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Book Recommendations

Sustain Dane encourages you to support your locally-owned bookstores, especially those that are Dane Buy Local members (see below). You can also support Sustain Dane by purchasing online through the book links on this page. A portion of your purchase total will go back to Sustain Dane.

Dane Buy Local Member Bookstores

Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative

University Bookstore

A Room of One's Own

Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered - E.F. Schumacher

The Burning Question: We Can't Burn Half the World's Oil, Coal, and Gas. So How Do We Quit? - Mike Berners-Lee

Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do - Wallace J. Nichols

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution - Paul Hawken, Amory Lovin, L. Hunter Lovins

The Nature of Investing: Resilient Investment Strategies Through Biomimicry - Katherine Collins

Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society - john a. powell

This Changes Everything: Capitalism v. the Climate - Naomi Klein

The Wisdom of Crowds - James Surowiecki

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States - Albert O. Hirschman

The Collaboration Economy: How to Meet Business, Social, and Environmental Needs and Gain Competitive Advantage - Eric Lowitt

The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World - Ronald A. Heifetz

Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise - Gaylord Nelson

A Sand County Almanac - Aldo Leopold

ReGENERATION:A Manifesto for America's Next Leaders - Rebecca Ryan

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us - Seth Godin

CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies, and T-Shaped People: Inside the World of Design Thinking and How It Can Spark Creativity and Innovation - Warren Berger

Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything - Daniel Goleman

The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability - Paul Hawken

The Sustainability Champion's Guidebook - Bob Willard

 

04/16/2015

 Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered - E.F. Schumacher

This month we are reaching into the vault to review a book that has inspired many to question the conventional economic wisdom that “bigger is better” and look at the human costs of globalization. The Times Literary Supplement ranked Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered among the 100 most influential books published since World War II.  E.F. Schumacher’s riveting, richly researched statement on sustainability has become more relevant and vital with each year since its initial groundbreaking publication during the 1973 energy crisis.  At the intersection of economics, ethics, and environmental awareness, Schumacher brings to light the idea of Buddhist Economics - a better way of doing business.  By applying Buddhist principles to the way an economy operates we could produce an economy designed primarily to meet the needs of people.  Recently UC Berkeley has started teaching Buddhist Economics as an alternative to the standard Econ 101 orthodoxy.  Bonus: the paperback is compact and can easily fit in your back pocket for your next trip to the beach or the park.  Small really is beautiful.  

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03/12/2015

 The Burning Question: We Can't Burn Half the World's Oil, Coal, and Gas. So How Do We Quit? - Mike Berners-Lee

Last month we had the pleasure of attending UW Madison's Office of Sustainability 2015 Forum.  The Forum's theme this year was "Rethinking Our Consumption: Beyond Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" and featured guest speaker Mike Berners-Lee, author of The Burning Question: We Can't Burn Half the World's Oil, Coal, and Gas. So How Do We Quit? - A new book about energy, climate change and what it might take to leave fuel worth trillions of dollars in the ground.  It covers how saving energy is like squeezing a balloon: reductions in one place lead to increases elsewhere.  And also how it is that clean energy sources don't in themselves slow the rate of fossil fuel extraction.  

The simple truth is that tackling global warming will mean persuading the world to abandon oil, coal and gas reserves worth many trillions of dollars – at least until we have the means to put carbon back in the ground. The burning question is whether that can be done. What mix of politics, psychology, economics and technology might be required? Are the energy companies massively overvalued, and how will carbon- cuts affect the global economy? Will we wake up to the threat in time? And who can do what to make it all happen?

Fascinating, candid and wide-ranging, here at last is a book that makes sense of the biggest challenge of the century.


02/12/2015

  Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do - Wallace J. Nichols

As a follow up to our annual Badger Bioneers conference in the fall, we are holding 4 encore screenings of national Bioneer speakers partnering with aligning organizations in the area.  The next screening will be on March 18th from 6:00 - 8:00 PM at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center.  The speaker being screened is Wallace J. Nichols, Marine biologist, activist, community organizer, and author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.  This landmark book looks at the remarkable effects of water on our health and well-being.  The cognitive and emotional benefits of healthy oceans and waterways have been celebrated through art, song, romance and poetry throughout human history.  And his talk titled "I Wish You Water" will dive deeper and explore our blue minds through the dual lenses of evolutionary biology and cognitive science, reminding us that we are water.  We look forward to seeing you there.

