A guide to Environmental Reading.

Malka Doshi

April 15, 2020

Reading is a hobby that has been with me since I was child. Books have helped me understand the world around me, opened up worlds and viewpoints that I didn’t necessarily have access to, and expanded my worldview.

Books can serve two diametrically opposite functions, they can smack you in the face with reality of our times, and also provide an escape from the reality of our times.

Art has always been a mirror to society and its perils, and climate change is the paramount issue of our times, a lot of books have been written that explicitly, or tangentially focus on this.

For Our Youngest Readers

Climate change is especially perilous to the younger generations as they are likely to be facing the most harrowing consequences of the current climate crisis. The following books will gently introduce them to the climate issues plaguing us.

The Lonely Polar Bear – Khoa Lee

Beautifully illustrated, this book tells the story of a polar bear who wakes up alone after a storm and then embarks upon an adventure, and the friends he meets on his way to witness the polar sky. It is a gentle introduction for kids on the issues of global warming & arctic ice!

George Saves the World at Lunchtime – Jo Readman (Story), Ley Honor Roberts (Illustrations)

The next two books serve as a great pair, introducing the concepts of recycling & composting in a manner that makes it accessible to the youngest readers. In GSTWAL, the eponymous George, who is determined to save the world, enlists help from his grandpa to recycle. The book gently touched up the principles of recycling, and also subtly makes a point about our consumption practices.

Compost Stew – Mary McKenna Siddals (Story), Ashley Wolff (Illustrator)

Compost Stew, on the other hand is a child friendly guide for composting. It serves as an essential guide to introduce kids to the world of composting, and develop an understanding of the associated processes , need & importance of the practice. Together, both these books can serve as a great resource for normalizing the concept of waste management.

Follow the moon home – Philippe Cousteau, Deborah Hopkinson (Story), Meilo So (Illustrations)

Follow the moon home tells the story of Vivienne, a girl who had just moved to South Carolina and did not have any friends. One day on the beach, her classmate shows her a dead baby loggerhead turtle, and then begins her and her classmates’ journey of helping out the turtles, and themselves. The book introduces humanity and its interactions with nature, and also places an emphasis on community involvement, action & making friends.

Bee and Me – Alison Jay (Story & Illustration)

A lot has been said about the bee, its role in the environment, and how its endangerment is to our existence. Bee & Me follows a little girl who befriends a bee, which then takes her on a journey of discovery and to an action each child can take to aid in conservation.

Greta’s Story – Valentina Camerini

If there is a conversation to be had about current climate activism, it would be impossible to not mention Greta.. This book, as the title suggests, tells her story, and serves as an inspiring, rousing call to action..

Fiction Reading

The Overstory – Richard Powers

The Overstory tells the story of 9 Americans whose individual encounters with trees & have brought them together to fight for the destruction of forests. The novel is confronting, yet optimistic & comments on mankind’s dependance, and subsequently separation from nature.

The History of Bees (Klimakvartetten #1) – Maja Lunde

Again, I can’t talk about the climate crisis without bringing up the bees. In the history of bees, Norwegian author Maja Lunde tells the story of three beekeepers – Past, Present and Future – and their relationship with the bees set against the backdrop of a global environmental crisis. It is about our relationships, with ourselves, our families & the nature around us.

Flight Behavior – Barbara Kingsolver

The issue of climate change permeates every aspect of flight behavior. The book follows Dellarobia Turnbow, a farm wife who gave up her goals when she got pregnant at 17. When she discovers a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire, scientists, religious leaders are brought into the fray to make sense of the happening, Dellarobia at the centre of it. Climate change hangs over the proceeding, and the book works as an examination of our response to the issue, and a cautionary tale.

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is, for all intents and purposes, a love story. It is also a distressing vision of the future. After mankind is overwhelmed by a plague and is struggling to survive, Snowman, formerly known as Jimmy, is struggling to survive. He may be the last person alive and is bereaved by the loss of his best friend crake, and the ephemeral oryx, whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood realizes a distant future that is an upsetting dystopia, albeit one that feels all too familiar and possible.

The Water Knife – Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water Knife is a science fiction novel by Paolo Bacigalupi, based on his short story, The Tamarisk Hunters, which was first published in the environmental journal High Country News. Set in the near future, the American Southwest has been ravaged by drought, due to the debilitating effects of climate change. The Colorado River and its tributaries, which are an essential source of water for the region, has decreased to a mere trickle. Angel Velasquez, a detective, assassin and spy “cuts” water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, controlled by his boss Catherine Case. Angel’s job, as a “water knife”, is to infiltrate and sabotage the water supplies of competing states, and to make sure that Case can keep her luxuriant arcology developments thriving in Las Vegas. Case wants to ensure that the rich stay wet, while the poor get nothing but dust.

Memory of Water – Emmi Itäranta

Global warming has changed the world’s geography and its politics. Wars are waged over water, and China rules Europe, including the Scandinavian Union, which is occupied by the power state of New Qian. In this far north place, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio is learning to become a tea master like her father, a position that holds great responsibility and great secrets. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that Noria’s father tends, which once provided water for her whole village. But secrets do not stay hidden forever, and after her father’s death, the army starts watching their town-and Noria. And as water becomes even scarcer, Noria must choose between safety and striking out, between knowledge and kinship. Memory of water portrays a future that is far too familiar for comfort.

Non – Fiction Reading

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was a mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams. With a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forge an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate – Naomi Klein

The root of almost every environmental concern can be traced back to capitalism. In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein lays bare how greed and capitalist interests have shrouded the truth regarding climate change, and how an addiction to profit has essentially driven us to the precipice we are at.

How to give up plastic – Will Mccallum

Plastic is increasingly becoming the bane of our existence. If you have ever attempted to get rid of plastic from your life, will you realize how much it has permeated the world. How to Give Up Plastic is a straightforward guide to eliminating plastic from your life. Going room by room through your home and workplace, Greenpeace activist Will McCallum teaches you how to spot disposable plastic items and find plastic-free, sustainable alternatives to each one. If you have ever tried to give up plastic but were overwhelmed, this should be your next read.

This is not a drill – Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion (abbreviated as XR) is a global environmental movement with the stated aim of using nonviolent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse. This is not a drill aims at arming its readers with facts, stories and guiding them to be an activist.

Chesapeake Requiem – Earl Swift

Chesapeake Requiem follows Ear Swift as he spends 2 years with the locals of the Tangier Island. Tangier is home to 470 people, and the source of the rightly prized Chesapeake Bay blue crab, and has lent the island its claim to fame as the softshell crab capital of the world. However, rising seas have spelled doom for the island, as it loses 15 feet of shoreline every year, and is bound to be one of the first US city to succumb to climate change. Chesapeake Requiem is an intimate look at the island’s past, present, and tenuous future, by an acclaimed journalist who spent much of the past two years living among Tangier’s people, crabbing and oystering with its watermen, and observing its long traditions and odd ways. What emerges is the poignant tale of a world that has, quite nearly, gone by—and a leading-edge report on the coming fate of countless coastal communities.

Six Degrees – Mark Lynas

The 1.5 degrees statement has been thrown about a lot when discussing climate change mitigation practices. We are, sadly, not on track to meet this target. In Six degrees, Mark Lynas outlines what to expect from a world that is overheating, and what every degree of temperature rise is going to spell for the planet, ending at 6 degrees, which would doom humanity.Based on authoritative scientific articles, the latest computer models, and information about past warm events in Earth history, Six Degrees promises to be an eye-opening warning that humanity will ignore at its peril.