8 essential reads: charting the path from climate change to regeneration

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8 essential reads: charting the path from climate change to regeneration

In an age dominated by bite-sized content and fleeting headlines, truly understanding the intricate nuances of pressing global issues requires a deeper dive. Climate change, regeneration, and the transition to cleaner materials are indeed complex topics that will take time to grasp.

Delving into long-form content like books offers a depth of understanding that brief articles or snippets can't match. Such comprehensive knowledge not only informs but also empowers individuals to engage in meaningful conversations and make informed decisions.

In this article, we have selected 11 books ranging from climate change, economics, ecology, design, and science… that our team has read and loved. Enjoy!

1. For Profit: A History of Corporations

William Magnuson is a distinguished law professor at the Texas A&M Law School. With a background in both Harvard University and Yale Law School, he brings a wealth of expertise to his field of corporate law and corporate governance.

This is an outstanding history book on the good, the bad, the ugly of corporations, whose existence has been affecting massively our lives and societies. The author walks us from the ancient history of the Roman Republic to the Medici bank in the Renaissance, then crossing the sea to the joint-stock East India Company in the 17th century and to the monopoly of Union Pacific railroad in the 19th century, from the mass production method of Ford to the monstrous growth of the multinational Exxon throughout the 20th century, from crazy stories of the shark-like private equity giant KKR to the friendly-looking startups of the Silicon Valley such as Meta (Facebook).

By the end of the book, the author also suggests alternatives to monitor the activities of corporations, once all the lessons have been learned and examined throughout its long history.

For profit: A History of CorporationsFor profit: A History of Corporations

Key takeaways

  • Corporations have existed for thousands of years, often created by the state to serve specific interests, showcasing their adaptability to different social contexts throughout history.
  • The intended purpose of corporations throughout history was to benefit the common good and society, but greed and a distorted sense of their role led to negative consequences.
  • Corporations have a dual nature, capable of acting as means to coordinate human activity and driving remarkable productivity growth when aligned with broader social goals.
  • To promote the common good, corporations must adhere to guiding principles encompassing ethics, social responsibility, politics, and environmental considerations, ensuring a responsible pursuit of profit.
  • While startups have the potential to disrupt traditional industries and drive significant innovation, they also face scrutiny over issues like data privacy, user manipulation, and the impact of their operations on broader society.

Memorable quote

We don’t want corporations to engage in industrial espionage, or spread lies about their competitors, or buy out rivals in order to raise prices.

2. Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

Elizabeth Kolbert is an American author and journalist. She is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of several books, including “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History”, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

The main argument of the book is that human interference in the natural world, even with good intentions, more often than not, will cause ecological disruption. The author takes the example of the introduction of Asian carp into the Mississippi River back in the 1970s. Originally heralded as an algae, weed, and parasite controller for aquatic farms and an alternative for sewage treatment, these seemingly benign creatures swiftly broke their confines, proliferating at alarming rates and wreaking havoc on the river's ecosystem.

Authorities tried numerous ways to curb this invasion, and even opted for almost “sci-fi” attempts - from deploying adding toxic chemicals into the water to launching airborne blades aimed at the leaping fish. Authorities finally settled on an electrifying solution, quite literally. By electrifying certain sections of the water, the large size of the Asian carp would ensure a lethal jolt and hence, they will stay out of the Mississippi basin…

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the FutureUnder a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

Memorable quotes

If control is the problem, then, by the logic of the Anthropocene, still more control must be the solution.

I was struck, and not for the first time, by how much easier it is to ruin an ecosystem than to run one.

3. The Oldest Living Things in the World

Rachel Sussman is an American artist and photographer. She is known for her work on long-term projects that explore the intersection of art, science, and nature. Her photographs have been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums worldwide, and her work has received widespread acclaim for its artistic and scientific significance.

This captivating photographic work offers a contemplative journey, as the authors traverse the globe capturing images of living organisms that have witnessed hundreds to thousands of years of existence.

The Oldest Living Things in the WorldThe Oldest Living Things in the World


  • Through the photographs and stories, the book highlights the interconnectedness of living beings with their environments, showcasing the intricate relationships between organisms and their ecosystems.
  • The work emphasizes the importance of biodiversity and the need to protect and preserve these ancient organisms and their habitats to maintain the ecological balance.
  • While the book celebrates the longevity of these ancient organisms, it also reminds readers of the fragility of life and the impermanence of species and ecosystems.

Memorable quote

These ancient survivors have weathered the millennia on every continent, in some of the world’s most extreme environments, enduring ice ages, geologic shifts, and humans’ spread across the planet.