 

01/13/2015

  Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovin, L. Hunter Lovins

At the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council Conference last month we were wowed by the the closing keynote speaker - Dr. Jeff Thompson – CEO of Gundersen Health System.  In his talk, he recommended the book Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken, Hunter Lovins and Amory Lovins as the go-to for any sustainable leader.  The book seeks to answer what if we were to value natural and human capital.  By looking at the economic benefits and services provided by natural systems they show that there is no true separation between how we support life economically and ecologically.  And they call their approach natural capitalism because it's based on the principle that business can be good for the environment.  Dr. Thompson and Gundersen Health System have led on this principle showing that not only can they be the first medical facility to be 100 percent energy independent, but how this is connected to the health of their community.     

 

11/25/2014

  The Nature of Investing: Resilient Investment Strategies Through Biomimicry by Katherine Collins

As we close another year of Badger Bioneers, we are offering a final book review from one of the National Bioneers speakers.  This month we are featuring Katherine Collins, founder/CEO of Honeybee Capital with over twenty years’ professional investment experience as a portfolio manager and a head of research at Fidelity Management.  Her book, The Nature of Investing, calls for a transformation of the investment process from the roots up by connecting real-world finance with the field of biomimicry.  Collins' underlying point is that its time for us to refocus investing on its essential, connected form - relational not transactional, regenerative not extractive, optimized, not maximized, resilient not rigid.  Even if we are not high-level financiers, she points out that we are all investors - whether that is our time, energy or money.  So let's take back the investment world from a place of disconnect to one of mutual benefit. 

 

10/20/2014

  Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society by john a. powell

As we are gearing up for our upcoming Badger Bioneers conference, we are highlighting some of the national Bioneers speakers in our book recommendations.  This month we are celebrating the book Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society by john a. powell.  A nationally respected voice on race and ethnicity, powell persuasively argues that we have not achieved a post-racial society and that there is much work to do to redeem the American promise of inclusive democracy.  Until we expand our sense of self, we will be unable to create the racially egalitarian and democratic society to which many progressives aspire.  Not only is race a topic for the national Bioneers crowd, but it also hits home with the Race to Equity report which highlights the disparities in Dane County.  We are looking forward to starting this conversation with the sustainable business community at our SBN Quarterly Breakfast Meeting this Wednesday. 


09/11/2014

   This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

With our registration opening for the 6th Annual Badger Bioneers conference, we are pleased to announce our 2014 Distinguished Speakers and Presenters, schedule and sponsors here.  Badger Bioneers is a  Bioneers Resilient Communities Network Event that follows the National Bioneers Conference held in October.  This month we are featuring the book This Changes Everything: Capitalism v. the Climate by Naomi Klein who will be a keynote presenter at the National Bioneers conference.  The award-winning Canadian journalist, international activist and best-selling author (The Shock Doctrine, No Logo) depicts climate change as more than an "issue.” It’s a civilizational wake-up call delivered in the language of fires, floods, storms and droughts. It demands that we challenge the dominant economic policies of deregulated capitalism and endless resource extraction. Climate change is also the most powerful weapon in the fight for equality and social justice, and real solutions are emerging from the rubble of our failing systems. 

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08/14/2014

 The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

In a tip of the hat to The New Yorker's "The Financial Page" columnist James Surowiecki we are taking a look at his book The Wisdom of Crowds.  This page turner is an accessible introduction to behavioral economics and game theory which supports the counter-intuitive notion that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few.  This simple idea offers important lessons for how we live our lives, run our companies, and think about our world.  Going against the view that experts are the better at producing outcomes than the masses, the book covers examples such as driving in traffic, competing on TV game shows, voting for political candidates and designing Internet search engines like Google.  The next time a complex problem presents itself - try 'crowd sourcing' a solution.  Their wisdom might surprise even the most staunch technocrat!  

