Recommended Resources

Checking the Facts | Cities | Climate | Data | Education and Inspiration | Environmental News | Following the Money | Food and Water | Politics | Population | Problem Solvers | What to Buy

Checking the Facts

Snopes (website) devotes scholarly diligence to rumors, photos-gone-viral, and other statements that often pass for fact in popular culture. More people are alive now than all those who’ve died? Find out. www.snopes.com

FactCheck (website) applies the Snopes model strictly to politics. www.factcheck.org. The website PolitiFact (www.politifact.com) does the same.

FlackCheck (website) describes common rhetorical tricks and posts videos of politicians and media personalities using them to make their positions look better and their opponents look worse. www.flackcheck.org


C40 (website). Cities are huge in population and greenhouse gas emissions. Their vulnerability to sea-level rise and storms has inspired them to be leaders in innovation as well, exemplified by the C40 group of megacities committed to addressing climate change. c40.org

"Why Mayors Should Rule the World" (TED talk) by Benjamin Barber argues that cities are tackling global problems more effectively than nations.  His book If Mayors Ruled the World  (2013, Yale University Press) is filled with examples.

The Works: Anatomy of a City (book) by Kate Ascher reveals the hidden world of infrastructure: water, garbage, heat, mail delivery, and much more, using New York City as an example. Penguin, 2005.

Yes! (magazine), Winter 2015 issue.  Boulder has passed a carbon tax.  Seoul is getting its electricity from its rooftops.  Philadelphia is building permeable streets that let rain soak into the soil beneath.  Cities are moving ahead on climate, water, democracy, immigration, and other topics too hot for national governments.  This issue of Yes!  gives a great overview. 


Build It Bigger (TV series), formerly known as Extreme Engineering, this series looks at human problem-solving on the grand scale, including a number of fixes for climate problems. Check out "Drought-Proofing Australia" and "Holland's Barriers to the Sea" at YouTube.

"Capitalism vs. the Climate" (article) by Naomi Klein.  Free-market economics reigns supreme...and yet it's speeding us toward climate catastrophe.  Naomi Klein stares straight at this cockeyed picture and describes the big-time changes that will be needed to rescue us.  This article was the seed for This Changes Everything, her comprehensive 2014 book on the topic.  Both are unflinching, conversational, and potent, guaranteed to open eyes.

Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming (book) by James Hoggan, a former PR man himself, ably describes the many facets of the denial campaign.  Greystone Books, 2009.

Cosmos, espisode 12 (TV show). This 2014 series hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson charts our centuries-long probing of the workings of our planet, solar system, and universe. Episode 12 uses the history of Venus to highlight the problems of excess greenhouse gases.  More info about the series here.  Streams on Netflix.

Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth (book) by Curt Stager. A paleoecologist peers into the past to get a glimpse of the warmer future. Is Greenland about to melt? Will humans vanish? Balanced, thorough, and a corrective to flimsy “I heard it on TV” opinions. A rare long-distance view and model of the rigorous quest for knowledge.  St. Martin's, 2012.

“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” (article) by Bill McKibben looks at how much coal, oil, and gas are still in the ground, the consequences of the taken-for-granted plan to burn them, and calls for us to keep them safely buried.  A big-picture, compelling argument that reframes the fossil fuel debate.

An Inconvenient Truth (documentary) lays out Al Gore’s case for global warming and greenhouse gases as the chief cause. His book Our Choice examines solutions.

Merchants of Doubt (documentary) takes a sharp-eyed look at the climate denial effort and its roots in earlier campaigns to deny the dangers of tobacco, DDT, the ozone hole, and acid rain.  Based on the 2010 book by the same name by Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway.

NASA (website). The climate page on NASA’s website offers information, maps, images, and interactives about climate. http://climate.nasa.gov

A Short History of Planet Earth: Mountains, Mammals, Fire, and Ice (book) by J. D. MacDougall describes how the climate and creatures we take for granted came to be. The biggest of big pictures, highly recommended.  Wiley, 1998.

