Published in 2010, this first edition textbook is still a fantastic resource years later. There is a 2014 second edition out there, but I haven’t read that one yet. I picked up this book on a whim at Half Price Books. I highly recommend it as a primer for environmental issues couched in social, political, and economic terms. The authors cover a wide range of topics and do a superb job of explaining the various influences on complex ecological problems.
The book is divided into two main parts. First, they examine common environmental theories and perspectives, such as market-based resource management and population theory. They also discuss environmental ethics (animal rights and industrial agriculture), risk culture in terms of environmental disaster, political economy (capitalism’s role in exploitation of nature), and the social construction of nature. These concepts are all important to understanding global climate challenges.
The second part covers a few major ecological issues including carbon dioxide, trees, wolves, tuna, bottled water, and French fries. These all tie into the theories discussed in the previous section. I’ll use the French fry chapter as an example since without reading the book it might seem a bit out of place or unrelated. The authors use the commodity of French fries to examine issues like industrial agriculture (potato monocrops), risk perception concerning fats and health, globalization and fast food, and the ethics over biotechnology and engineered crops.
If you’re on a budget I would recommend the first edition since you can find pretty cheap copies out there. I would highly suggest checking your local used bookstores to see if any of them have copies – buy used and shop local!
First edition on Amazon (prices range from about $1 to $80 for new hardbacks)
Second edition on Amazon (prices range from $18 to $35)