This may sound strange but if you are weary of reading books about climate change, Climate: A New Story by Charles Eisenstein could be just the book for you.
At the beginning of January, I was definitely not interested in reading yet another book about climate change, when I spotted an article in the Yes! Media newsletter that arrives in my email inbox on Friday afternoons.
“Threats of global catastrophe won’t move people to action. Only the heart can inspire zeal.”
That text just below the article entitled, Why the Climate Change Message Isn’t Working caught my attention. I thought, “Yes, I totally agree.” The article contained an excerpt from Climate: A New Story.
I was intrigued so I bought the book. It is now bristling with colored sticky flags (I reuse them), signaling that I found many interesting and thought-provoking passages worth marking for review and discussion.
Reading Climate: A New Story requires a little bit of preparation. First, make sure you have some sticky flags, scraps of paper, or a highlighter on hand because trust me; there will be passages you will want to return to later. Second, to get the most out of your reading experience I recommend leaving your personal climate change baggage behind and approaching the book with an open mind.
The book contains twelve main chapters with titles like “A Crisis of Being,” “Beyond Climate Fundamentalism,” “A Bargain with the Devil,” “An Affair of the Heart,” and “Bridge to a Living World.”
I was riveted from the first chapter. Here is a taste of what you will be reading.
Chapter 1 – A Crisis of Being
This chapter is worth reading twice because it forms the basis for the balance of the book. For me, concepts like the story of separation and interbeing were new, the concept of they was not. Although I laughed when Eisenstein described the possible concerns of a fracking executive, he makes a good point that they are people, too.
Environmentalists may not like the part where Eisenstein asks us, meaning everyone on the planet, to give up fighting. After all, fighting, stopping, and banning things are major components of the current environmental movement. I know because I have been a willing participant.
“We call arguments “rational” when they appeal to self-interest. This book will argue that rational reasons are not enough; that the ecological crisis is asking for a revolution of love.”
Chapter 2 – Beyond Climate Fundamentalism
The first page of this chapter contains a hilarious, but probably sadly true, hypothetical exchange between Eisenstein and a prominent environmentalist proselytizing that addressing climate change is the only thing that matters.
“While this book is focused on the realm of ecological healing, it disengages from the rhetoric of “Nothing else is important compared to this. That’s the rhetoric that has alienated so many working-class people and minorities from environmentalism because it carries a patronizing message of “We know better than you do what you should be caring about.”
He goes on to explain why he believes that social healing and ecological healing are the same work and that neither can succeed without the other.
Chapter 3 – The Climate Spectrum and Beyond.
This chapter is all about framing the so-called climate debate and provides a new term “climate derangement,” which I think is much more descriptive than climate change or global warming.
I will leave you here with my favorite quote from “Chapter 8 – A Bargain with Devil”.
“By appealing to self-interest and fear we strengthen the habits of self-interest and fear, which, let’s face it, usually conspire to destroy the planet not save it. We will never increase the amount of care in the world by appealing to self-interest.
The Bottom Line
After graduating from Yale University with a degree in mathematics and philosophy, Charles Eisenstein moved to Taiwan, learned a new language, and spent the next ten years as a Chinese-English translator. This experience and others influenced the later direction of his life. Now, he is a writer, a speaker, and a podcaster focusing on civilization, consciousness, money, and human cultural evolution.
While I was reading Climate: A New Story, I often found myself wanting to jump up and go tell someone in my family about what I had just read. I showed some restraint by saving up tidbits and sharing them at the dinner table.
Generally, I thought that Climate: A New Story was a readable book but occasionally Eisenstein drifted off using language that seemed like he was more interested in hearing his own voice than making his ideas accessible to the reader. When that happened, I either read those parts again or skipped over them.
Climate: A New Story is about way more than climate. Everyone should read this book. Readers will come away with their own thoughts but I doubt anyone will be unmoved. I especially recommend this book to my fellow environmentalists because we need to broaden our horizons.
“Not-in-my-backyard thinking, when universalized to an empowered citizenry, becomes not-in-anyone’s-backyard.
Featured Image at Top: A majestic sunrise over the mountains – photo credit iStock/Alex Sava.
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