The following authors, scientists, thinkers, and historians have made great contributions to my areas of interest. I can’t recommend their work highly enough.
DYNAMIC DISSIPATIVE SYSTEMS
Odum is known for his pioneering work in ecology and general systems theory. I first became acquainted with Odum’s work in “Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy”. Here, he lays out the framework for systems ecology and shows how cities and all human-made systems interact with and depend upon natural systems.
Environmental Scientist, Teacher, Writer, 1941-2001
Meadows is best known as the lead author of the influential book “The Limits to Growth”, a study of long-term global trends in population, economics and the environment. They recently released an update to the book which shows their estimations for resource decline, population growth, pollution, and other indicators to be right on track. Also, Meadows authored a book called “Thinking in Systems – A Primer”. This book offers an explanation of systems thinking in a very straightforward manner.
Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Bejan pioneered numerous original methods in science, such as the constructal law of design and evolution in nature. Bejan co-authored an academic paper called “The Constructal Law of Design in Nature” which really opened up my eyes to how systems operate in nature.
Rees is the originator of the “ecological footprint” concept and co-developer of the method. Rees looks at public policy and planning relating to global environmental trends and the ecological conditions for sustainable socioeconomic development from a physical sciences perspective. Rees’ work conclusively demonstrates the degree to which our cities are unsustainable based on their resource inputs and waste outputs.
West is one of the leading scientists working on a scientific model of cities. I was first introduced to West’s work on an episode of the Radiolab podcast on NPR. I followed up by finding a few presentations he has given on YouTube. He has identified some fascinating dynamics at work in cities which describe their behavior. His work has enormous implications for sustainability.
James H. Brown
Brown works on large-scale questions relating to macroecology. I am familiar with his work relating to the metabolic theory of ecology. He co-wrote “The origin of allometric scaling laws in biology from genomes to ecosystems: towards a quantitative unifying theory of biological structure and organization” with Geoffrey West, which describes the metabolic theory of ecology in pretty good detail.
Professor of Psychology
Levine has written about the effects of urbanity on psychological perceptions of space and time. I was first exposed to Levine’s work on a Radiolab podcast about cities. Soon thereafter I read “The Geography of Time” which talks about the effects urban density has on our perceptions of time. Interesting stuff.
RESOURCE DEPLETION, PEAK OIL, CIVILIZATIONAL DECLINE
Heinberg has written extensively on energy, economic, and ecological issues, including oil depletion. He is the author of ten books, of which I’ve read several. I highly recommend “The Party’s Over”, “Peak Everything”, “Powerdown”, and “The End of Growth” for informative, highly readable explanations of the relationship between energy inputs and economic activity.
James Howard Kunstler
Author, Social Critic
Kunstler is best known for his witty, humorous, and sarcastic writing on the history of American suburbia, urban development, the limits to technology, and the implications of declining energy reserves. I’m been aware of Kunstler since I picked up a copy of “The Geography of Nowhere” which is as relevant today as it was in the ‘90’s. Check out “The Long Emergency” for a good shape of the challenges our society is likely to face going forward.
John Michael Greer
Greer has written about the end of the oil age and resource depletion issues, among many other topics. In his books “The Long Descent”, “The Ecotechnic Future”, and “The Wealth of Nature” Greer lays out his vision for the path our society will take in light of accumulating energy and ecological challenges. This guy is one of the better writers out there; he offers perhaps the most compelling and coherent description of our current circumstances. I recommend his work very much.
Diamond has written extensively about history, societal collapse, and resource depletion issues. His books “Guns, Germs, and Steel” and “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” are super-informative, as they approach resource depletion issues from a scholarly perspective.
Environmental Sociologist, Human Ecologist
Catton has written about resource depletion issues and the ecological implications of human development. His book “Overshoot” is a classic as far as I’m concerned. In it, Catton articulates human history in simple-to-understand ecological terms. I’ve read “Bottleneck” too, but recommend “Overshoot” for its clarity and gravity.
Tainter has written about the collapse of societies, societal complexity, and resource issues. I read “The Collapse of Complex Societies” some years ago and it still holds great sway over my thinking. In it, Tainter describes how human society can be understood more clearly if viewed as a complex system. This book is fantastic. Additionally, he has another book coming out called “Drilling Down” which I can’t wait to get my hands on.
