Linking Social and Ecological Systems: Management Practices and Social Mechanisms for Building Resilience

As we move into uncertain ecological times, resilience is a critical concept, one that we should be managing toward. In particular, it will be important to understand how human societies can contribute to or undermine resilience. I skimmed this book which basically chronicles different social mechanisms for managing the commons.

Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way

Buettner has published research in the past about societies where people seem to live the longest. Now this book chronicles places where people seem the happiest (based on polls like the World Database of Happiness, World Values Survey, Gallup World Poll, Latinobarometro, and Eurobarometer. This is an important part of social sustainability. And the US is far from the best.


The Heath brothers have done it again. They’ve written an entertaining book filled with important and practical insights. This book is about how to create shifts in behavior, especially when you or others have resisted them in the past. They use a metaphor for the parts of our brain: the rider and the elephant.

Driven to Extinction

Published by the American Museum of Natural History, this book tries to validate or invalidate claims that climate change will be disastrous to biodiversity.

Community: The Structure of Belonging

This book lays out concepts associated with how to build community. It’s not a practical how-to approach but rather lays out some important distinctions:

Good Cop/Bad Cop: Environmental NGOs and their Strategies toward Business

Non-profits are not without controversy. This book looks at how they are viewed by different stakeholders: social scientists and practitioners. It examines different environmental NGOs and their strategies. If you work in an NGO, plan to start one, or intend to engage one, this might be an eye-opening read.


Don't be Such a Scientist

Randy Olson is a scientist who then went to Hollywood to make movies about scientific issues. His theory is that scientists tend to communicate with the head, but most of the public is first motivated by libido (sex sells), then the gut (intuition, humor) then the heart and finally the head. You lose parts of the audience as you move up the body parts.

How to Win Campaigns: Communications for Change

It can be instructive to view your work through a different lens. This book is about setting up and managing campaigns, and most of the examples deal with environmental problems, so the topic is very relevant to sustainability professionals. While you may not be working for an NGO that is planning a major campaign, the lessons in this book are still quite useful.