicians, investigative journalists, a farmer, a model. It’s a broad collection that includes many writers of colour and indigenous perspectives, though mainly focused on the United States. It’s a beautiful book too, interspersed with poetry and artwork.
Climate headlines are often dominated by disasters, technologies, or by politicians boasting about their global leadership. As with the kingdom of God, the real action is often at the margins. This book is an inspiring reminder of that, full of amazing people working with compassion and dedication in their respective fields, often unnoticed, for the love of all we can save.

Jeremy Williams

I would like to recommend a new book by a prophet of our times as it concerns the most vital issue for all of us for the times we live in – the very real dangers of the decline of bio-diversity, and of climate change: A life on our Planet by David Attenborough. The first part describes the dangers to the natural world, and therefore to human civilisation itself, if we continue to live the way we do now exploiting the environment. This will inevitably lead to feed-back loops and irreversible tipping points, which in turn could well bring on the sixth mass extinction (there having been five extinctions in the earth’s 4 ½ billion year history, the last one having wiped out the dinosaurs). The first part of the book convinces one that it is as serious as this. Part three “A vision for the future: How we can re-wild the world.”  leads one from despair to hope. It describes in convincing and fully researched detail the measures which the human race can still take to avoid the demise of civilisation – it’s as serious as this! There are examples of many and various initiatives of re-wilding, giving the chance for Nature to bring the globe back into balance. These reflect Attenborough’s extraordinary width of research and knowledge of the solutions we urgently need to put in place. He has clearly worked with many scientists and environmental organisations to be able to put all these facts on paper. (Just refer to the end notes!) I could hardly put the book down, being so fascinating for the general readers (like myself) and utterly convincing. Every delegate to the postponed to next year COP 26 conference should read it, as well as all of us who can cajole our government and support it in proposals for re-wilding, combating climate change and giving Nature the chance to recover its miraculous biodiversity on which we all in fact depend for our very lives and those of our children and grandchildren.

This book would make an apposite Christmas present, albeit hardly a fun one! But surely the hope of Christmas is contained in the second part of the book: “A Vision for the Future”, and may the celebration of the birth of the Saviour of the World indeed inspire us Christians, renew our hope and energise each of us to do the part to which we feel called, as our part in enabling this Vision to become reality.

Some years ago, Ruth Jarman wrote an article for us; “From Despair to Prayer” which is even more important to read today and be inspired  in these much more critical times. May this Christmas be, above all,  full of prayer!

Richard Podger



Author: Ruth Jarman | Date: 4 December, 2020 | Category: Book Reviews Climate Emergency | Comments: 3

Comments on "Books for Christmas"

Esther Clarke:

December 16, 2020

I would recommend English Pastoral, an Inheritance, by James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life. A wonderfully honest account of a farmer recognising the problems with farming and trying to do something about it. We need more voices like James' to cut across the clamour that so often isolates our farmers from the environmental debate and we need more people to listen to them and to realise that the real problems lie in policy and consumer choice.

Alison Blenkinsop:

December 4, 2020

To add to my post about Cycling Cartoonist:

Alison Blenkinsop:

December 4, 2020

I recommend a fun book for bike enthusiasts: The Cycling Cartoonist, by Dave Walker of Cartoon Church fame (available on Amazon or Church House Bookshop).

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