U.S. flag An official website of the United States government.

dot gov icon Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

https icon Secure websites use HTTPS

A small lock or https:// means you’ve safely connected to a .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

The following books were suggested by educators and discussed at Planet Stewards Book Club Meetings from 2017 - 2019. Included are links to resources and guiding questions. All are welcome to join our discussions! For information about current Book Club selections, meeting dates, and how to attend, see our Upcoming Events page. Sign up to our email list and receive invitations to future events. Have questions? Contact: oceanserviceseducation@noaa.gov.

Book cover for Supernavigators: Exploring the Wonders of How Animals Find Their Way

Supernavigators: Exploring the Wonders of How Animals Find Their Way by David Barrie

Animals plainly know where they’re going, but how they know has remained a stubborn mystery—until now. Supernavigators is a globe-trotting voyage of discovery alongside astounding animals of every stripe: dung beetles that steer by the Milky Way, box jellyfish that can see above the water (with a few of their twenty-four eyes), sea turtles that sense Earth’s magnetic field, and many more. David Barrie consults animal behaviorists and Nobel Prize–winning scientists to catch us up on the cutting edge of animal intelligence—revealing these wonders in a whole new light.

  1. Of all examples in the book, which animal migration stood out the most and why?
  2. Humans could not reliably tell their longitude until the late 1700’s. Lots of creatures seem to be able to do so with little difficulty. What do they know that we don’t?
  3. In what ways might humans be affecting animal migration? Which are new to you from this book?
  4. In what ways might climate change affect migration patterns?
  5. What steps should we take as individuals and as a society to minimize our impacts on animal navigation and migration patterns? Which of those are new to you from this book?
  6. In chapter 11, the author recounts the story of mountain guide Enos Mills, who became snow-blind at 3600 meters in the Rocky Mountains. Mills used his other senses to get himself to safety. Have you ever been lost? How did you find your way back? What’s your story?
  7. There is a tremendous amount we do not know about animal migration. What about that surprised you the most?
  8. At the end of the preface, the author talks about the inherent ethical difficulty in studies where animals were harmed in the pursuit of knowledge. He ends that passage stating “it would surely be wrong to hold scientists to a higher moral standard than the rest of us.” How do you feel about that?

Book cover for South Pole Station: A Novel by Ashley Shelby

South Pole Station: A Novel by Ashley Shelby

This touching and at times laugh-out-loud funny novel introduces us to Cooper Gosling, a painter who’s struggling in the aftermath of family tragedy. She grew up listening to her father tell stories about Antarctica’s greatest explorers, and now that she’s thirty and uncertain what to do with her life, she decides to set out on an adventure of her own. She signs up with an artist colony that piggy-backs on a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research team’s trip to South Pole, and proceeds to spend a dark and freezing year among not only fellow artists, but climate scientists.

Much to everyone’s chagrin, a climate change denier is in the mix, and as Cooper’s story unfolds, so does a rivalry between the believers and the non-believer. The novel is rife with fascinating and piercingly funny dialogue about the meaning of the scientific method, the importance of NSF funding, and how both art and science can lend insight into the workings of the universe.

Additional great resource reads:

South Pole Station takes a cool look at a hot topic.