Cultural and Science Historian
Berman has written about imperial decline and the history of Western civilization. I was first exposed to Berman after hearing him on an Extraenvironmentalist podcast. I followed up by reading “Why America Failed”. This book firmed up my suspicions relating to how American culture influences the energy and environmental decision-making process.
Author, Energy Analyst
Orlov has written about societal decline and resource depletion issues. In “Reinventing Collapse”, Orlov draws on his experience of living through the dissolution of the USSR and makes insightful comparisons to the circumstances of the United States.
Environmental writer, Author
Quinn has written about environmental issues including resource depletion, and the relationship between humans and their environment from an ethical perspective. I read “Ishmael” in high school and I still remember the effect it had on me.
Brown has written extensively about environmental policy and resource depletion issues. He’s been a stalwart for proposing commonsense strategies for dealing with our increasingly dire environmental circumstances. I’ve read several of his books and recommend everything each and every one of them. “Plan B” comprises a comprehensive treatment on the situation at hand.
Ehrlich has written about overpopulation issues, ecology, and environmental ethics. I’ve read “The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment” and have seen many of his presentations online. I see he has also recently released “Humanity on a Tightrope” which I look forward to picking up.
M. King Hubbert
Hubbert made several important contributions to geology, geophysics, and petroleum geology, most notably the Hubbert curve and Hubbert peak oil theory. I’ve only seen a few grainy presentations he’s made from the late 1950’s, but he seems to be one of the first people to look at humanity’s energy dependence from an ecological perspective and signal the alarm.
Environmental Activist, Writer
Jensen has written about environmental degradation and the decline of industrial civilization. I read the “Endgame” series and was just blown away. Jensen is a powerful and insightful writer in his critiques of western civilization. I don’t subscribe to his conclusions exactly, but he’s definitely worth reading and his messages are worth contemplating.
ENVIRONMENT CHANGE & HISTORY
Environmentalist, Author, Journalist
McKibben is one the most active environmentalists out there. His books are chalk-full of information, and he writes with a journalistic sensibility. I was moved by “Eaarth” especially, though “Deep Economy” is good too.
McNeill has written about environmental history. I read “Something New Under the Sun” which documents the dramatic ways humankind has changed Earth. It’s a really readable and informative book.
Author, Scientist, 1887-1948
Leopold serves as one of the environmental community’s most profound and original thinkers. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and pick up “A Sand County Almanac”. You’ll be glad you did.
Professor of Ecological Sustainability
Princen has written on issues of social and ecological sustainability with a primary focus on the drivers of overconsumption and the conditions for restrained resource use. “The Logic of Sufficiency” provided me with the mental armature needed to imagine the concept of Sufficiency planning, and for that I am grateful.
Historian, Writer, 1895-1990
Mumford was particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture. His “City in History” represents perhaps the finest work ever done on urban history; it’s absolutely indispensable for anyone interested in the subject. I’m currently working through “Technics in Civilization” and look forward to progressing through the rest of his catalog.
URBAN FORM & REGIONALISM
Howard is well known for sowing the seeds for what would become the garden city movement. His “Garden Cities of To-morrow” still reads well after all these years, as do the concepts he propounds in the book.
Ecological Urban Designer
Register is one of the world’s great theorists and authors in ecological city design and planning. His “EcoCities” made an immediate impression upon me. This book in particular provides an incredibly detailed and well-thought out vision of what sustainable cities might end up looking like.
Urban Planner, 1882-1975
Stein was an American urban planner, architect, and writer. He’s best known for being a major proponent of the “Garden City” movement in the United States. I have yet to read any of Stein’s work, but am familiar with and influenced by his insistence on embedding urban designs into the natural landscape.
Calthorpe is an architect, urban designer and urban planner who’s probably best known as a founding member of the Congress for New Urbanism. I’ve read his “The Regional City” and was influenced deeply by the regionalism concept. I’m looking forward to reading his recent release, “Urbanism in An Age of Climate Change”.
Sale has written about political decentralism, environmentalism, luddism, and technology. I really appreciated his “Dwellers in the Land” though I have yet to read any of his other work.
