Climate Action

From 'Speed and Scale' to 'Braiding Sweetgrass', these are the 6 books climate leaders want you to read

As the UN Climate Summit COP27 begins this month, here are 6 books recommended by climate leaders such as Jane Goodall, Al Gore and more.

As the UN Climate Summit COP27 begins this month, here are 6 books recommended by climate leaders such as Jane Goodall, Al Gore and more.

Linda Lacina
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  • Meet The Leader is the podcast from the World Economic Forum that features the world’s top changemakers, showcasing the habits and traits effective leaders can’t work without.
  • As the UN Climate Summit COP27 begins this month, here are 6 books recommended by climate leaders such as Jane Goodall, Al Gore and more.

What motivates and inspires the world's top climate leaders? Podcast Meet the Leader talks to leaders driving sustainability solutions in business, government and civil society each week, learning how the world's changemakers are tackling the biggest challenges of our time. Consistently, these leaders are informed, inspired and motivated by special books that have stuck with them, challenged them and given them hope.

6 Books recommended by climate leaders

As the UN Climate Summit COP27 begins this month, we've collected 6 books these founders, CEOs CSOs and more say have shaped them - ones they hope will shape you, too.

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What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

1. Al Gore on 'Speed and Scale' - a book with a plan

Al Gore, the Nobel laureate and former US Vice President, has dedicated decades of his life to public service work. He's also the founder of the Climate Reality Project, using his leadership experience to train tens of thousands in the skills and know-how that climate leaders need now. His book pick, Speed and Scale by John Doerr, presents a plan for cutting emissions by 2050.

climate leaders Former US Vice President climate change activist Al  Meet The Leader podcast.
Former US Vice President and climate leader Al Gore shared his book recommendation 'Speed and Scale' on Meet The Leader podcast. Image: Ben Hider

Al Gore: My good friend John Doerr recently published a brand-new book which takes the goal setting system known as OKRs, which stands for ‘Objectives and Key Results’ and applies it to the climate crisis. The book is called ‘Speed and Scale: An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now’ (Penguin Random House, 2021) and I highly recommended it for anyone, particularly those in the private sector, especially those who are familiar with OKRs, who have set ambitious climate goals for their organization and now need to determine how to implement those goals and do so quickly and effectively. And there's no leader better positioned to guide businesses in this transition than my friend John Doerr. He was a legendary technology investor and expert with this tried and true management method ever since he was a young guy at Intel where he learned it and this book lays out a clear path to success for decarbonizing our economy. ‘Speed and Scale.’

Read the full interview with Al Gore here.

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Have you read?

2. Jane Goodall on 'The Book of Hope: The Survival Guide for Trying Times'

World famous primatologist Jane Goodall released her 22nd book for adults: The Book of Hope: The Survival Guide for Trying Times last fall. We caught up with her on Meet The Leader where she shared what it was like to write this memoir, as well as her one-of-a-kind message of optimism.

climate leaders Jane Goodall world's best-known living naturalist founder of the Jane Goodall Institute
Jane Goodall, world's best-known living naturalist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, says her memoir could offer a special message of hope for readers. Image: World Economic Forum

Jane Goodall: It was a lot, a lot, a lot of work and heart and soul searching. There's the major four reasons for hope. There's one section on each of those. I think they're all important.

And then the final one is my journey, and the question that I was asked: what's your next great adventure? It was before COVID. I had about 5-10,000 people in the audience. And I thought about this question - What's my next adventure? If I'd been asked 20 years ago, I would have said, 'oh, I want to go into some wild forest nobody's explored in Papua New Guinea or something like that. Now that's not for me now. I'm 87.

And so I said 'dying'. And there was a kind of gasp and titter around the room. And I said, well, when you die, you know, there's either nothing, in which case your problems are over, or there's something. I happen to believe that there's something from things that have happened to me, which are explained in this book for people who are interested, and if there is something beyond our physical death, then what adventure can be more exciting than finding out.

Read the full interview with Jane Goodall here.

3. AB InBev's sustainability chief on 'Humankind: A Hopeful History' - a book on kindness

Ezgi Barcenas is Chief Sustainability Officer at the beverage giant AB InBev. She talked to Meet The Leader about how leaders can help teams navigate change for sustainability and her book pick focuses on a trait that can help anyone do just that.

climate leaders AB InBev Chief Sustainability Officer Ezgi Barcenas book recommendation drive collaboration sustainable change
AB InBev Chief Sustainability Officer Ezgi Barcenas shares a book recommendation that can drive collaboration and sustainable change. Image: AB InBev

Ezgi Barcenas: I am, currently reading this book called Humankind: A Hopeful History, by Rutger Bregman. I really think it's a really interesting big book because it argues that humans are wired to be kind. And I'd like to think that, you know, I've got two little kids, a three and a seven-year-old, and I'd like to believe that the natural state of humanity is not selfishness.