4. Who Really Feeds the World?

Vandana Shiva is an Indian environmental activist and food sovereignty advocate. She is the founder of Navdanya, an organization that promotes sustainable agriculture and biodiversity. She is also a recipient of several awards for her services in human rights, ecology and conservation.

Who Really Feeds the World?Who Really Feeds the World?

Key arguments

Small-scale farmers feed the world, not large-scale industrial farms️

  • "Local farming communities still produce 70% of the world's food"
  • "In an ecological and small farming system, outputs include the rejuvenation of ecological processes, the diverse outputs of crops, livestock and trees, and the livelihoods created through co-creation and co-production. In a large-scale industrial farming system, output is reduced to a single community and input is reduced to labour."
  • "The devaluing of livelihoods is also a recipe for further intensifying the external inputs of chemicals and fossil fuels, which rather than feeding people and sustaining farming systems, create hunger and generate environmental degradation.
  • This is known as the "myth of more", in which an agricultural system where a farmer spends more for costs of inputs than she or he will earn from selling a monoculture community is presented as "productive", a path to higher incomes and higher production."

Seed freedom feeds the world, not seed dictatorship

  • "In the last half century, a reductionist, mechanistic paradigm has laid down the legal and economic framework for privatizing seeds and the knowledge of seeds. This has destroyed diversity, denied farmers' innovation and breeding rights, enclosed the biological and intellectual commons through patents, and created seed monopolies."
  • "Globally, more than 1.4 billion people depend on farm-saved seed as their primary seed source. In order for agribusinesses to make profits, they must rupture this self-sustaining, nutritious system of food production. Farmers' varieties are therefore being replaced by 3 new seed varieties: high-yielding varieties, hybrid seeds, and GMOs."
  • The lawsuits between Monsanto vs Vernon Hugh Bowman (2007), and Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser (1998).
  • Their consequences: “Monsanto and other corporations can own all future generations of seeds, and they can use patents to sue farmers whose crops it has contaminated.”
  • "Since 1995, 284 000 farmers in India have killed themselves due to rising input prices and volatile output prices."

Localization feeds the world, not globalization️

  • As far as "cheap food" goes, globalized food is actually produced at a very high cost, and if it weren't for the fact that agribusinesses collect more than $400 billion in subsidies in rich countries, the entire system would collapse."
  • "The subsidized commodities are then in turn sold to poor countries, which are forced to dismantle their border protections so that rich nations can "dump" artificially cheap commodities into the developing world. [...] This creates the artificial impression that cheaper goods are now available in poorer countries. However, what this actually does is destroy local sources of food production and distribution, including farmers' livelihoods." (e.g. Kenya in 1980 with trade liberalization, Mexico in 2014 with North American Free Trade Agreement - NAFTA)
  • "One billion people on the planet are hungry (2009). Globalization has led to a shift from "food first" to "export first", in which growing luxury crops for export takes precedence over growing food crops for people."
  • "Ironically, while one in every four Indians goes hungry due to the displacement of local food sources and farmers' livelihoods, an urban upper class is suffering from diabetes and obesity, which stem from exactly the same source".
  • The shift to chemical-intensive, industrial agriculture in the last fifty years has led to ecological devastation, food insecurity, and the destruction of natural environments.
  • The dominant paradigm of industrial agriculture, based on the Law of Exploitation, views nature as separate from humans and treats food as a commodity for profit. However, it is responsible for only 30% of the food production while causing 75% of the ecological damage to the planet.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), designed to be resistant to pests, have not lived up to their promise, and instead, they have contributed to the emergence of superweeds and superpests.
  • Monocultures in agriculture are less productive and sustainable than biodiverse, ecological farming systems. The industrial paradigm wrongly promotes chemical-intensive monocultures as the solution to food security.
  • Small-scale farmers are essential custodians of seeds, soil, water, and biodiversity. They produce more using less and contribute significantly to the world's food production.

Memorable quotes

Farmers are the original breeders, and farmers’ rights to seed are a fundamental right to food and livelihoods.

No one should be sick because of food. The Earth, and human beings as cocreators with the Earth, can provide good and healthy food in abundance for all.

5. Change Everything: Creating an Economy for the Common Good

Christian Felber is an Austrian economist, social entrepreneur, and author.

This is a relatively small but powerful book, embedded with the wildest (but sanely possible) dreams of an alternative economic and capitalistic economic model - an economy for the common good. There are indeed bold suggestions such as the elimination of the financial markets, non-permissible use of profits ('money would only be a means for production, no longer a means of making profits’), or a three-step direct democracy are not just theoretical frameworks.

The author illustrates his points with real-life examples from around the world, which are part of the international movement “Economy for the Common Good” initiated by Felber.