Urban Theorist, 1854-1932
Geddes was an urban theorist known for his innovative thinking in the fields of urban planning and sociology. For more on Geddes, I recommend reading “Biopolis: Patrick Geddes and the City of Life” by Volker Welter.
Author, Utopian Philosopher, 1842-1921
Kropotkin was a Russian polymath whose work focused on local organization and cooperative relationships over competitive ones. His book “Fields, Factories, and Workshops” is a bit difficult to absorb but worth it if you put in the time.
Writer and Activist, 1916-2006
Jacobs was an American-Canadian writer and activist with primary interest in communities and urban planning and decay. She is best known for “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, a powerful critique of the urban renewal policies of the 1950’s in the United States. Like many of my peers, this book inspired me to become an urban planner.
Hopkins is the co-founder of the Transition Town concept and network. His book “The Transition Handbook” is indispensible for its clear descriptions of workable urban designs and social and economic relationships in a resource-constrained future.
Trainer is the developer of a process he calls “The Simpler Way” which discusses the societal changes necessary to avoid the worst consequences of overconsumption and resource depletion. I read his book “Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain a Consumer Society”. Care to guess what that’s about?
Schumacher was a leading and influential British economist who is best known for his critique of Western economies and his proposals for human-scale, decentralized, and appropriate technologies. I have read two of Schumacher’s books: “Small is Beautiful” and “A Guide for the Perplexed”. Both books are fantastic.
Daly’s work is closely associated with theories of a Steady state economy. I have read “Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications”. The material’s a little dense but illustrates the concepts involved pretty well.
Professor of Economics
Keen is a post-Keynesian economist in Australia. I haven’t read his book “Debunking Economics” but I have listened to and viewed numerous interviews and presentations he’s made in the recent past. Keen offers up tough technical critiques of mainstream “bubble” economics.
Boulding started numerous intellectual projects in economics and social science which continue after his passing, including his co-founding of General Systems Theory. I have not read any of his books. However, I have read a few of his essays including “The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth”, which outlines some fascinating and prescient ideas.
Eisenstein has written about the history of money in economic systems among other subjects. I am in the process of reading “Sacred Economics” and soon thereafter will tackle “The Ascent of Humanity”.
Sahlins’ work involves demonstrating the power that culture has to shape people’s perceptions and actions. I have read his book “Stone Age Economics” which gives interesting insight into ancient economic systems.
SMART DECLINE/URBAN SHRINK
Professor of Urban Planning and Policy
Hollander studies the role of planning and public policy in managing land use and environmental changes associated with economic decline and shrinking cities. I have recently ordered his book “Sunburnt cities: The Great Recession, depopulation and urban planning in the American Sunbelt”.
Professor of Physics
Bartlett’s work focuses on the power of exponential growth in determining what outcomes are possible on a finite planet. I can’t recommend his presentation “Arithmetic, Population, and Energy” highly enough.
Martenson’s work focuses on macro trends regarding the economy, energy composition, and environmental degradation. I have viewed his online presentation called “The Crash Course” which investigates the ways in which the economy, the environment, and energy are interlinked and interact.
Diamond was an American poet, anthropologist, and social critic. I have read “In Search of the Primitive” which critiques modern civilization by contrasting its cultural norms with those of other cultures.
LIMITS OF TECHNOLOGY
Homer-Dixon’s research has focused on threats to global security in the 21st century and on how societies adapt to complex economic, ecological, and technological change. His work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on political science, economics, environmental studies, geography, cognitive science, social psychology and complex systems theory. I highly recommend “The Ingenuity Gap” and look forward to reading “The Upside of Down”.
Environmental Scientist, Author
Huesemann’s book “Techno-Fix” is a powerful and well-researched challenge to the widespread belief that modern technology alone will “save us”.
Wright’s book “A Short History of Progress” looks at the modern human predicament in light of the 10,000-year experiment with civilization. This book contains some good discussion of the limits of technology as well.
John M. Polimeni
Professor of Economics
Polimeni co-wrote “The Myth of Resource Efficiency” with Kozo Mayumi and Mario Giampietro. It goes a long ways in demonstrating how the takeback and Jevon’s Paradox operate using real-world examples.