Earth Day. It is day to celebrate our home planet—which, depending on your scientific/religious perspective is now anywhere from about 6,000 to 4,500,000,000 years old—and reflect on how we might be able to squeeze a few more good years out of her, perhaps even buying some time for our children and grandchildren.
I will make this quick, so as to allow you to get back to the many Earth Day activities and celebrations you no doubt have planned (and all this electricity you’re using to read this post isn’t in the best interest of our planet anyway—not that you should print and read this offline, which would be worse). But it should go without saying that one way to observe Earth Day is to read—to educate yourself, or entertain yourself, or just cheer yourself up.
Here are a few classic titles to consider—I’m imagining many of you may have read most or all of these before. If you haven’t, you should. And if you have, skim them again.
No offense to such modern children’s masterpieces as Where Does the Garbage Go? or The Magic School Bus and The Climate Challenge, Dr. Seuss’s classic is still the best introduction for kids of all ages to the responsibility we must take for the delicate world around us. Please don’t let the recent movie diminish its stature.
Henry David Thoreau
A man decides to spend two years living in isolation in a cabin in the woods—and you won’t believe what happens next! Oh, you guessed: two years’ worth of personal introspection gives him a more objective understanding of society and humankind’s place in nature.
Today, books about the way evil corporations and our own daily behaviors are destroying our planet (and other inconvenient truths) are almost as clichéd as the cliché “a dime a dozen.” But this powerful inquest into how pesticides kill not only insects but birds, animals, and eventually even humans was really the first of its kind, and has been credited with helping to launch the environmental movement.
The Right Stuff
Not so much about Earth as the intense race to leave it—but the human notion that we can somehow transcend this planet is worth reconsideration on a day like today. And this classic remains a favorite for anyone (like me) who enjoys getting their nonfiction via fiction.
Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race
The Staff of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Okay, so not exactly a classic (at least, in the classical sense), but how can you not read a book called Earth on Earth Day? Gleeful and occasionally vulgar, this summary of the human race will definitely make you feel better about our fragile future on this planet. Written for the aliens who will arrive after we extinct, the book makes clear that Earth’s best days are ahead (and post-human).
So, what else would you suggest reading today?