Category Archives: Books

22 Must Read Sustainability Books

FR_Visuals_FINALOne of my aims in writing FutuREstorative was to explore and encourage new thinking for sustainability in the built environment. In turn, inspiration for the book has, in part, come from a number of classic writers and books over the last half century or so, woven into FutuREstorative and into built environment sustainability potentials.

In addition to these books being powerful in shaping my thinking towards sustainability, they  often articulate alignment between nature, the outdoors, wildness and business sustainability.

The Bibliography in FutuREstorative gives a complete listing, but below are a sample 21 of the best, all worthy of making a great sustainable reading or gifts to inspire, as indeed would FutuREstorative!.  (Note the wonderful Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve, simply as an additional gift to inspire)

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Let my People go Surfing – Chouinard, Y.
Three books in one here, a biography, a mountain & surf adventure and a business sustainability philosophy. This is a must read for reluctant business CSR people.

Sand County Almanac – Leopold, A.
Recognised as the godfather of ecology, Sand County is the classic land ecology book. Classic quotes form Sand County include Thinking like a mountain and We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain.

Silent Spring – Carson, R.
First published in three serializsed excerpts in the New Yorker in June of 1962,this is the book that in many ways triggered the 1960s environmental protest movement. Still as valid today as we deal with persistent chemicals within the built environment materials

Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way We Make Things – Braggart, M. and W. McDonough Groundbreaking for the circular economy thinking, challenging the way we make and dispose of things.

Ecology of Commerce – Hawken, P
An important text that aligned ecology and environmental concerns with mainstream business. “if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”

Biophilia – Wilson, E.O
Part autobiographical and personal, Wilson’s introduction to the love and relationship with nature, that introduced us to the concept of biophilia. “Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even wellbeing. …”

Transition Handbook – Hopkins, R.
The original handbook for the now-global Transition movement, addressing actions required in transitioning to a post peak-oil economy. “… by unleashing collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognize the biological limits of our planet.”

Wildwood – A Journey through Trees – Deakin, R.
Living with trees, an autobiography from one of the UK’s foremost environmentalist writers. “To enter a wood is to pass into a different world in which we ourselves are transformed

Revolutionary Engineering – Miller, M.
How the international engineering firm Intergral approach restorative sustainability. Included are case studies from their Living Building Challenge projects. Intégral: Revolutionary Engineering is for trailblazers who care about advancing the building and construction industry toward greater occupant health and happiness, and stronger resilience and regenerative systems.

Design with Climate: BioClimatic Architecture 2015 update – Olgyay, V.
Reprint of a classic 1960s text that inspired and promoted architectural design based on biology and climate. I was not fully aware of this important work until researching for a commissioned review

Biomimicry in Architecture, 2nd Edition – Palwyn, M.,
Insights into the amazing world and future potentials of biomimicry within the built environment

Feral – Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life. Monbiot, G.
Inspiration for restorative and regenerative environmentalism and conservatism through  Monbiot’s experience and passion on rewilding themes.

Tools for Grass Roots Activists. Gallagher, N. and L. Myers, P Brilliant collection of essays and tools from over two decades of the Patagonia invite-only Tools Conferences

Walden – Thoreau, H.D.
Recognised by many as being the classic work on environmental and conservation thinking. “We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder – Louv, R. 
Why we need biophilia in our and in our children’s everyday lives. “We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories”

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: How My Company and I Transformed Our Purpose, Sparked Innovation, and Grew Profits – By Respecting the Earth – Anderson, R.C. and R. White,
The guide that shaped and continues to inspire the values and ethos of Interface Inc. to take nothing from the earth that can’t be replaced by the earth

Landmarks – Macfarlane, R.
Why language and words are important to understanding our relationship with nature and landscapes. Certain books, like certain landscapes, stay with us even when we left them, changing not just our weathers but our climates.”

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate – Klein, N.
How capitalism and our economic structures are at the root cause of climate change.“So we are left with a stark choice: allow climate disruption to change everything about our world, or change pretty much everything about our economy to avoid that fate. But we need to be very clear: because of our decades of collective denial, no gradual, incremental options are now available to us.”

