Recommended Reading

This portion of my Lifestreaming Portal shares with you the best books, articles, and videos I have been reading or listening to which relate to the four Calit2 Next Decade Application Arenas: Energy, Environment, Health, and Culture. My goal is to periodically refresh this list on the home page and to include here the complete set of recommendations which will accumulate over time.

If you would like to jump to one of the four major Application areas, use the links to the right.


These are books which have helped educate me on key issues. If you click on the title you will be able to read a brief description from the publisher and below that is a link to the Amazon page where you can purchase the book.

Abrupt Climate Change : Inevitable Surprises (2002)
Committee on Abrupt Climate Change, National Research Council

Larry's comment: The authoritative National Research Council compilation of data and research on the sudden changes which frequently occur in the Earth's climate history. Learn how unusually stable the climate of the last 10,000 years have been, during which our civilizations emerged and human population increased enormously, compared with the devastating abrupt changes which might be in store for us in the future. Much scientific progress has been made during the intervening 8 years on this topic, which I will be covering in my suggested research article section.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
Energy Technology Perspectives 2008: Scenarios and Strategies to 2050 (2008)
by the International Energy Agency

Larry's comment: This cogent summary of the full 650 page report provides an authoritative view of how hard it will be to reduce carbon emissions fast enough over the next few decades. The report has two scenarios: the first ACT scenario projects increases in global carbon emissions with a peak ~2025 and reduction back to today's levels by 2050. Although this will be very challenging and cost some $17 Trillion, it isn't radical enough to keep the resulting global temperature rise below 2 degrees Centigrade. The IEA analysis suggests to do that requires a much more ambitious set of actions, captured in their BLUE scenario. Here, CO2 emissions peak in 2012 and are reduced to 50% below today's level by 2050. Not only will this cost much more, but the IEA concludes: "While the ACT scenarios are demanding, the BLUE scenarios require urgent implementation of unprecedented and far-reaching new policies in the energy sector." The study then breaks out what is needed by sector. For those who think we can afford to wait any longer for dramatic change in the energy sector, I urge you to read this report.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.25
Food Rules: An Eater's Manual (2009)
Michael Pollan

Larry's comment: Another useful book by Pollan, one of the leaders in the movement on how best to grow and consume nutritious food.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (2009)
Thomas R. Karl, Jerry M. Melillo, and Thomas C. Peterson, (eds.).

Larry's comment: This is a comprehensive guide to the latest scientific results on how global climatic disruption will impact regions of the United States with a treasure trove of graphs and images. This is the official U.S. Government view prepared by the cross-Federal Agency U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain (2006)
Chris Stringer

Larry's comment: This is a comprehensive story of how the dramatically changing Earth climate has determined the human occupancy of the British Isles over the last 700,000 years. Chris Stringer, Britain's foremost expert on human origins and director of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, explains in detail how the archaeological and climate sciences can be woven together to reveal a detailed history of which species of humans and animals were able to live in Britain as ice ages came and went. Amazingly, Britain was repeatedly swept clean of humans by the advancing ice and when it was repopulated as the ice retreated often it was with a new species of human. This is one of the most remarkable accounts I have read of how intimately human culture is connected to climatic disruption. Yet these huge climate changes were associated with carbon dioxide levels oscillating between only ~170 to 300ppm. Today's industrialization has raised the CO2 levels to ~390ppm, a level higher than any experienced by humans over the last 700,000 years and if business as usual continues, the CO2 level will reach ~900ppm by 2100. As Stringer notes, the implications are profound . 'We have been truly fortunate to enjoy one of the most stable periods of climate during the last 11,000 years. ..[However], we can predict that the present stability will end very soon. The history of Britain and Europe over the last 700,000 years is littered with rapid and severe climatic changes, when apparently settled plant, animal and human communities were swept away in periods as short as ten years…'

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.06.09
Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution-and How It Can Renew America (2008)
Thomas Friedman

Larry's comment: This book is the essential reading on how a convergence of three historic global changes (lifting large populations out of poverty, the coming fifty percent increase in human population, and the internet's radical "flattening" of the Earth) have led to a climate crisis so vast that meeting it will be "the biggest single peacetime project humankind will have ever undertaken." Regardless of your take on the reality of future human-enduced climate change, you will find his economic arguments compelling for the U.S. to lead the planet in a Green technology revolution.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
Odyssey in Climate Modeling, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents (2006)
by Warren Washington, edited by Mary C. Washington

Larry's comment: An inspiring book on personal struggle and public service by one of the leading climate scientists in the U.S. I was privileged to work with Warren over twenty years ago when our graphics group at NCSA created a scientific visualization of the earth's warming response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
Our Changing Climate: Assessing the Risks to California (2006)
A Summary Report from the California Climate Change Center

Larry's comment: The authoritative scientific report on how regional climate change will unfold across California over the next forty years. Water availability and growing intensity and frequency of wildfires are major results. Also temperature increases over inland California where much of the population growth will occur. This is the first of these reports which will come out every two years. Dan Cayan at UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography is one of the leaders of the effort. Highly recommended.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.04
Rainbow's End (2006)
by Vernor Vinge

Larry's comment: Our local (SDSU) Hugo Award winning science fiction author has given us a very insightful and readable views of the near future. Through the characters we see how society changes in the mixed virtual/physical space of wearable Internet interfaces, augmented reality, and the emerging superhuman intelligence. He mixes in major transformations of medicine and longevity science, with a plot centered in San Diego and UCSD. Great mind food!