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07/15/2014

  Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States by Albert O. Hirschman

When the quality of a product or service breaks down - actors in the market have a choice on how to respond.  Some may choose to exit by, say, purchasing a better product from another company.  Others may choose to voice their concern over the decline in quality to the original company.  Understanding these behaviors is the basis for the book Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations and States.  Written by Albert O. Hirschman over 30 years ago, it remains essential reading for anyone in the changing-the-world business.  Not only do these actions apply to the production side of business, but they also play out on the labor side as well.  Employees who express their concerns in an effort to improve the situation offer a more informative measurement of decline versus quitting outright.  But without these opportunities for feedback, organizations will miss out on valuable lessons for improvement.  

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06/11/2014

 The Collaboration Economy: How to Meet Business, Social, and Environmental Needs and Gain Competitive Advantage by Eric Lowitt

As an everyday consumer, albeit a post-grad frugal one, with a millennial's consternation over current environmental issues, I found The Collaboration Economy to be a compelling analysis of a collaborative business model that creates a competitive advantage and maximizes economic development while simultaneously allowing companies to become environmentally responsible. Lowitt uses case studies of larger companies, like Unilever and GE to show how positive outcomes arise when companies begin to use cross-sector collaboration to internalize their external costs to the environment.
The Collaboration Economy discusses concepts that companies of any type and size can utilize and scale to fit their specific sustainability goals. The Golden Triangle, which Eric Lowitt refers to as the collaboration between public, private, and civil sectors, can solve some of our most vexing environmental and social issues if done strategically and with transparency. As someone who identifies with the civil sector, both as a consumer and a contributor to a nonprofit, as well as with the private sector as a small business owner, I believe there is much to be gained by all from The Collaboration Economy. I was lucky enough to chat with Eric Lowitt, author of The Future of Value and The Collaboration Economy to get his take on cross-sector collaboration and its impact on businesses and the environment. 

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05/09/2014

  The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World by Ronald A. Heifetz

The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World introduces tested techniques for individuals and organizations to implement to ensure leaders are working effectively to create positive change. The thesis of this book hinges on the belief that we currently live in a broken system that can only be truly fixed by challenging the status quo and taking risks in order to create a more whole society. Unlike other books trying to tackle a systemic leadership approach, Heifetz et al. explore a broader lens to provoke lasting change that emphasizes the need for reflection and mobilization of both individual and systemic elements. They put forth that we can only achieve effective leadership when both the person and organization are motivated to do so. This book finds a nice balance between a theoretical framework on leadership and interactive experiments we can all try in our own lives and workplaces. In this way, through this book, we can all discover the tactics that work best in our own spheres of influence.

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04/09/2014

   Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise by Gaylord Nelson

In honor of Earth Day, we are revisiting Gaylord Nelson's book Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise.  Written three decades after the first Earth Day, the former United States Senator and governor of Wisconsin provides his observations of the renewed and increasingly dire environmental threats that we face.  He details the planet's most critical concerns - from species and habitat losses to global climate change and population growth.  In an eloquent yet urgent message he calls for the need for more environmental education and citizen action.  And he pulls no punches with this read which offers quotes that seem apropos today.  "It is time for the president and Congress to reach an agreement that sustainability is the challenge of our time and design a plan of action for the future... There is no room, nor time, for partisanship."  His wisdom and words are needed now more than ever. 

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 03/07/2014

  A Sand County Almanac (Outdoor Essays & Reflections) by Aldo Leopold

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the publication of A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. (Coincidentally, it was published the same year that Leopold himself would have been 65.) This humble book, much of it written near Baraboo, is now a classic and so ubiquitous that it's possible to take its core message for granted and overlook its relevancy: treat the land, indeed all of nature, with love and respect, be a "citizen of the land-community." Could Leopold have imagined the impact his Almanac would have 65 years after its printing? There's hardly a member of the sustainability movement who hasn't been influenced by his observations and philosophy. Janine Benyus, co-founder of the Biomimicry Guild, echoes Leopold's "Land Ethic," the final and perhaps most recognized essay of A Sand County Almanac, in her 2013 Bioneers talk, saying, "I honestly believe that learning from [the diversity of life forms], instead of just about them, increases our reverence, and reverence leads to right behavior. It's the only thing that does." Leopold's writings remind us that we are part of a community of interdependent parts, and through that recognition we held in reverence and prompted by our ethics to cooperate with each other for the mutual benefit of all. 

