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The Reviewer's Ten Most Infuential

Environmental Books of the

20th Century












Best Book Lists


















The Reviewer's List:
The Ten Most Influential Environmental Books of the 20th Century


The Reviewer, an Internet book review site invited authors, journalists, scholars, and readers to nominate books to a "Top Ten" list of environmental books of the 20th Century.  The survey was done in the late 1990s.  Criteria included the influence that the book had on 1) environmentalists, 2) the masses, 3) the media, 4) policy makers; and 5) enviromental science and research. To help keep the playing field level, nominators were asked to include 50-100 word reviews along with the nominated book(s).  Amazingly, some 843 people responded.


The number one book, receiving 83% of the top votes, was Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.


The complete list is included below:



Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. 


Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is clearly one of the most important environmental books ever published.  Using scientific research and persuasive logic, Carson warned of the consequences of careless use of pesticides. 


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State of the World Series by Worldwatch Institute. 


State of the World is a series of books about trends in sustainable development.  Published in 36 languages, the books explore issues dealing with population, energy, agriculture, health, and trade policy. Topics are covered from a global perspective, with an emphasis on innovation and problem-solving.  Used worldwide by members of the news media and policymakers, the books are known for their reliability.


Worldwatch Institute: More Information



Soft Energy Paths by Amory B. Lovins. 


First published in the 197o's, Soft Paths is about such technologies as solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, etc.  Since the book was published much has been written about these types of technologies, but the book serves as an important historic milestone: an intelligent and convincing argument for conservation and the use of renewable energy.


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Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken, Amory B. Lovins, et. al.


Review from Publisher's Weekly:  The authors have put together an ambitious, visionary monster of a book advocating "natural capitalism."  What is natural capitalism? It is way of thinking that seeks to apply market principles to all sources of material value, most importantly natural resources. The authors have two related goals: first, to show the vast array of ecologically smart options available to businesses; second, to argue that it is possible for society and industry to adopt them.


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A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. 


What can be said of Sand County Almanac?  It is simply one of the great works of nature literature and from it has sprung the environmental movement.  It was over 50 years ago that the book was first published, but his words and insights are as fresh as ever.  Another Review


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The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken.


Amazon's Review:  Hawken is on a one-man crusade to reform our economic system by demanding that First World businesses reduce their consumption of energy and resources by 80 percent in the next 50 years. As if that weren't enough, Hawken argues that business goals should be redefined to embrace such fuzzy categories as whether the work is aesthetically pleasing and the employees are having fun; this applies to corporate giants and mom-and-pop operations alike. He proposes a culture of business in which the real world, the natural world, is allowed to flourish as well, and in which the planet's needs are addressed.


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Steady State Economics by Herman Daly.


Amazon's Review: First published in 1977, this volume caused a sensation because of Herman Daly's radical view that "enough is best." Today, his ideas are recognized as the key to sustainable development, and Steady State Economics is universally acknowledged as the leading book on the economics of sustainability.


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The Population Bomb by Paul R. Ehrlich.


Wikipedia Review: This is the best-selling book written by Paul R. Ehrlich in 1968.  It predicted the mass starvation of humans in 1970's and 1980s due to overpopulation and advocated immediate action to limit the population explosion.  The book also popularized the previously coined term, population bomb.


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Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn.


Amazon Review: Our Stolen Future identifies the various ways in which chemical pollutants in the environment are disrupting human reproductive patterns and causing such problems as birth defects, sexual abnormalities, and reproductive failure.


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Scarcity and Growth by Harold J Barnett and Chandler Morse.


This is an important and classical historical work on sustainable economic thought.  In their 1963 book, Howard Barnett and Chandler Morse argued that resource scarcity did not threaten economic growth.  A second investigation in the late 1970s, Scarcity and Growth Reconsidered, reached largely the same conclusion. 


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