In seven chapters, each concluding with a brief summary, the authors of Climate Stewardship sample the actions of a number of California-based, mostly civic-sector organizations that are working to address global warming. The book’s time frame is implicitly focused on the second decade of the twenty-first century. Geographically, it covers virtually all parts of California, from urban centers to rural communities, from the coast to the Central Valley, mountains, and deserts. Demographically, the state’s major ethnic groups are duly treated, including Native Americans.

The preface (xiii) states the authors’ thesis: “Collective action, instead of just individual behavior change, is the best way to solve the climate crisis.…[I]nstalling solar at home is a help, but advancing community choice energy options for everyone is a solution.” While not new or groundbreaking, this thesis is congruent with common sense and abundant, scientifically verifiable facts. As the authors warn, despite the advent of electric vehicles and solar panels on homes, the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is now four hundred parts per million and steadily climbing (12). Only scaled-up collective action provides a way forward, given the global scope of the climate peril. The collective action the authors call for will require moving society far beyond the status quo, to unspecified structural changes in the economy that advance environmental justice and sustainable use of natural resources, while “preventing food waste, [fostering] water conservation, and [moving toward] carbon neutrality” (236). Myriad stories about local groups and their leaders, illustrative of collective action, comprise the bulk and heart of the book.

Given the paucity of books on California’s overall history of environmentalism, and even fewer on civic-sector responses to the climate crisis, contextualizing this volume within the historiography of the subject matter is problematic. A substantive assessment of where it fits in that regard will likely have to await the publication of further works in the field. That said, the strengths of Climate Stewardship are manifold. The organization of the work is sensible, the writing is clear and engaging, and the tone throughout is positive, even inspiring. There are no footnotes or endnotes, only unnumbered references under chapter titles at the end. Readers are given a clear sense of how diverse populations in California are taking action in groups to combat what more and more scientists are designating a climate emergency. For instance, the book highlights the leadership of Dora Frietze-Armenta in bringing together a group of mothers in the city of Pacoima, surrounded by freeways, factories, and a garbage dump. Environmental concerns led her to organize Pacoima Beautiful, and as a result two thousand trees were planted in the city, and the state’s cap-and-trade program provided funding for a learning garden, walkable and bikeable streets, the purchase of energy-efficient cars, and more (167–170). Santa Monica’s youth Climate Corps exemplifies how one major city involved young people in addressing global warming. Climate Corps members, informed about municipal and regional programs and resources, engage in actions such as talking to and surveying pedestrians on the city’s Third Street Promenade about what they would be willing to do to reduce their carbon footprint (170–174).

Another of the book’s signal strengths is its treatment of water and persistent droughts (especially that of 2011–2017). Like the other climate-related problems covered in its pages, the aridity problem is conveyed through the experiences of actual people in specific locations, in this case Judith Redmond, a co-owner of Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley, northwest of Sacramento in Yolo County. The authors detail her efforts to conserve water use by building up the farm’s soil with high levels of organic matter and sequestering carbon dioxide while minimally disturbing the soil (64–65).

This reviewer valued the authors’ treatment of “citizen science” (137 and elsewhere). They rightly note that laypersons are needed to observe, measure, and record the impacts of climate change on habitats and numbers of species. The work of the California Academy of Sciences is deservedly credited for its training of citizen scientists, particularly through its innovative City Nature Challenge, a global competition that involves more than two hundred cities, using the iNaturalist phone app to track how “plants, animals, and other organisms” are faring in the changing climate (192).

Woven skillfully into the numerous vignettes are documented climate facts that reveal the scientific ballast underlying the collected stories. For example, in the story about Full Belly Farm, readers learn that nitrous oxide “is 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in its ability to trap heat, and it also depletes the ozone layer.” Moreover, carbon dioxide “accounts for 82 percent of the United States’ current greenhouse gas emissions” (64–65).

On the negative side of the ledger, I spotted some arguably serious omissions. For example, the civic-sector organization Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), headquartered on California’s Coronado Island, is unmentioned. With 596 chapters (141 of them active) in seventy-six countries, it lobbies public officials at all levels of government for passage of a carbon pricing measure in Congress (full disclosure: this reviewer is active in CCL). Also, with respect to oceanic and coastal matters, no mention is made of Susan Jordan’s brilliant leadership of the California Coastal Protection Network, a civic-sector group that tracks and reports on such important matters as seawater desalination plants seeking state licensing or permits, particularly from the California Coastal Commission. Scientists agree that the energy-intensive desalination plants contribute to global warming while causing additional environmental problems.

Having read the book and been inspired by its stories, I’m still not sure about its intended audience. It might be appropriate for an introductory-level college class in environmental studies, provided that the customary pedagogical ancillaries of chapter outlines and test banks are added to the publication package. General readers, particularly those concerned about climate change and looking for ways to be part of the solution, will find much of use in these pages. The blend of accessible science with compelling human stories, focused on the most critical issue of our time, is the salient contribution of this timely book.

Thomas J. Osborne