I've always relied on books when I need to learn something fast - like what to do when my quamquat tree starts looking like it might be having sneaky cigarettes while I'm not home, or I want to bang together a new cover for a flabby old chair. They haven't failed me yet.

There are more books out there on the topics of environmentally friendly living than there are spines on an echidna! Here's our little list & reviews to help you narrow down what information you're really getting when you pay for that book with the highly-intellectual sounding blurb!

Sea Sick by Alanna Mitchell
(Pier 9, 2010)
From the blurb:  "The first book to look at the planetary environmental crisis through the lens of the global ocean, Seasick dives down on a journey through the planet's hidden realms. Each chapter features a different group of researchers who explore the importance of ocean currents, the effects of acidification or the extinction of marine species. With award-winning journalist Alanna Mitchell at the helm, readers submerge 3000ft to gather sea sponges that may help to cure cancer, see first-hand the lava lamp-like 'dead zone' covering 17,000 square kilometres in the Gulf of Mexico, and witness the simultaneous spawning of corals under a full moon in Panama. Seasick will give you new reverence for the source of all life on earth."

Soil Not Oil by Vandana Shiva
(Spinifex Press, 2010)
From the blurb: "Climate change will dramatically alter how we live. It is already affecting the lives of the world's most vulnerable people. In Soil Not Oil, Vandana Shiva connects the food crisis, peak oil, and climate change to show that a world beyond a dependence on fossil fuel and globalisation is both possible and necessary. Bold and visionary, Shiva reveals how the three crises are inherently linked and that any attempt to solve one without addressing the others will get us nowhere. Condemning industrial agriculture and industrial biofuels as recipes for ecological and economic disaster, Shiva's champion is the small, independent farm. What we need most in a time of changing climates and hungry millions, she argues, are sustainable, biologically diverse farms that are more resistant to disease, drought, and flood. Calling for a return to local economies and small-scale food production, Shiva outlines our remaining options: a market-centred short-term escape for the privileged, which will deepen the crisis for the poor and marginalised, or a people-centred fossil-fuel-free future, which will offer a decent living for all."

Ship Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi
(Little, Brown, 2010)
This one's a Young Adult distopian fantasy, but has some really interesting themes. This is an incredible novel set in the future in America’s Gulf Coast region. Nailer is a young boy whose ability to get in and out of the airducts on old broken ships earns him enough to keep him fed and sheltered. He and his crewmates spend all day every day in the claustrophobic ships, ripping out wiring and other bits of ‘salvage’ which they sell to shipping corporations. Nailer is a bit of a dreamer, but also tough enough to survive. It’s when he nearly drowns in an oil pool inside one of the ships that he earns the nickname ‘Lucky Boy’, but he’ll need more than that to stay alive, especially after getting mixed up with a lost ‘swank’, a dogman, and tangling with his amphetamine-addicted father. This is a dark but ultimately redemptive teen novel which explores themes of comradeship, loyalty, class, environmental degredation and environmental justice.

Here on Earth by Tim Flannery
(Text, 2010)
Leading the way in Australia’s thinking on conservation & climate change is Tim Flannery. He’s also one of the most accessible writers on the topics. In ‘Here on Earth’ Flannery turns his hand to sociology, examining the philosophies and ideologies of capitalism and other human systems which have resulted in the degradation of the environment, as well being peppered with his usual insights into current sciences. Here he provides hope for the future with solutions and analysis, as well as clarifying issues which are often muddied with misunderstanding. Flannery is a writer with his finger not only on the pulse, but with the pacemaker remote clutched firmly in his hand.  
Into the Woods by Anna Krien
(Black Inc. 2010)
Anna Krien reports on the struggle for the Tasmanian wilderness with a keen eye for detail, adventure, and gonzo journalism. Her prose is rich and topical, often humorous, and fiercely intelligent. Krien’s expose of Gunns and its methods of getting its way is also an indictment of corporations’ great power in Australia. The resistance that eventually forced the company to change and the examination of how much hard work and public engagement it took is the really fascinating part of Krien’s story, and Anna herself is a narrator whom, at the conclusion, the reader would willingly follow into the woods again and again.

Frugavore: How to Grow Your Own, Buy Local, Waste Nothing and Eat Well by Arabella Forge
(Penguin Books, 2010)

'I started writing this book after I found myself trying to juggle two seemingly opposing things: I wanted to provide good, nutritious food for myself and my family, while also watching my dollars when I went to the supermarket.' – Arabella Forge
 More and more people are interested in eating well and in understanding where their food comes from. But where to start? Organic, free-range, local, sustainable: the choices can be overwhelming – and expensive.
In Frugavore, Arabella Forge shows that it needn't be so difficult. She provides a hands-on, practical guide to a new way of living, proving that frugal eating can also be flavoursome and fun. Learn how to access quality produce straight from the source, rediscover forgotten cooking techniques and create your own kitchen garden complete with compost heap and chicken coop.
Packed with recipes, resources, tips and tricks, Frugavore is a refreshing guide to living and eating well. Before you know it you'll be enjoying delicious, sustainable meals – and feeling healthier, happier and even a little richer for it." (Thanks to Penguin for the use of their blurb)
There's also a great section in the back with websites, growers and where to buy guides!