Responsible Business – Chouinard, Y. and V. Stanley
Background to the responsible business values and approaches at Patagonia. “At Patagonia, making a profit is not the goal because the Zen master would say profits happen ‘when you do everything else right.’”

Reinventing Fire – Lovins, A.
A route to a non fossil fuel future in four industries that includes the built environment. Reinventing Fire will require tapping, in particular, the two biggest motherlodes of energy, efficiency and the Sun.

Eden – Smit, T.
Background to the development and principles of the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. “…. construction is a culture that depends on warfare and fault finding that is not compatible with collaborative partnerships …”

&

FutuREstorative: Working Towards a New Sustainability Brown, M.
Focuses on the emergence of a net positive and restorative sustainability, as a more rounded social, wellness, health and healthy buildings debate “We can and must reignite sustainability, set the sustainability soul on fire, make sustainability fun and exciting, and inspire a new generation – not only for a vision of sustainability that is regenerative but a vision that also acknowledges the damage of the past and makes amends, healing the future

 FutuREstorative : is available via RIBA Bookshops and other online book services!
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Books that have shaped our thinking … Parts 1 and 2

Driving back from Andrew Platten’s funeral with Anne Parker, conversation was centred on how Andrew had inspired us, and others, in numerous ways; (for me, sustainability, academia/industry collaboration and cycling)

And as is common when discussing inspiration, our conversation picked up on books that have shaped our thinking. As we travelled over the M62, I rattled off a few of my all time favourites:

Linked to travels and expat work postings (India, Trinidad and S America) way back in my 20’s, novels  such as Fireflies, V S Naipaul / Midnights Children, Salman Rushdie / Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez were influential on my choice of reading for quite a while. I did, and still do enjoy reading books, novels or travelogues that are located in the area I happened to be traveling or working. One travelogue in particular  In Patagonia Bruce Chatwin, stands out as a brilliant read, highly recognised as a literary classic.

Let My People Go Surfing is on my list as a shining example of how an individual (Yvon Chouinard) and an organisation (Patagonia) rooted in the great outdoors can become environmental, sustainability  ‘cool’ and in doing so both shape corporate responsibility thinking and inspire so many.

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The final book I mentioned on that journey was Nan Shepherds meditation on the Scottish landscape, The Living Mountain, written during the second world war but only recently published. It is a great autobiographic account of life in the Cairngorms and a celebration of the mountains there that touches on current themes such as mindfulness, biophilia and rewilding. Her descriptions and insights, (going into the mountain, rather ‘up the mountain’) has certainly made me think of mountain and natural landscapes in a whole new light.

Part 2 – Anne’s Books 

It feels strange to say that I enjoyed the journey with Martin back from Andrew’s funeral but so it is.‘Death is the great re-organiser’ I read the other day and have reflected on how true this is – how paths then take new turns, how events are changed or adapted or gain new meanings, how people are further drawn together or sent further apart. Even more than that it is astonishing how much you learn about people and yourself from the death of a close friend.

Like many people I knew Andrew Platten firstly in a professional context and then he became a friend. This feels to me like a very joyful process and I personally love the interaction between friendships and professional contacts – why not? Do we need walls around different areas of our lives?

So it was with this conversation about books….My memory is that we discussed our ‘favourite’ books and so I was fascinated to read in Martin’s blog about books that shaped our thinking. I had a wonderful moment of reflection on this – is my list one and the same? Are my favourite books the ones that have most shaped my thinking? Largely, my answer is ‘no’! This amused me. Whilst I love books that give me new angles and new perspectives on things, my most favourite books are ones that somehow feel musical or poetic in some way – feel soulful or even romantic. So again, I learn something about myself!

So here we go Martin, my top 5 ‘favourite’ books and my top 5 ‘books that have shaped my thinking’ list. I can compare and contrast and develop further insights no doubt! Andrew would be amused too – he loved a fun take on working life. This is his most powerful legacy to me and for which I am truly grateful. It is the capacity to love work and have fun with it which paradoxically gives it the most enduring and deepest impact. In my experience all endeavours that are done with love are the most sustainable. Actions driven by fear or grasping of some kind somehow just don’t do it….

