Sustainable UCL


Making the Most of Working From Home

20 March 2020

Our libraries may be closed but there is a world of accessible literature via UCL Explore. From the wonders of nature to works on racial and environmental justice, books allow us to explore many aspects of the environment even if we are indoors.

Photo of a stack of books and potted plants

David Attenborough’s autobiography, Adventures of a Young Naturalist (2017 [1980]), whisks us away to foreign lands, much like his many documentaries, popular with audiences across the world. UCL’s very own Professor Jean-Baptiste Gouyon reveals the power of Attenborough’s ability to raise awareness and support for the natural world in his BBC Wildlife Documentaries in the Age of Attenborough (Gouyon, 2019).

An appreciation for the wonders of nature can also be found in George Monbiot’s Feral (2013) as he casts the British landscape in a whole different light, describing an age of elephants, hippos and lions that once wandered these lands. If you’re unfamiliar with the topic of ‘Rewilding’, or want to know a little more before committing to the book, Monbiot (2014) wrote a handy, abbreviated version for The Architectural Review. Have a read, and if safe and feasible for yourself to do so, head to the park and look out for ‘the mark of these animals […] in every park and avenue and leafy street’ (2014: 18). 

If you are interested in different cultural understandings of the outdoors, consider reading Carolyn Finney’s Black Faces White Spaces (2014). Complicating romanticised visions of green spaces, Finney’s study investigates how the natural world has been understood and represented by both white and black Americans, and why African Americans are underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism.

If you want to brush up on your knowledge of the environmental movement, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1983 [1962]), credited with stimulating the movement in the 1960s, is a good place to start.

Andrew Dobson (1998) is a prolific writer on environmental politics. In Justice and the Environment, he explores the movements spawned from the pursuits for social justice and environmental sustainability and analyses how they are not always compatible. In Toxic Communities, Dorceta Taylor (2014) examines the relationship between social and environmental justice in the context of industrial pollution. The book highlights the environmental racism that is manifest in the way in which environmental hazards disproportionally affect poor and marginalised communities. For a historic perspective on environmental and racial injustice, read the article “Colonialism: The hidden cause of our environmental crisis”,  which describes the link between the colonialism of the past, and the environmental problems we are facing at present. Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz (2017) explore this topic further in their book The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History and Us

These are just a few suggestions of how to avert our eyes from the screen which can be carbon intensive and mentally draining. If you liked what you read, consider sharing what you've learned with friends, family, or neighbours: they might appreciate hearing the latest thing you’ve read.


Attenborough, D. 2017 [1980]. Adventures of a Young Naturalist. London: Two Roads.

Carson, R. 1983 [1962]. Silent Spring. London: Penguin Books.

Dobson, A. 1998. Justice and the Environment: Conceptions of Environmental Sustainability and Theories of Distributive Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gouyon, J-B. 2019. BBC Wildlife Documentaries in the Age of Attenborough. London: Palgrave.

Monbiot, G. 2013. Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life. London: Penguin.

Monbiot, G. 2014. Walk on the Wild Side. The Architectural Review. 235: 1403. pp.18-19.