Science, Art and Redemption in the Land of the Penguins

Transformation and Non-Adventure in Ashley Shelby’s South Pole Station

  1. What insights have you have gained about life in Antarctica from South Pole Station?
  2. On page 44 and 45 we are introduced to some possible “climate” issues that appear later in the book, what do you think about the flyer and cooper/Sal’s response?
  3. Many of the Polies take issue with calling Pavano a "climate skeptic" because, as Sal says, "All scientists are born skeptics. Pavano is not a practicing scientist." Do you agree with Sal? Why or why not?
  4. South Pole Station unfolds through various narrative perspectives — Cooper's, Pearl's, Tucker's, Bozer's, Pavano's, even emails, and official government documents. How does having these multiple vantage points shape your sense of the community? In what ways would the story be different if we only had Cooper’s perspective?
  5. One book review states “Shelby’s main narrative tension centers around the controversial arrival of scientist and climate change-denier Frank Pavano. Especially outraged is Sal Brennan, an astrophysicist studying the origins of the universe, who considers Frank’s presence at the South Pole as “a sign of end times,” pointing out that, due to Frank’s admission, “‘somewhere a real climate scientist did not get his grant approved.”’ What makes Pavano not a scientist? What caused Frank’s transformation from a young scientific prodigy, to a climate change-denying scientist relying on shaky science and even more questionable funding?
  6. Congressman Bayless gives a speech where he purports, "Dissent is the healthiest state of affairs in any democracy … democracy is under attack. That in a bastion of free thought, the covenant of free thought has been broken.…" Dr. Pavano has been the victim of a systematic and sustained pattern of harassment based solely on his research." Sal’s rebuttal is that "in the scientific community, there’s virtually unanimous consensus that the earth is warming … instead of fearing this new knowledge … accept it, and leave science to science." How would you respond to both of these statements?
  7. Climate change is the subject of much debate in our society; it’s a complicated issue. What did you take away from South Pole Station about the interplay of science, politics, religion, and economics in the climate change debate? Did the novel shift your perspective at all? How so?
  8. We aren’t privy to Pavano’s perspective until the end of the novel when we learn of his ascendance as a "climate change skeptic." In what ways did his backstory align with your expectations? What elements surprised you?

Book cover for the Yellow House

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the “Big Easy” of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority, and power.

  1. At the opening of the story, Sarah Broom describes the lot where the Yellow House once stood from fifteen thousand feet above. Have you ever brought up a Google Earth image of your house from above and zoomed out? What impact did seeing your home, your street, your state, your country have on your perspective?
  2. What are the truths we think we know about New Orleans compared to the story Broom tells?
  3. The author refers to Hurricane Katrina throughout as “the Water.” Why do you think she made this choice? What does that term communicate to you?
  4. What information does Broom give us about the fate of New Orleans’s population after the storm that was new to you?
  5. Broom’s family dispersed after Katrina and many did not return. What effect do you think this kind of scattering after climate crises has on regional culture?
  6. In many ways, this is a story of how America has failed African Americans. Was there anything that could have been done differently on the swath of land in New Orleans East that would have changed the outcome?
  7. Did this book bring to mind stories from your history tied to a special place, a home, land, or city?
  8. There were many powerful stories within the book. Was there one that stood out for you?
  9. Sarah says that “Big changes, the ones that reset the compass of a place, never appear so at the outset. Only time lets you see the accumulation of things.” Can you cite an example of this in the book or in your own life’s experience?
  10. What are your thoughts about the end of the book? Were you satisfied with the final actions of the land that the Yellow House sat on? Was justice served to the family that lost their Yellow House?

Book cover for  Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush

With every passing day, and every record-breaking hurricane, it grows clearer that climate change is neither imagined nor distant―and that rising seas are transforming the coastline of the United States in irrevocable ways. In Rising, Elizabeth Rush guides readers through some of the places where this change has been most dramatic, from the Gulf Coast to Miami, and from New York City to the Bay Area. For many of the plants, animals, and humans in these places, the options are stark: retreat or perish in place.

Weaving firsthand testimonials from those facing this choice―a Staten Islander who lost her father during Sandy, the remaining holdouts of a Native American community on a drowning Isle de Jean Charles, a neighborhood in Pensacola settled by escaped slaves hundreds of years ago―with profiles of wildlife biologists, activists, and other members of these vulnerable communities, Rising privileges the voices of those too often kept at the margins.