It may seem a radical idea, but I think it's quite refreshing to be thinking of humankind as kind. I think there is a lot of power in positive thinking, especially, again, in the state of the world that we live in today. So, I encourage everyone to read and I find it very refreshing so far.

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Read the full interview with Ezgi Barcenas here.

4. Friends of Ocean Action lead on 'Eat like a Fish' - a book on rethinking habits

Kristian Teleki is the executive director of Friends of Ocean Action at the World Economic Forum. His pick helps people connect more to helping the ocean.

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Kristian Teleki: Something I've read in the last few years is a book by a fellow by the name of Bren Smith. It's called Eat like a Fish. And it's an interesting journey of someone who was a diehard fishermen, but he was seeing real changes in front of his own eyes: catching smaller fish, less fish, changes in the ecosystem, Climate change impacting before his eyes.

And he started thinking, what are the ways I could change my behaviour and allow me still to fish, allowing me still to make some money, but it's regenerative to the ocean so I can still take fish out, but I rethink the way I'm doing it and so that my activities are actually regenerative to the ecosystem that I have an influence on. And so he's fishing one particular time of the year. He's fishing kelp, harvesting kelp from the water. He's harvesting shells that now, oysters, mussels, not relying on a single target species, but different types through the year, you know, making sure that that he's taking different types out.

And when you think about, if we would be able to scale it, we at the moment globally are eating about 2,500 species coming from the ocean. Not everybody's doing that, of course, but it's enormous potential there. From land we're probably deriving our protein from four sources, you know, huge carbon-intensive sources.

So the good news is if you look at this book and the messages that are coming out of this Eat Like a Fish book, with very little effort and energy we could transform the food that's coming from the ocean, blue food, and that we could probably get about six times more food from the ocean than we do today, sustainable feeding a lot of people going forward. So read that book and perhaps rethink about how we farm from the ocean.

5. World Green Building Council CEO on 'Letting Go' - a book for connecting

Cristina Gamboa is the CEO of the World Green Building Council, a network of councils in more than 70 countries, decarbonizing the built environment and working to make a quality, sustainable space available to anyone. I spoke with her at the Annual Meeting in Davos in May, and she shared a book that helps her connect with what's most important.

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Cristina Gamboa: I'm a committed yoga practicer, linked with a tradition in India. And one practical book that I love is, Letting Go by David Hawkins. And it's about those practical tools that have helped me to be the best leader I can be, but without losing that connection, that deep connection to that happy place, to that loving place, to that - let's say - non-competitive place.

Because in sustainability, there needs to be, I believe how this will truly progress, is through open solidarity knowledge-sharing. And there's a space for everyone to be successful. There's so many things and great things to be done. And so that book, that book always brings it home and gives me the side to be, let's be positive, clear, simple, humble, acknowledging everyone has a role. I really enjoyed it, and I always go back to its principles.

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6. 'Braiding Sweetgrass' - the book recommended by not one, but two Meet the Leader guests

Two guests on Meet The Leader this year recommended Braiding Sweetgrass this year - both Jane Gilbert, the Chief Heat Officer of Florida's Miami-Dade County, and Kahea Pacheco, the co-executive director of the Women's Earth Alliance. Braiding Sweetgrass is a non-fiction book about the role of indigenous knowledge as an alternative to Western methodologies. Here are both women's perspectives on why it's worth your read.

climate leaders Kahea Pacheco, the co-executive Director of the Women's Earth Alliance
'Braiding Sweetgrass' has been recommended by two climate leaders. In picture: Kahea Pacheco, the co-executive Director of the Women's Earth Alliance Image: World Economic Forum

Kahea Pacheco: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is my all time favourite book. I think it is a tool and an expression of healing, the relationship between people and the Earth. And, at the end of the day, we protect what we love. And that is a love letter to communities on the Earth.

climate leaders books Jane Gilbert Chief Heat Officer Florida's Miami Dade County Braiding Sweetgrass
One of the well known climate leaders and Chief Heat Officer for Florida's Miami Dade County, Jane Gilbert, recommends the book 'Braiding Sweetgrass' Image: Miami Dade County

Jane Gilbert: I just adored that book for reminding us how we are a part of nature and we need to think of ourselves as a part of nature when we're designing anything. It's not going to explain how to design a new storm water and road system. It's definitely not, but it might help bring enough sensitivity about the importance of being one with nature and - that it makes us come up with solutions that are truly sustainable.

This transcript, generated from speech recognition technology, has been edited for web readers, condensed for clarity, and may differ slightly from the audio.

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