Eight Book Reviews

Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Wall Kimmerer 

Called “the work of a mesmerizing storyteller with deep compassion and memorable prose" (Publishers Weekly) and the book that, "anyone interested in natural history, botany, protecting nature, or Native American culture will love," by Library Journal, Braiding Sweetgrass is poised to be a classic of nature writing. As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer asks questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces indigenous teachings that consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together “to take us on a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert). Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings offer us gifts and lessons, even if we've forgotten how to hear their voices.
 

Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed – Brenda Zimmerman, Frances Westley, and Michael Quinn Patton

Many of us have a deep desire to make the world around us a better place. But often our good intentions are undermined by the fear that we are so insignificant in the big scheme of things that nothing we can do will actually help feed the world’s hungry, fix the damage of a hurricane or even get a healthy lunch program up and running in the local school. We tend to think that great social change is the province of heroes – an intimidating view of reality that keeps ordinary people on the couch. But extraordinary leaders such as Gandhi and even unlikely social activists such as Bob Geldof most often see themselves as harnessing the forces around them, rather than singlehandedly setting those forces in motion. The trick in any great social project – from the global fight against AIDS to working to eradicate poverty in a single Canadian city – is to stop looking at the discrete elements and start trying to understand the complex relationships between them. By studying fascinating real-life examples of social change through this systems-and-relationships lens, the authors of Getting to Maybe tease out the rules of engagement between volunteers, leaders, organizations, and circumstance – between individuals and what Shakespeare called “the tide in the affairs of men.”


We Can Do This!
 – Kate Sutherland

We Can Do This! is the pocket guide to unleash the latent potential of our teams, our communities, and our society. Harness the power of 10 frameworks used by professional facilitators and consultants, and achieve greater impact as you and your networks take on the grand challenges of our time. The tools explored in this book help to unleash collective genius, based on our collective intelligence, wisdom, and capacity. Kate’s book will help more leaders and change makers access these powerful tools to navigate group dynamics and complex systems. 

 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil deGrasse Tyson

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson. But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day. While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.
 

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist­ – Kate Raworth

Economics matters. Its theories are the mother tongue of public policy, the rationale for multi-billion-dollar investments, and the tools we use to tackle global poverty and manage our planetary home. Pity then – or more like disaster – that its fundamental ideas are centuries out of date, but still dominate decision-making for the future. Instead of criticizing the past, this book takes the long view forwards, identifying seven insights to help the twenty-first-century economist bring humanity into the global sweet spot (shaped like a doughnut) that combines human prosperity with ecological sustainability. Doughnut Economics hand-picks the best emergent ideas – ranging from ecological, feminist, behavioural, and institutional economics to complexity thinking, systems dynamics, and Earth-systems science – to reveal the insights of eclectic economic re-thinkers. It promises that the economic future will be fascinating, but wildly unlike the past, if we equip ourselves with the mindset needed to take it on.


The Empowerment Manual
 – Starhawk 

The Empowerment Manual is a comprehensive guide for groups seeking to organize with shared power and bottom-up leadership to foster vision, trust, accountability, and responsibility. This desperately needed toolkit provides keys to: understanding group dynamics, facilitating communication and collective decision-making, and dealing effectively with difficult people. Drawing on four decades of experience, Starhawk shows how collaborative groups can generate the cooperation, efficacy, and commitment critical to success. Her extensive exploration of group process is woven together with the story of RootBound – a fictional eco-village mired in conflict-and rounded out with a series of real-life case studies. The included exercises and facilitator's toolbox show how to establish the necessary structures, ground rules, and healthy norms. The Empowerment Manual is required reading for anyone who wants to help their group avoid disagreement and disillusionment and become a wellspring of creativity and innovation.

 

This Changes Everything – Naomi Klein

Klein exposes the myths that are clouding the climate debate. We have been told the market will save us, when in fact the addiction to profit and growth is digging us in deeper every day. We have been told it’s impossible to phase out fossil fuels when in fact we know exactly how to do it – it just requires breaking every rule in the “free-market” playbook: reining in corporate power, rebuilding local economies and reclaiming our democracies. We have also been told that humanity is too greedy and selfish to rise to this challenge. In fact, all around the world, the fight back is already succeeding in ways both surprising and inspiring. Climate change, Klein argues, is a civilization wake-up call, a powerful message delivered in the language of fires, floods, storms and droughts. Confronting it is no longer about changing the light bulbs. It’s about changing the world – before the world changes so drastically that no one is safe. Either we leap – or we sink.


BTCEA Action Guide       -Be The Change Earth Alliance

The Be The Change Action Guide is your map to an exciting journey of personal choices, leading you to an empowered lifestyle and expanded worldview that will help sustain your health, your spirit, and the planet. It covers a full range of lifestyle choices and helps us become aware of how every single action we take either supports or undermines our vision for a sustainable, just and fulfilling future for all life. No matter where you are in this continuum of change, we trust this guide will stimulate your imagination while offering new avenues of participation and unexamined assumptions to explore. It is also a great tool for change agents to educate and influence others. The Action Guide and Action Circle program can be easily adapted to your unique circumstances. It is designed to provide ample freedom for individual choice while offering enough structure to support and sustain you over time. Every choice we make ripples into the world in mysterious and marvelous ways. Enjoy the experience of being the change!