  1. Naming plays a role throughout Rising - "Theo's parents' old home, and Lora Ann's old home, and Albert's old home, and all the other residences that have been abandoned because rebuilding is tiresome and expensive." Why is it necessary to name these homes? Rush writes of learning the names of the dying trees and other plants in the marshlands of Rhode Island; the tupelo, the needlebush, and salt marsh cordgrass. How does naming the plants and birds around us support environmental justice?
  2. A primary conflicts in this book is the difference between insiders and outsiders; from people who know the language (and persimmons) of a place, and the people from elsewhere who often hold different priorities. How does the author, a reporter, navigate this "distance"? How do we, as readers and people who live in a place, navigate this "distance"?
  3. What is the value of a place? How do we measure it? Is its value in what we can take from it? In what it "gives" us? Is it possible for trees, animals, and humans not to be competing entities?
  4. "We" often think of the landscape as inert, as simply there. Then something like Hurricane Sandy happens, and suddenly the disappearance of wetlands and their storm-surge absorbing properties gets people's attention. Are we yet ready to listen to the landscape? As people stay home during this pandemic, we've seen nature quickly respond to the lack of human activity on our planet. Will this change our idea of how to live normally?
  5. We encounter outside voices throughout the book in "On Gratitude," "On Reckoning," etc. What purpose do they serve? What difference in tone and content do you notice from one to the next?
  6. Climate change is having a measurable affect on sea level rise along the coast of the United States. It is important however to consider is how much of our country is not coastline. How much of this conversation - and voting decisions - is not addressed simply because it's a problem of elsewhere? When Rush writes of glaciers calving in Greenland and Antarctica, does the information fail to make a meaningful change in our lives because its so far away? Her book is subtitled: Dispatches from the New American Shore; does that focus get our attention?
  7. Rush writes of her second grade science fair project on Florida's flat topography - which failed to impress. "My project didn't win a prize; it wasn't even given honorable mention. Back then topography probably seemed boring, especially when set next to dioramas of rainforests and exploding miniature volcanoes." Even at a young age, we are taught to favor "sexy" landscapes; the idea that volcanoes are more interesting and worthy of study than marshlands prevails. What opportunities do we have to teach young people to think differently?
  8. How is the idea of environmental racism build throughout the book? What happens when the disparities in power play out in the location of sewer plants and toxic waste dumping in poor communities - often communities of color - who have no power to fight against it. This brings to mind the ongoing water issues in Flint, MI. "And so what I once thought of as an inquiry into vulnerable landscapes - and the plants and animals that call those places home - has also become an inquiry into vulnerable human communities."
  9. Rush concludes Rising with an Afterword titled with the names of recent hurricanes. Other sections of the book are voiced by people she's interviewed; what do you think of Rush giving the final voice to something that's not human? She does not end the book with concrete actions for the reader to undertake, no calls to action. What, then does Rush want from readers as we close Rising?
  10. How can we have a conversation about a dystopian nightmare in the middle of a dystopian nightmare? Our current situation can be "a bit much" for us - as adults - to deal with, but it can be especially difficult for kids. Now that they've experienced their day to day lives upended so quickly and profoundly by nature "turning against us", how might it influence their views of climate change? Does it make it seem more possible? More real? How does our inability as a collective society to listen to science and scientists during the kind of crisis where we most need to, change how we view the response to a problem that is even harder to see than a microbe?

Book cover for The Big Melt by Ned Tillman (Young Adult Fiction)

The Big Melt by Ned Tillman (Young Adult Fiction)

Sleepy Valley is a town probably similar in many ways to the one where you live. Things are fine on the surface but no one is thinking about the future. Are you ready for what is about to happen to you and to towns all across the country and around the world?

Marley and Brianne, the main characters in our story, were not. Nor were their parents, their neighbors, or anyone in town. When they woke up on the day after their high school graduation they found their lives turned upside down as a series of climate catastrophes descended on their town. They struggle to find their voices and their purpose for living while attempting to save their family and friends, their town, and civilization as we know it.

The Big Melt engages, informs, and challenges readers of all ages to consider a variety of perspectives on what is rapidly becoming the challenge of the century: Now that our climate is changing, what do we do? This work of contemporary fiction, with a touch of fantasy and hope, will inspire you to care a little more about what might occur in your town in the not-too-distant future.

