LA Book Fest Turns Page on Climate Crisis


Authors discuss their environmental books in Los Angeles. Photo by RCruger

"Good to see so many people in LA love books," said a surprised indie publisher from Brooklyn at last week's 14th annual Festival of Books on UCLA's campus, teaming with 140,000 readers. Some waited in line for Cloris Leachman, Michael J. Fox and Tori Spelling to sign their memoirs, to hear Ray Bradbury or Arianna Huffington speak. Of the few dozen panels covering everything from politics to fiction, one filled-to-capacity auditorium focused on the "Climate in Crisis." Jon Weiner of Nation magazine moderated, introducing four authors with new environmental books on cars, smog, environmental philanthropists, and the ecological reasons for world conflicts. A distinct theme emerged from this range of issues."How many drove a hybrid here today?" asked Daniel Sperling, UC David professor at home in the filled-to-capacity classroom auditorium. About a third of the audience raised their hands. Another third arrived by walking, bus or bike. Doubtful the rest of the panels had the same ratios.

Two Billion Cars
Sperling spoke about his book Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability, co-written by Deborah Gordon. A look at the global automobile industry, his number is the projection of how many cars are expected on the roads world-wide before long. Of the several points he emphasized in his presentation, he said an 80 percent reduction in oil consumption is necessary to make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Despite efforts in California policy to reduce car emissions, he felt people must change their purchasing habits.

Smogtown in Smogtown
The idea that a big shift in values and behavior must happen was echoed by the other authors as a requirement to policy changes. Bill Kelly, co-author of Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, described his book as a social history of the battle against air pollution, a beat he's covered — and experienced — as a Los Angeles journalist. Though hopeful about plug-in hybrids, he wonders how consumers will adapt when a recent Gallup poll indicates a downturn in environmental concerns.

Eco-Barons
Next, Ed Humes, the Pulitzer-prize winning author of Mississippi Mud, has written Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving the Planet. He spoke of the wealthy tycoons dedicating their life, work and investments to environmental causes, business folks from Esprit to Burt's Bees, the Center for Biological Diversity and a Florida schoolteacher who saved sea turtles from extinction. His upbeat view of how to solve a "natural holocaust," also states we don't need more laws, just the vigorous enforcement of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

Amazon, Arctic, Darfur and Napa Valley
Stephan Faris, a correspondent for Time, Fortune, and Salon, who wrote Forecast: The Consequences of Climate Change, from the Amazon to the Arctic, from Darfur to Napa Valley, addressed land use and how global warming is responsible for drought, water issues, malaria spreading, health, and immigration pressures around the world. "Not changing has a cost that moves us into a different and unpredictable world," he said.


Street poet at LA's book fest ponders question posed by John Felstiner's book, "Can Poetry Save the Earth, A Field Guide to Nature Poems?" Photo by RCruger

Among the sharp Q&As; from the audience, someone asked about the consistency of "values" with the sustainability of the event: though recycle bins accompanied trash barrels throughout campus, she pointed out the stacks of bottled water sitting behind the speakers and the single bottle in front of each of them. The chagrined speakers nodded in agreement.

An environmental theme crossed several panels through the weekend, including the Brooklyn publisher of Akashic Books, dedicated to reversing literary gentrification, who said electronic book readers like Kindle were inevitable. Though he preferred physical books, he understood that limited quantities of paper products, including magazines and newspapers (like festival sponsor, the Los Angeles Times), would save natural resources.

More on environmental books:
Book Review: The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones
Book Industry Turns Over a New Leaf
Library Use is Booming Because of Recession
How to Go Green: Books (for Authors)

Tags: Air Pollution | Books | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Causes | Global Warming Solutions | Transportation