IN APRIL 2007, Yann Martel vowed to send PM Stephen Harper a book every two weeks – to "expand stillness". In a similar spirit, Alternatives turned to four of the leading voices advocating for Canada’s transition to a green economy. We asked them which books they’d place at the top of Harper’s must-read list – to "expand stillness" but also to help the Prime Minister see the green light.

Tzeporah Berman

Co-founder of ForestEthics and PowerUP Canada and co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Campaign. Berman once guest edited for Alternatives (Voices of Protest, Voices of Harmony: Reflections on Ecofeminism, 21:2, 1995). 

If Mr. Harper is quietly despairing about the fate he and his fellow world leaders are assigning to his and our kids, I would definitely recommend keeping Chris Turner’s The Geography of Hope (2007) somewhere handy. He should also check out Calgary oil patch insider Peter Tertzakian’s The End of Energy Obesity (2009), as well as Mark Jaccard, Jeffrey Simpson and Nic Rivers’ Hot Air (2007), which remains the authoritative book on Canadian climate policy. While Ottawa fiddles and waits for our American neighbours to set Canada’s federal policies, the PM would be wise to read Apollo’s Fire (2008), in which Congressmen Jay Inslee and Bracken Hendricks attempt to “ignite America’s clean energy economy.”

Keith Neuman 

Group vice-president of Public Affairs at Environics Research Group, where he leads the company’s energy-environment practice. Neuman has researched the social dimensions of energy, environmental and natural resource issues since the 1980s. MY RECOMMENDED readings for the PM can be summed up in two words: “collapse” and “heat.” Jared Diamond’s Collapse (2005) illustrates how seemingly stable civilizations can falter and disappear altogether, due to a failure to adequately protect critical ecosystem viability. George Monbiot’s Heat (2006) articulates – perhaps better than any other book – the essential dilemma for governments: how to successfully lead the fundamental changes that global warming requires, when society is not ready for its governments to succeed in this endeavour. Heat also explores how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced in almost every sector of the economy using current technology. Neither book is polemical nor partisan, and both offer important insights by serious thinkers.

Marlo Raynolds

Executive director of the Pembina Institute, a non-partisan sustainable energy think-tank. Raynolds is also adjunct assistant professor of Sustainable Development at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary.

Creating a healthy future for our children requires an ambitious transformation of Canada’s energy economy. Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air (2008) is essential reading for any leader facing that challenge. Author David MacKay, an eminent professor of physics at Cambridge University, uses hard numbers to cut through rhetoric and explore how to make the transition to sustainable energy. By turns sober and hilarious, yet always devastatingly insightful, the book has earned high praise from the likes of Bill Gates, who called it “one of the best books on energy that has been written.” The British government even recruited MacKay to advise on the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan. Our own PM would do well to take note.

Alexander Wood

Senior director of Policy and Markets, at Sustainable Prosperity, a think-tank based at the University of Ottawa dedicated to the development of a green economy in Canada.

Understanding how the rest of the world – particularly the US – is transitioning toward a low-carbon economy is important to understanding our own economic future. So, Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded (2008) should be required reading for Canada’s PM. As indicated by its descriptive subtitle, Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How It Can Renew America, this bestseller explores the economic upside of dealing intelligently with climate change. Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers (2006) is also essential reading. It’s the most accessible description of climate change and its expected impacts. For ideas on how Canada can benefit from this transition, perhaps Mr. Harper should give us a call here at Sustainable Prosperity.

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