Library - Food & Water Security

Directly linked to the program area of Environmental Justice is this one, which refers to threats to the supply of safe food and water to those most in need of it. It is also directly linked to the program area of Wealth and Way of Life.

A glaring example of the radical disparity between the few enjoying increasing abundance and the many being driven deeper into privation is the gulf between those who do and do not have enough healthy food to eat or safe water to drink. In some American cities, this inequity is no less stark than it is between the wealthy and developing countries of the World.

At the global level, this environmental challenge has to aspects. The first is developing production and distribution systems to ensure that basic needs of the World’s populations are met. And the second is the sheer size of that population. In recent decades, the topic of controlling population size has descended into acrimonious mutual accusations between rich and poor nations, with the former accusing the latter of causing the problem, while poor ones accuse the rich of creating the privation and lack of opportunity that led to higher birth rates in the first place.

The Buddha’s teachings on skillful speech and generosity may be useful in moving beyond this impasse. For many years, the debate between wealthy and developing nations over who was responsible for climate change and who should therefore shoulder the burden for its slowing and reversal foundered on this same dynamic. But just as the nations of the World seem to be gradually be moving beyond this phase, as the effects of climate change become more immediate and more threatening, so too might we also move to a more constructive discourse on how to keep human population size in some sort of balance with the carrying capacity of the Earth.




Allen, Will. The Good Food Revolution. Gotham/Penguin, 2012.

Part inspiring memoir, part manifesto for getting projects like ‘Growing Power’, a community initiative the author started in Milwaukee, off the ground to move from a ‘food desert’ to a food oasis, bringing people together to improve health at every level of the journey–Allen has been very influential in many urban contexts around the country, including Denver’s permaculture community.


Chiras, Dan & Wann, Dave. Superbia: 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods. New Society Publishers, 2003.

These Colorado authors give abundant real-life examples of how even suburban neighborhoods can blossom into vibrant communities that are more connected with nature, other people, and can greatly reduce carbon footprints by retrofitting energy systems and sharing resources both more efficiently and equitably, having fun in the process.


Hauter, Wenona.  Foodopoly. New Press, 2012.

By the director of Food and Water Watch, this book traces the history of how we have arrived at a precarious juncture in our globalized food system and suggests policy changes that are needed to prevent dire consequences for our planet’s long-term food security. Fascinating and informative.


Hopkins, Rob.  The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience. Green Books Ltd., 2008.

A guidebook for groups who want to get serious about transitioning and reskilling for a less fossil-fuel-dependent lifestyle as individuals and communities.  Already considered a classic for folks concerned about sustainability who want to move beyond individual to community change, this book is loaded with guidance for building community strengthening resilience and creativity to meet the challenges ahead.


Lappe, Frances Moore & Anna. Hope’s Edge:The Next Diet For a Small Planet. Penguin/Putnam, 2002.

This mother/daughter team travels the globe to profile people and projects that are making a positive difference in sustainable practices in food production and distribution…loaded with insights and inspiration…and even some great recipes!


McKibben, Bill. Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist. Times Bokks/Henry Holt 2013.

No bibliography dealing with environmental issues would be complete without Bill McKibben.  Some may find his approach strident, but this book in particular reveals how the author found himself becoming more attuned with the natural environment by observing the lives of honeybees and playing his part in the building of a social movement to halt the Keystone XL pipeline, a David vs Goliath proportioned contest that plays out to this day. An instructive journey for anyone who wants to take action to co-create a more sustainable society.


Nabhan, Gary Paul. Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land. Chelsea Green, 2013.

Nabhan’s hands-on guide for people living in drier climates is a rich compendium of ideas on how to bolster food security, reduce erosion, increase moisture-holding capacity and cope with the new vagaries of climate in ways that help reduce heat stress and adapt resilient farming practices to our own backyards.


Patel, Raj. Stuffed & Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Melville House, 2007.

Packed with insights and historical information that illuminates why our globalized food system results in more hunger as well as obeisity than ever before, this riveting look at food justice issues reveals not just the tragedy of Big Ag’s heavy carbon footprint and toll on human health, but explores how communities large and small are building more sustainable, resilient ways to feed humanity.


Prud’homme, Alex. The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the 21st Century. Scribner, 2011.

Prud’homme’s investigative reporting on the subject of water makes clear the threats to its quality and security for humanity, and how important serious regulations to protect/conserve water are for the long haul at both macro- and micro-levels.


Strauss, Rochelle. One Well: The Story of Water on Earth. Kids Can Press, 2007. (Childrens’ picturebook)

This beautifully illustrated book (illus. by Rosemary Woods) shows kids how important water is for life on Earth and initiates them to the ideas of environmental justice, water conservation and protection, inspiring them to develop mindfulness and care about this miraculous substance we all need.


Tremayne, Wendy Jehanara.  The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living. Storey Publishing, 2013.

DIY tips on how to make biodeisel, papercrete, photovoltaic solar systems, nut milks, fermented foods and much more that can help you live a less consumptive lifestyle, develop community and feel good about reducing your carbon footprint by a creative outside-the-box thinker with loads of heart.





Blue Gold, (Sam Bozzo, 2008) with much of the same material that’s in Maude Barlow’s (excellent) book of the same name, this film is a valuable wakeup call to the state of the world’s fresh water and the contest between indigenous or earth-conscious vs corporate perspectives on how best to deal with how humanity uses/treats/views this incredibly important ‘resource’.


The Future of Food, (Debora Koon, 2004) looks into genetically engineered foods and the dangers of a globalized, monetized food system that gives more weight to patents and profits than it does to human or environmental health… The section about Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeizer’s experience being sued by Monsanto when their patented seed ends up in his fields by accident is not to be missed. Shows people reclaiming their food sovereignty in a variety of ways.


The Global Gardener, (Julian Russell, 1991) 

Comprised of 4 segments from a popular Australian public tv program hosted by Bill Mollison, who, along with David Homgren, coined the term, “permaculture” decades ago…. each segment (1.”In the Tropics”, 2. “Dry Lands”, 3. “Cool Climates” and 4.”Urban”) profiles techniques/philosophies/practices showing how people around the globe are working to correct the mistakes of the ‘green revolution’ to grow food more sustainably.


The Power of Community:How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, (Faith Morgan, 2006)

Cuba’s ‘Special Period’ was a time of tremendous hardship having an embargo on imports that forced the island nation to draw upon inner resources to survive.  An instructive look at what was entailed to go from a fossil-fuel dependent agriculture to one that of necessity sprang up from the grassroots, there is much to be learned from Cuba’s experience here.