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 01/28/2014

Regeneration: A Manifesto for America's Next Leaders by Rebecca Ryan

To every thing there is a season. In her most recent book, ReGENERATION: A Manifesto for America's Next Leaders, Rebecca Ryan explores the seasons of America. She writes, "America started during a winter period (the American Revolution), and our country has completed three entire spring-summer-fall-winter cycles in the last 200-plus years. We are in our fourth winter now."  What does it mean to be in winter? It means that our country is in a period of resetting, hibernating, and regeneration. It means we are dealing with the repercussions of the real estate bubble, the recession, and war. It's a tough time for us, but the good news is that spring follow winter; in nature and in history. Now is the time that we can lay the groundwork for our spring. What sort of society to we want to live in? Ryan calls on us to reimagine and redesign a country that works better for more people.

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 12/10/2013

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

Hot on the heels of Badger Bioneers, we are more curious than ever about how people work best together and what it takes to successfully lead for change. In his nearly pocket-sized book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead UsSeth Godin makes the claim that leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to [effectively] lead. He goes on to explain at another point in the book that the only thing holding you back from becoming the kind of person who leads for change is lack of faith that you can do it, that it's worth doing, and that failure won't destroy you. While easy to read, this gem of a book is filled with substantive ideas and challenges that make us stop and reflect. We believe in the need for change, we believe in the ability to change, and we believe that any one of us can lead that change.

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 10/10/2013

   CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies, and T-Shaped People: Inside the World of Design Thinking and How It Can Spark Creativity and Innovation by Warren Berger

The book CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies, and T-Shaped People, by Warren Berger, directly inspired one of our two themes for this year's Badger Bioneers Conference: Design Thinking. It turns out that design thinking has a lot in common with systems thinking, which we are constantly touting as a necessary approach to sustainability. In design thinking no question is too small or too simple when troubleshooting, creating, and innovating. The approach of design thinking begs the question of how to think more creatively and open up to new possibilities in our lives. And really, isn't this what we need if we are to create a more sustainable society? The book offers fascinating and inspiring examples of people solving truly tough problems with an optimistic outlook...if you don't read it and walk away thinking "we can do this!", we'll offer your money back.

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09/04/2013

 Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything by Daniel Goleman

Ecological Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, challenges us to examine what we think of as “green.” How can we move beyond the marketing to the actual, yet often hidden, impacts of what we create, buy, and sell? As producers and consumers, we have a tremendous amount of power, yet we rarely leverage this power intentionally for far-reaching sustainability. By educating ourselves about this complex web of hidden impacts, we gain the ability to leverage our power to create a more sustainable and regenerative future, rather than one in which environmental and social devastation are the norm.

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 08/07/2013

The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability (Collins Business Essentials) by Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken is perhaps one of our favorite Bioneers here at Sustain Dane (I dare you to watch his 2006 and 2012 keynotes from the national conference and not get chills). He is a well-known sustainability thought leader and author, and founded the Natural Capital Institute, as well as Smith & Hawken (among other organizations). Lately we are particularly keen on his 1993 book, The Ecology of Commerce (Jessie even has a signed copy of it!). Although this year marks its 20th anniversary, the book remains highly relevant. Hawken asks the question: can we create profitable, expandable companies that do not destroy, directly or indirectly, the world around them? His answer is an emphatic, Yes! But it will require a reinvention of business. In the author's own words, "If this book has one main purpose, it is to imagine and describe the ways business can act that are restorative to society and the environment. Restoration is not a business term. But then, neither is degradation." This is certainly a book that anyone working on sustainable business ought to have on their shelf.

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06/26/2013

 

  The Sustainability Champion's Guidebook: How to Transform Your Company by Bob Willard

Books can offer us new ways of seeing the world, new tools, and new insights. We talk a lot about books here at the Sustain Dane office and we'd like to share some of our favorites (both old and new) with you. One that we return to again and again is The Sustainability Champion's Guidebook: How to Transform Your Company, by Bob Willard. It is practical, easy to follow, and has lots of charts for those of us with a visual bent. Not only will you find useful tools and good advice in this book, you will also encounter sage wisdom ("go slow to go fast", or "go small to go big"). But don't take our word for it...

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