The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel 
(HarperCollins 2009)
Want to know the true cost of a Hamburger? Raj Patel is the man to ask.
From the author's website: "He says “nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing,” Patel shows how our faith in prices as a way of valuing the world is misplaced. He reveals the hidden ecological and social costs of a hamburger (as much as $200), and asks how we came to have markets in the first place. Both the corporate capture of government and our current financial crisis, Patel argues, are a result of our democratically bankrupt political system.This short, timely and inspiring book reveals that our current crisis is not simply the result of too much of the wrong kind of economics. While we need to rethink our economic model, Patel argues that the larger failure beneath the food, climate and economic crises is a political one. If economics is about choices, Patel writes, it isn’t often said who gets to make them. The Value of Nothing offers a fresh and accessible way to think about economics and the choices we will all need to make in order to create a sustainable economy and society."
It's well worth a read this one, and if you're a bit short on time and I haven't convinced you yet, go to the author's website and watch a couple of Patel's videos.

Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle
This is one economics student's attempt to live for a year outside the market system, and to thereby show others how to re-connect with the world by removing money. "If we grew our own food, we wouldn't waste a third of it as we do today. If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn't throw them out the moment we changed the interior decor. If we had to clean our own drinking water, we wouldn't waste it so freely."
During this time he lived in a caravan he found on freecycle.com and parked it at the organic farm he volunteered on. Home sweet home. Mark's set up is just as fascinating as the actual year of living off the grid itself, and is a great read for those who are interested in a very frugal and alternative way of living!

ABC of Carbon by Ken Hickson
(self-published, available only through selected Australian bookshops - list)
This is a fantastic reference book of terms used around carbon emissions, markets, trading, science etcetera, and includes information on the big players in the market.
You can see a bit more about this on youtube, where Ken speaks about his book.

Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith 
Describes the world of Genetically Modified foods, why they are dangerous and how they are affecting 'food security', and asking questions that need to be heard and answered like why isn't GM food labelled?! This is a really important topic which everyone should know about, it's not science-fiction, it's not something that will happen in the future, genetically modified foods are here now, and need to be better understood by the public so that we can have a say on regulation and use, and can make informed decisions about what we consume.

Griffith Review #29 - Prosper or Perish
This is a collection of essays, memoir, reportage and fiction around issues of population growth, pests, ice, and garden cities as applied to Australia! It also discusses refugees and human rights in anecdotal terms, talks frankly about a culture of violence against women  It features a wonderful picture essay of the African population in Brisbane's Moorooka, including a shot of a chef at not-for-profit restaurant and all round delicious and wonderful place to eat, Mu'ooz. The profits from this restaurant go to the Eritrean Women and Family Support Network. I really love this kind of conglomerate of fiction, poetry, essay and photo journalism, I think the diversity does something to your brain as you read and the blend of all these creative forms just lights up a little bulb in your head...ding! I get it now! (another great example of this is Quadrant Journal, which can be subscribed to, or bought in the UQ newsagent)

Sew Eco by Ruth Singer
This is a great little how-to guide for beginner sew-ers and old hands who want to use up old scraps of material (like me with my cupboard full of scrap-filled plastic bags) and source sustainable materials. Here's the thing about making your own clothes and sewn articles: you know beyond doubt that they ain't from sweatshops!

The 100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon
(Text Publishing)
"After scrounging a meal in their remote mountain holiday shack in British Columbia, James and Alisa start to think about the journeys that the foods they eat have taken around the world and the environmental cost of all those food miles. (In North America, food travels an average of 1500-3000 miles from farm to plate and the distances are increasing.) They decide to eat only food grown within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver home for one year. They know there are certain staples and favourites they'll have to do without, but they gear themselves for the challenge. Taking alternate chapters through the book, Alisa and James each tell the story of their year. Each chapter has a recipe, details of the foods they sourced, how they cooked them as well as the experiences of hunting out the foods and the people that grew them. Although many of the foods that they can and can't source are quite different from those available and not available to a person in Melbourne (which would be different for someone in Sydney, Perth or Auckland), the stories they tell of searching out foods from local growers, or cooking with ingredients they are unfamiliar with (but that their grandmothers have recipes for), the cravings they have for certain foods, and the lengths they go to for a slice of bread (separating mouse poo from grains of wheat, grain by grain with a credit card) are interesting, endearing and often humorous. But most of all, The 100-Mile Diet is a story of people connecting with their environment, the land and the people." (thanks to Text Publishing for blurb).