Read an interview with the author

  1. How would you summarize the story? What would you highlight as its main/key components?
  2. Who was your favorite character and why?
  3. Do you see any similarities to the challenges being faced in sleepy valley to where you live? - particularly ecological and/or political.
  4. Do you think today’s YA (young adult) readers can relate to this story? In what ways and why?
  5. Do you see a disconnect between adults and young learners on how they respond to rapid climate change? How is this represented in the book? How do you think we could break the disconnect in our society?
  6. What do you see as key climate facts in the book? Are they represented well? Did they teach? How?
  7. Would you recommend this book to others? Why, Why not?

Book cover for Plastic Ocean by Captain Charles Moore

Plastic Ocean by Captain Charles Moore

This book takes the reader through Captain Moore’s initial voyage to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, his subsequent research expeditions, and his fierce work to engage the world in recognizing and taking action on the plastic invasiveness crisis in our oceans. The research expeditions presented in the book are part of a world-wide effort prompting a massive global reassessment of plastic's pervasive presence in the Gyre, raising profound questions regarding the implications of this new remote ‘habitat'. His hard-won credibility and dogged, game-changing efforts to get the world to pay attention to a looming ocean crisis have earned him world-wide respect, igniting participation in The Plastic Pollution Conversation.

  1. Under what scenario (political, social and economic systems) could recycling become the solution to plastic pollution?
  2. Can modern design and production innovations make zero waste more than aspirational?
  3. When and how can personal solutions to plastic pollution i.e. lowering one’s plastic footprint, translate into a true global solution to plastic pollution?
  4. Will crises forever be the driver of fundamental economic, political and social change? If so, what will be the crisis with plastic pollution that forces radical change?
  5. While reading Plastic Ocean, recall one or two details that were new and/or interesting to you.
  6. Is there an organization, conference, or event involving plastic pollution that you're involved with or that interests you?
  7. For those of you who are Planet Stewards educators working or planning a stewardship project - does your project involve plastic pollution? If so, how? How will the students be involved?

Book cover for the Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan

The Great Lakes—Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior—hold 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water. They provide sustenance, work, and recreation for tens of millions of Americans. But they are under threat as never before, and their problems are spreading across the continent. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is prize-winning reporter Dan Egan’s compulsively readable portrait of an ecological catastrophe happening right before our eyes, blending the epic story of the lakes with an examination of the perils they face and the ways we can restore and preserve them for generations to come.

  1. Who has visited any of the five Great Lakes before? What was your experience?
  2. What surprised you about how humans have deliberately altered the Great Lakes?
  3. Who are the villains of the Great Lakes story? The heroes?
  4. Should water be shared beyond the Great Lakes basin?
  5. How did the introduction of salmon positively affect the Great Lakes? Do you agree that introducing salmon is overall positive?
  6. Should invasive species be allowed to continue reproducing? Or should we intervene?
  7. Is global invasive species introduction our new normal?
  8. Did anything surprise you as you were reading the book?
  9. What should we be doing to protect the Great Lakes and other bodies of water?

Book cover for  Ocean Outbreak: Confronting the Rising Tide of Marine Disease by Drew Harvell

Ocean Outbreak: Confronting the Rising Tide of Marine Disease by Drew Harvell

There is a growing crisis in our oceans as rates of infectious disease outbreaks are on the rise. Marine epidemics have the potential to cause a mass die-off of wildlife from the bottom to the top of the food chain, impacting the health of ocean ecosystems as well as lives on land. Fueled by sewage dumping, unregulated aquaculture, and drifting plastic in warming seas, ocean outbreaks are sentinels of impending global environmental disaster.

Ocean Outbreak follows renowned scientist Drew Harvell and her colleagues as they investigate how four iconic marine animals—corals, abalone, salmon, and starfish—have been devastated by disease. Based on over twenty years of research, this firsthand account of the sometimes creeping, sometimes exploding impact of disease on our ocean’s biodiversity ends with a hopeful message. Through policy changes and the implementation of innovative solutions from nature, we can reduce major outbreaks, save some ocean ecosystems, and protect our fragile environment.