Skeptical Science (website) gathers the arguments used against the notion that humans are behind global warming and puts them under the microscope. www.skepticalscience.com

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (book) by Timothy Egan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006). A powerful account of America’s first climate refugees.  Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Years of Living Dangerously (TV series) takes a wide-angle look at climate change, using stars and scientists, preachers and politicians, and everyday people around the globe to get at the causes and effects.  The nine-part series is now available on DVD. http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com


CO2Now. org (website) gives the latest CO2 level in the atmosphere. co2now.org

Global Footprint Network (website) can estimate your lifestyle's footprint at http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/

Population Clock (website) gives real-time estimates of U.S. and world population, with further information on age, gender, region, and density. www.census.gov/popclock

Worldometers (website) gives population data as well as figures on spending, health, food, energy, and environment. www.worldometers.info

Education and Inspiration

The Big Here Quiz (website). Learning the facts of life is crucial. This thirty-fourquestion quiz by Wired editor Kevin Kelly is a great place to start, revealing how little most of us know about the place we live in. Prizes offered for high scores; new questions solicited. http://kk.org/cooltools/archives/957

Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (book) by Adam Hochschild (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005). Twelve men meet in a London printshop in 1787, determined to end the British slave trade. They succeed, beating huge vested interests and inventing many of the political tools in use today. The book to read when you think the odds are impossible.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005.

TED (website) offers videos of presentations all under twenty minutes at its worldwide conferences devoted to innovative thinking. The TEDxYouth channel on YouTube has talks by high school students. www.ted.com

Zooniverse (website) applies crowdsourcing to science, using volunteers in all manner of citizen-science projects, from searching for new planets to working on cancer cures, with nothing more than a computer required. www.zooniverse.org

Environmental News websites

Climate Desk (www.climatedesk.org)

Environmental Health News (www.environmentalhealthnews.org)

Environmental News Network (www.enn.com)

Grist (www.grist.org)

Inside Climate News (www.insideclimatenews.org)

Yes Magazine's Planet page (http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet)

Following the Money

(Astro) turf Wars (documentary) investigates the spread of fake grassroots groups disguised to speak for business on issues from healthcare to climate to taxes.

OpenSecrets.org (website). Who are your congressperson’s top donors? Where are political donations percolating through your city and state? Open Secrets covers the intersection of money and politics, with info on lobbying, campaign funding, and much more.  www.opensecrets.org

Pricele$$ (documentary) portrays money’s influence on U.S. politics, with a focus on energy interests. It streams at http://www.pricelessmovie.org

SourceWatch.org (website). Not sure if you’re dealing with a front group? SourceWatch offers detailed information on hundreds of them. www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Front_groups

Food and Water

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (book) by Eric Schlosser. The strange history of McDonald’s, the stranger life of a french fry, and why you don’t want to work in a slaughterhouse. Investigative journalism at its best. The basis for the young-adult book "Chew on This" by the same author. Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Food, Inc. (documentary) looks at industrial agriculture’s effect on our health and environment.

Food and Water Watch (website) offers coverage of food and water issues, from farmed fish to desalination. www.foodandwaterwatch.org

Food Rights Network (website) has the latest news on food safety issues. www.foodrightsnetwork.org

Last Call at the Oasis (documentary). Look closely at a glass of tap water and you’ll see most of the themes of this book, from side effects to money to government. This film offers a good look at water issues in the United States.

“Power Steer” (article) by Michael Pollan follows one steer from birth to butcher, revealing how much fossil fuel is hidden in industrially produced meat. 

Saving the Ocean (TV show). Population, pollution, overfishing, and climate have all put the oceans in peril. Carl Safina’s show looks at those who are working to protect and restore them. Streams here.

Vanishing of the Bees (documentary) examines collapsing bee colonies through the eyes of two Florida beekeepers, then widens its lens to look at the larger issues of monocultures, pesticides, and politics.


10 Steps to Repair American Democracy (book) by Steven Hill offers concise descriptions of where our system needs work--from expanding voting participation to overhauling the Senate--followed by concrete recommendations and the websites of groups trying to bring them about. Paradigm, 2012.