Change Everything: Creating an Economy for the Common GoodChange Everything: Creating an Economy for the Common Good

Key takeaways

  • The pursuit of profit and growth in the market can lead to the concentration of power in the hands of giant corporations, which misuse their market power to suppress competition.
  • The current financial system is not aligned with the principles of the common good and societal benefit. There is a need for an entirely different financial system.
  • In the Economy for the Common Good, the framework for earning income will be different and more favorable, allowing people to have more say and find meaning in their work.
  • The concentration of power and wealth, particularly with an absolute status of private property, poses a threat to democracy and equal rights.

Memorable quotes

No matter which use value we consider, a rising GDP is not capable of measuring what really counts.

An economy that relies on persistent increases in profit, income, assets and material goods is sick in the sense that it has lost all sense of proportion; it is “absolute” and detached from all other values and their natural foundation, the planetary ecosystems.

6. The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene

Simon Lewis is a Professor of Quaternary Science at Queen Mary University of London, and Mark Maslin is a Professor of Climatology at University College London.

For many, the term "Anthropocene" evokes visions of an era where humans exert unparalleled influence over the environment. Yet, for others, it signifies an overconfident belief in our dominion over nature. Beneath the layers of this scientific term lies a rich tapestry of science, philosophy, and politics, intertwined with our most profound anxieties and idealistic dreams.

In this modern classic, scientists Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin offer a vision for humanity's future amidst the precarious world of our own making.

The Human Planet: How We Created the AnthropoceneThe Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene

Key takeaways

  • Anthropocene is a time of great challenge and opportunity, and we must choose between three possible futures: the ongoing development of consumer capitalism, collapse, or innovation towards a new mode of living.
  • Climate change, global inequality, and the use of fossil fuels are significant problems that need to be addressed by finding sustainable solutions to create a viable future for humanity.
  • While the Anthropocene is a relatively new idea, human impact on the Earth's systems has been going on for much longer. The book traces human impacts on the environment back to prehistoric times when hunter-gatherers caused mass extinctions of large land animals.
  • The book identifies four major transitions in human history, each marked by dramatic access to energy and an increase in information. However, these transitions have also been "progress traps," leading to unintended consequences and challenges.
  • The "Great Acceleration" has seen a significant increase in human population and consumption, leading to a decline in wildlife and natural ecosystems.

Memorable quotes

The total amount of concrete ever produced by humans is enough to cover the entire Earth’s surface with a layer two millimetres thick.

If all other emissions stopped immediately, it would take converting about 50% of all the world’s croplands to forest to reduce carbon dioxide levels to 350 ppm by 2100.

The impacts of exponential growth form some of the core challenges for societal development in the Anthropocene. Everything seems fine for a long time, and then, almost immediately, it is not.

7. Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe

Lisa Randall is a prominent theoretical physicist and cosmologist. She is known for her groundbreaking research on particle physics, extra dimensions, and the early universe.

The book presents an intriguing theory that connects dark matter to the extinction of dinosaurs, challenging fundamental assumptions about the universe and human existence. Randall's theory challenges the assumption that dark matter exists in only one form, proposing that it might have multiple varieties that interact with each other in different ways.

While it is based on sound scientific principles, Randall's theory is speculative, but it could have major implications for our understanding of the universe. Overall, the book offers a thought-provoking perspective on the universe's history, the evolution of life, and the interconnectedness of various scientific disciplines. It was indeed a fun read!

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the UniverseDark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe

Memorable quotes

I’ll tell you right up front that I don’t know yet if this idea is correct.

We often fail to notice things that we are not expecting.

Early in the twentieth century, the physicist Lord Rutherford, best known for his landmark discovery of the atomic nucleus, famously pronounced, “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.

8. The Origin of Species

A classic of all biology classics. There is probably no need for an introduction of the author himself - Charles Darwin was an English naturalist and geologist who is best known for his theory of evolution by natural selection. His work revolutionized the understanding of the diversity of life and laid the foundation for modern evolutionary biology.

In this work, Darwin argued that all living organisms share a common ancestry. This implies that all life on Earth is connected through a vast tree of evolutionary relationships, with different species branching off from common ancestors.

He also suggested that evolution is gradual over generations and generations - species do not change abruptly but undergo slow and incremental modifications over generations. The environment can select certain traits, which can lead to the evolution of new species. For example, if the environment becomes warmer, species that are better adapted to warmer temperatures will be more likely to survive and reproduce. Hence, natural selection is the driving force of evolution.

The Origin of SpeciesThe Origin of Species

Memorable quotes

One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.

Man selects only for his own good: Nature only for that of the being which she tends.

This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection.

💡 Want to dive into the world of regenerative materials? Download our glossary A-Z biomaterials here!

Written by Anh N. on 26/08/2023

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