Here’s to you Andrew and to Fairsnape and enduring connections!

Top 5 ‘favourite’ Books

1. ‘Dracula’ Bram Stoker

2. ‘About Love and Other Stories’ Anton Chekhov

3. The Poems of Rumi

4. ‘Little House on The Prairie’ Laura Ingalls Wilder

5. ‘True Love’ Thich Nhat Hanh

Top 5 ‘Shaped my Thinking’ Books

1. ‘A New Earth’ Eckhart Tolle

2. ‘A Course in Miracles’

3. ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ Marcus Buckingham

4. ‘The Way We’re Working isn’t Working’ Tony Schwartz

5. ‘Here Comes Everybody’ Clay Shirky

FutuREstorative: Working Towards a New Sustainability

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Publishing July 2016

Publication of FutuREstorative (set for Jul 2016) edges closer with the books product page going live on the RIBA Bookshop.

FutuREstorative: Working Towards a New Sustainability

Description

This book aims to further the debate on new sustainability thinking in the built environment, by bringing together a selection of short contributions from thought leaders in the UK and the rest of the world with an overarching narrative from Martin Brown.

Although progress in sustainable solutions has been made over the past decade, the trend is still one of a woefully wasteful construction industry. This book aims to show that being ‘less bad’ is no longer good enough.

The book also spotlights digital sharing and collaboration through social media and BIM as new tools in the ‘sustainability toolbox’ which provide unique and powerful opportunities to rapidly advance sustainability thinking, development and action.

  • Author: Martin Brown
  • Format: Book
  • Pages: 128
  • Publisher: RIBA Publishing
  • Date Published: Jul 2016
  • Stock Code: 85971
  • ISBN: 9781859466308
  • Binding: Paperback

Cowed: A Book Review

imagesCowed:  The Hidden Impact of 93 million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture and Environment, 

Denis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes

Do Cows hibernate Dad? asked one of my sons a decade or so ago when we moved into rural Lancashire, noticing that cows were absent in the fields during winter months and as then not aware of the noisy, steamy and rather smelly over wintering cow sheds. One of the rural spring treats which we will witness soon, is when the cows are let out into the spring green fields, where they literally can jump for joy like spring lambs. the word cavorting* would seem invited for just this occasion.

Cowed is an entertaining and educating insight into the American relationship with its cattle, triggered by the authors visit in the UK and noticing how very different cattle in UK fields appeared to that seen or indeed out of sight in the US.

From Cowboys through to intelligent, mechanised milking, Denis and Gail provide real insights from their environmentalism knowledge, (Denis was cofounder of Earthday in the 70’s, now founder /CEO of the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle and a recent guest on our #sustldrconv series,  Gail is an Environmental lawyer, health writer and editor)

Throughout, I was reminded of John Muir’s comment that ‘when we tug on one part of nature we find it joined to everything else”, This may be as on the day I started reading Cowed, I visited a botanical garden in Vancouver where this quote was engraved into the floor and entrance screens.

Nevertheless, for me it summed up one of Cowed’s core themes. That the Cow, which we have removed from natural habituation and domesticated or rather industricated, is now so intrinsically linked to so many aspects of our lives from food to furniture and in doing so, uncoupled from its natural connections and bio-relationship with soil, air and water.

Cowed provided, for me a straightforward  explanation of the recent research, debate and controversy on natural cattle grazing patterns and impact for soil carbon sequestration based around the work of Allan Savory. This is something I had come across before on a TED talk but poorly understood.

Living in rural Lancashire I easily recognised the description of dairy farming within the first few pages, but I struggled to recognise the US description of cattle management in the remainder of the book, perhaps with the exception of the cattle ranching images from old Westerns!. Yet Cowed does highlight issues we here in the UK need to be aware of and guard against as concepts of mega farms are proposed and debated here.

*to jump or move around in a playful way, sometimes noisily, and often in a sexual way