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia (book) by Candace Fleming paints a powerful portrait of a classic example of vested interests' unchecked power, blindness to reality, and the riveting reckoning.  Schwartz & Wade, 2014.

Gasland and Gasland Part II (documentaries) by Josh Fox cover the health effects of fracking and provide a shocking picture of politicians from President Obama on down protecting the businesses they're supposed to regulate, abandoning the public in the process.  Alarming, enraging, important.  2010 and 2013.

The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times (book) edited by Paul Loeb, gives accounts of movements for change against seemingly invincible forces, through the eyes of Nelson Mandela, Sherman Alexie, and many more. Basic Books, 2014.

Outfoxed (documentary) takes a muckraking look behind the scenes at Fox News Channel, the source of many Americans' political views. Released in 2004 but the techniques it points to are still commonplace.

"The Shocking Move to Criminalize Nonviolent Protest" (TED talk). Why documenting what's going on is vital--and threatened. Streams here

"The United States of ALEC" (TV show episode) by veteran journalist Bill Moyers shows business in the act of writing the laws that regulate it. Streams here.

"Why Ordinary People Need to Understand Power" (TED talk) by Eric Liu encourages us to rediscover our citizenship muscles. Streams here.


The Habitable Planet (website) looks at many sides of population. http://www.learner.org/courses/envsci/

Mother (documentary) ties population to both First World consumption and Third World gender inequalities. Are the power privileges that come with being male the biggest vested interests of all?

“Beyond 7 Billion” (article) is the Los Angeles Times’ first-rate, five-part report on population. Online, with photos and videos, at http://www.latimes.com/world/population/

Problem Solvers

Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming (book) by Paul Hawken. Are the thousands of groups working on environmental and social problems part of a super-organism? A jawdropping annotated catalog. Viking, 2007.

The Long Now Foundation (website) cultivates long-term thinking through streaming lectures and projects as diverse as competitive predicting and the building of a ten thousand–year clock. www.longnow.org.

“The Power of Crowds” (radio show episode) on the TED Radio Hour features innovative use of crowds and computers to share news, build hardware, make music, and create surprise. Streams here.

The Solutions Project (website) shows how the U.S. can transition to 100% renewables by 2050.  Scroll down to the map and check out your state.  The site is the brainchild of Stanford professor Mark Z. Jacobson, whose Scientific American paper showed how the world could do the same. http://thesolutionsproject.org/

Transition United States (website) is the U.S. hub for the international transition movement promoting lower-energy, more self-sufficient communities. www.transitionus.org.

Waste = Food (documentary) profiles William McDonough and Michael Braungart, the American architect and German chemist who founded the cradle-to-cradle movement. Streams here

"Why good hackers make good citizens" (TED talk) by Catherine Bracy shows how Code For America's volunteer programmers create apps and websites that solve problems.  Streams here.

What to Buy

Climate Counts (website) rates companies by their carbon footprints and public support for or against climate legislation. If you’re trying to decide between an HP printer and a Canon, this site is for you. www.climatecounts.org.

Cradle to Cradle (website) certifies products that have been designed to exclude pollution problems throughout their life cycles. http://www.c2ccertified.org.

Environmental Working Group (website) offers safety ratings of personal-care products at its Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep

GoodGuide (website) rates more than 100,000 products by their record on health, environment, and social responsibility. Offers a toolbar that instantly rates products when you’re shopping online, as well as a phone app that lets you get info by scanning a product’s barcode. www.goodguide.com.

The Good Stuff Guide (website) offers environmental information from the Worldwatch Institute on common purchases, from computers to chocolate.  Click here.

The Story of Stuff (website) has animated films and print information on electronics, bottled water, cosmetics, and consumption’s connection to politics. www.storyofstuff.com

The True Cost (documentary) gives us a compelling look behind the clothes in our closets and into the lives of the people who make them across the globe.  http://truecostmovie.com/  For a book on the same topic, check out the excellent Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline.  Patagonia has posted a video about its Fair Trade clothing program.  For other companies offering Fair Trade clothes and other products, check out FairTradeUSA.org.

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (documentary) looks at the side effects of the low prices we love.