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.04
SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age
Report by The Climate Group on behalf of the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI)

Larry's comment: Required reading for anyone interested in how Green IT and Telecom can play a leading role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the near future. A comprehensive global analysis of both the life cycle emissions as well as those from operating and cooling our Internet infrastructure (including wireless and smart phones), our rapidly growing server complex, and our PCs and peripherals. Even though the ICT industry represents 2-3% of total GHG emissions today, it is growing at 6% annually. By 2020, nearly 60% of the ICT emissions will be caused by the 4 billion laptops and their peripherals. The report shows we must have a global response, since by 2020 the U.S. and Canada will account for only 14% of the ICT related emissions. Most hopefully, the report shows that extending the Internet throughout the physical world (smart buildings, intelligent transportion, logistical chains, etc.) could save up to five times the emissions from the whole ICT industry!

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.04
Sustainable Energy-without the hot air (2009)
David JC MacKay

Larry's comment: Anyone who is serious about alternative energy scaling up should read this book. In a delightful mix of deep engineering analysis with sociopolitical reality, MacKay takes us through every conceivable alternative energy source and shows what can realistically be achieved and on what timescale. His quantitative approach will shatter some of your preconceptions, but leave you will a much more solid grounding on the road ahead.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.04
The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest (2009)
by Dan Buettner

Larry's comment: The rapidly growing field of research on successful aging takes an anthropological twist. This book describes the lifestyles of those who live, with high quality of life, well beyond 100 in four "Blue Zones" located in Sardinia, Okinawa, California, and Costa Rica. Besides the expected factors of diet and exercise, Buettner shows that social networks, family ties, and spirituality are key factors. He reduces what he has observed into nine sensible strategies, which are quite similar to other books I will describe here. It would seem that a fairly solid basis for healthy living is emerging from many different directions of research.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.25
The Complete Ice Age: How Climate Change Shaped the World (2009)
edited by Brian Fagan

Larry's comment: It is important to remember that humans have lived through changes in the Earth's climate much more dramatic than anything humans have experienced in recent times, however they did so with vastly smaller populations to support. This is a beautiful book, edited by one of my favorite climate authors, which gives easily accessible stories and pictures of our species hardships dealing with a dynamic climate. It has helped me understand better what may be in store for us...

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.02.08
The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science (2009)
by I. Allison, et al.

Larry's comment: The last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out in 2007 and since it is a consensus review of previously published papers, it is a number of years out-of-date. Since there are a great number of peer reviewed articles published on climate per year, a lot of new information is available now that wasn't able to be included in the 2007 IPCC. This valuable update reviews the new information and was prepared by an international set of experienced researchers, including UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Richard Somerville. Their summary of the recent scientific findings include: rapid melting of the Arctic summer ice, acceleration of melting of Greenland, Antarctic, and Himalayan ice sheets, faster sea level rise than expected, and increase in severe weather events. As others are finding, unless carbon emissions peak by 2020 and decline rapidly, it is unlikely global warming can be held below 2 degrees Centigrade. The report concludes with a valuable set of up-to-date references.

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.25
The Program: The Brain-Smart Approach to the Healthiest You (2009)
by Kelly Traver and Betty Kelly Sargent

Larry's comment: Kelly Traver, who is on the Board of the Institute of the Future with me, distills her experience as a doctor into an easy-to-understand and follow 12 week program for increasing your health. Her conclusions are similar to other books I will review here: eat less, eat high quality real food, exercise regularly, get sufficient sleep, and manage stress. What makes her book different is the first section describing the results of the last few decades of brain research, which give us insights into how we can modify our behavior in a sustainable fashion. She then applies these neuroscience insights in her 12 week program. Note the focus is NOT on losing weight or dieting, but rather on becoming a healthier person. If you do that your body naturally adjusts itself to a weight, which is likely lower than your current weight, unless you are already following these suggestions. Kelly also describes how her Program, adopted by Stanford University and Google, can promote successful aging, while helping to prevent or reduce the impact of a wide range of chronic diseases. If you have been having problems following diet books, give this one a read!

Read Type: Book. created on 2010.03.25