Australia's Best Eco-Friendly Holidays by Ken Eastwood
(Explore Australia, 2009)

Want tips on where to travel and where to stay around Australia to reduce your ecological footprint while on holiday? It's not all campervans and tents neither, some of these eco-resorts are fancy with a capital F! Even better, the book is printed with soy inks, hurrah!
Oryx and Crake & Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
This one's a bit of literary fun, since we all get tired of reading research books after a while. Atwood has imagined a future world in which chickens are genetically engineered faceless conglomerations of drumsticks (chickie-nobs); in which scientists have all the power; in which secret religions grow organic crops on rooftops. Wonderful, terrifying and chillingly realistic!

Got a trip to the video store planned? Grab a copy of one of these for some mental stimulation and personal revelation!


FOOD INC - Robert Kenner - "An unflattering look inside America's corporate controlled food industry." - IMDB 

FOOD MATTERS - James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch -" 'Food Matters' is a hard hitting, fast paced look at our current state of health. Despite the billions of dollars of funding and research into new so-called cures we continue to suffer from a raft of chronic ills and every day maladies. Patching up an over-toxic and over-indulgent population with a host of toxic therapies and nutrient sparse foods is definitely not helping the situation." - IMDB

SIX DEGREES COULD CHANGE THE WORLD - Ron Bowman - "The film runs through the effect each degree in temperature change has on the world. " - IMDB

END OF SUBURBIA - Gregory Greene - "The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now." IMDB

GARBAGE ! - Andrew Nisker - "Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home is a feature documentary about how the family household has become one of the most ferocious environmental predators of our time.
Concerned for the future of his new baby boy Sebastian, writer and director Andrew Nisker takes an average urban family, the McDonalds, and asks them to keep every scrap of garbage that they create for three months. He then takes them on a journey to find out where it all goes and what it's doing to the world. From organic waste to the stuff they flush down the potty, the plastic bags they use to the water they drink out of bottles, the air pollution they create when transporting the kids around, to using lights at Christmas, the McDonalds discover that for every action there is a reaction that affects them and the entire planet. Everyday life under a microscope has never been so revealing. By the end of this trashy odyssey, you are truly inspired to revolutionaize your lifestyle for the sake of future generations." - http://www.garbagerevolution.com/

CRUDE AWAKENING - Basil Gelpke -"Supported by a powerful mix of archival footage, NASA shots of burning oil fields, and, often unintentionally hilarious, historical film excerpts, OilCrash guides us on an exotic, visual journey from Houston to Caracas, the Lake of Maracaibo, the Orinoco delta, Central Asia's secretive republic of Azerbaijan with its ancient capital Baku and the Caspian Sea, via London & Z├╝rich. OilCrash visits cities around the world to learn of our future from such leading authorities as oil investment banker Matthew Simmons, former OPEC chairman Fadhil Chalabhi, Caltech's head of physics, Professor David Goodstein, Stanford University political scientist, Terry Lynn Karl, peak oil expert, Matthew Savinar and many more. " - IMDB

CRUDE IMPACT - James Jandak Wood - "An examination of the interconnection of human domination of the planet and the use of petroleum, and offers solutions for how we can stop our progression down this destructive path." - IMDB

HUMAN FOOTPRINT - National Geographic -
"Using science and revelatory visual events, NGC delivers an extraordinary personal audit of how much of the world's resources each of us consumes, illustrating the average American's human footprint." - NGC
THE BURNING SEASON - Cathy Henkel - "Every year deliberately lit fires rage across Indonesia. They destroy pristine rainforest, endanger orangutans and contribute to climate change. A young carbon trading entrepreneur goes in search of a solution." http://www.theburningseasonmovie.com/

THE FUTURE OF FOOD - Deborah Koons Garcia - You can watch this one online for free!  The film provides an overview of the key questions raised by consumers as they become aware of genetically modified foods.

BLUE GOLD - Sam Bozzo "Wars of the future will be fought over water as they are over oil today, as the source of human survival enters the global marketplace and political arena. Corporate giants, private investors, and corrupt governments vie for control of our dwindling supply, prompting protests, lawsuits, and revolutions from citizens fighting for the right to survive..." - IMDB
with Kevin McLeod
Kevin takes a break from architecture to see how people live in Mumbai's Dharavi, made famous by Slum Dog Millionaire, and how slum dwellers recycle almost everything - out of necessity.

TOTNES: Taking Change into their own hands: is about the first 'Transition Town' transitioning from a fossil fuel based town to a more economy based on organic farming, community and sustainability. You can watch it here.