Get a grasp on current problems and proposed solutions with these five recent environmental books.

The Green Collar EconomyGreen Collar Economy – Van Jones
President Obama made a wise choice earlier this year when he tapped Van Jones as Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation. The longtime civil rights and environmental activist has a vision to simultaneously tackle the country’s environmental and socio-economic problems. It’s laid out in last year’s bestseller The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems. Jones convincingly details how the government should shift focus to clean energy production, as well as green building and retrofitting, to create a new green collar job market that moves the country away from destructive, pollution-minded industry and offers a new line of domestic employment that can’t be shipped overseas.

Omnivore's DilemmaOmnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan
After reading this book, you’ll never feel the same fork-to-mouth simplicity of a meal ever again. And that’s a good thing. Pollan follows dinner’s journey to the table through four routes: industrial farming, organic farming (big and small), and hunting and gathering. Through his very hands-on research and an honest and at-times entertaining narrative, he offers an in-depth look at the American diet and its many flaws.


Cradle to CradleCradle to Cradle – William McDonough
William McDonough’s environmentally intelligent design firm has done famous projects all over the world including Chicago’s City Hall Green Roof and Nike European Headquarters—the most energy efficient office of its size in the Netherlands. In this book, the Charlottesville, Va.,-based architect reveals his philosophies on the hangover of the Industrial Revolution that has left us with a lasting rift between business and the environment, as well as how more natural sustainable design could create harmony between the two in the future.

coalriver_fix-copyCoal River – Michael Shnayerson
If there’s one book I’d like Obama to read this year, it’s Coal River. Shnayerson not only exposes readers to the atrocities of mountaintop removal mining in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, but he also digs into the David and Goliath battle going on between innocent residents and King Coal. Millions of acres of Appalachian forests are being brutally cleaved for easy access to coal, while families lose their land and heritage—or choose to live with dynamite blasts and poisoned tap water. Shnayerson delves deep into the personal stories and shady politics in a state beholden to the coal industry.

blue_covenant_cover_fix-copyBlue Covenant – Maude Barlow
Barlow provides a reality check on the world’s most vital resource—water—and the wars now being fought over it. Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water provides a stark look at how fast freshwater sources are dissipating, as well as the consequences of what can happen as corporate interests try to privatize what is left and nations spar for access to water.