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  • Writer's pictureJohn Pabon

Essential Books for the Sustainability Warrior

The holidays are upon us, and I bet you're scrambling for that perfect gift!

For the sustainability warrior in your life (whether that's you or one of your book nerd friends), here are a few of my favorite recommendations (pics by yours truly...taken mostly during my 52-week book challenge last year).

"The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming" by David Wallace-Wells

In the book, Wallace-Wells talks about the future implications of our present actions. Aside from losing a few coastal cities to rising sea levels, how much detail do we really get into when talking about our future Earth? Not much. We're so caught in the present we're not able to envision much in the long-term. This book does just that. Now, I'm not an advocate for the scare-the-hell-out-of-people model of sustainability as it really doesn't do much to create action. The author, though, perfectly balances scenes of a dystopian future with juicy tidbits that make the issue feel like the real and present danger it is. The book is less an eerie portrayal of a distant time and more a slap in the face, a wake-up call, for the here and now.

For an old sustainability hand like me, there were still plenty of lessons. From Puerto Rico's self-sustainability to the reasons behind Silicon Valley's disdain for true climate action, first-world privilege to The Great Filter, this was a page-turner.

"Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up" by Tom Phillips

From environmental disasters like the Four Pests Campaign, to angry Ottoman sultans throwing entire harems into the Bosphorus, Tom Phillips documents some of the most asinine, hilarious, and downright tragic bits of human history. His gist: we're a uniquely messed up species. Told through dry wit, deep historical documentation, and a bit of cynicism for history repeating itself (ad nauseam), this book is excellent for history buffs or those looking for bits of cocktail conversation. You're guaranteed to run the gamut of human emotion, and learn something new in the process.

"Rejection Proof" by Jia Jiang

In his hilarious and telling book, Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection, Jia Jiang purposely goes out and looks for people to tell him no. He gets himself into all manner of predicaments which would make most of us electric red with embarrassment. His goal? Ask for things that nobody could ever say yes to and see what happens.

Those of us fighting for a better future are used to hearing no. Having a book remind us why that doesn't necessarily mean a door is closed can only help build our resolve.

"The Richest Man in Babylon" by George S. Clason

I'm so fortunate to have picked up this book randomly at one of Shanghai's last street-side booksellers.

I read this gem cover to cover on a flight to Hong Kong. While it may be an easy read, the lessons inside are hard to come by. It wouldn't be a stretch to say they've been life-changing. Maybe that's why this publication has been in circulation since the 1980s. The book is a timeless roadmap to financial independence and a great reminder of the value of money. For those on the frontlines of climate activism, having a good handle on finances is critical.

"Sustainability for the Rest of Us: Your No-Bullshit, Five-Point Plan for Saving the Planet" by John Pabon

Because, obviously.

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