Prior to discussing Ocean Outbreak you might enjoy watching Dr. Harvell discuss another of her books A Sea of Glass, on Cornell University’s Chats in the Stacks Book Talk

  1. Disease outbreaks in the ocean differ from outbreaks on land. Drew discusses the “perfect storm” of outbreak conditions: new pathogens introduced via aquaculture and human sewage, salt water providing a hospital environment for pathogens, pathogens discharged by shipping vessels, effects of pollution and climate change and the warming of surface waters due to climate change. Are you aware of all of these conditions?
  2. There has been a lot of media attention to the problem of corals being stressed by warming oceans and disease. As Drew points out, people don’t realize infectious diseases that take hold of corals may cause their subsequent death. Are you aware of the other ocean pathogens affecting our food supply, economy, livelihood, and health?
  3. Were you surprised that it took so long to solve the mystery of what was causing the withering foot syndrome of Abalone?
  4. Given the information on salmon disease, what changes should be made to reduce future disease outbreaks in fisheries or aquaculture in general? What are aquaculture best practices and does the US adhere to the highest standards?
  5. Drew discusses the problem of funding for research studies and elaborates on how the “Save Our Stars” project at a middle school in Arkansas helped fund field surveys for work on the starfish epidemic. Has your class participated in activities like this?
  6. What are important new research themes to address how the ocean’s natural pathogen fighting services work?
  7. Do you think plastics convey disease to organisms other than coral?
  8. Which of the four disease outbreaks discussed in the book did you find the most interesting and useful?

Book cover for  Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Silent Spring

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was first published in three serialized excerpts in the New Yorker in June of 1962. The book appeared in September of that year and the outcry that followed its publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. It is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century.

You can read the complete original serialization from the New Yorker Magazine here:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

  1. Was “A Silent Spring” different from what you expected? In what way?
  2. Looking back over the 57 years since this book was written, of the things Rachel Carson got right, what surprised you most?
  3. Looking back, what did she leave out that she might have known about in 1962 when she was writing?
  4. What did she get wrong?
  5. Rachel Carson has been vilified and held responsible for the deaths of millions from malaria in Africa, which they say could have been prevented by the use of DDT. Do they have a point? Here is one example from the American Enterprise Institute: https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/the-rise-fall-rise-and-imminent-fall-of-ddt/ And here is a counter-argument from the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/22/us/rachel-carson-ddt-malaria-retro-report.html
  6. DDT was banned in the US in 1972 under Richard Nixon and the EPA's first Administrator, William Rucklehaus, though we continued to manufacture the product for export through 1983. In much of the United States, birds like the Bald Eagle and the Osprey have come back from near-extinction levels, which were caused by DDT. DDT and other chemicals are still in use, today in some parts of the world. Today it is still manufactured by India and China. Did we win the war, just a battle, or none of the above? How do you think we have progressed in general?
  7. Step back from the content and look at the tools and techniques Rachel Carson used to communicate science. 57 years later we still feel the impact of her work. What makes her book so effective? How might you use these techniques to teach or write about a different environmental problem, like climate change?
  8. The population of the world was 3.1 billion people in 1962 when this book came out. It is 7.6 billion, today. How do we feed everyone without the kinds of chemicals that Carson describes in her book?
  9. Rachel Carson spends a great deal of time discussing chemicals that were permitted to be sold and later were found to be carcinogenic or toxic to humans. Many more, such as DDT were still on the market at the time the book was written and were suspected of causing harm. Are these incidents largely behind us or is this still an issue, today?
  10. Carson extolls the virtues of biological controls, such as introducing predators or disease to an environment to control a species. 57 years later, how do these techniques seem to you? Are they safe or at least safer than insecticides?
  11. IF YOU HAVE TIME: Choose one chemical or other issue that Rachel Carson brought up in her work. Do a quick internet search and find out what’s happened in the 57 years since the book was written. Bring your notes to our Book Club and let’s talk about it.

Tales from and Uncertain World: What Other Assorted Disasters Can Teach Us About Climate Change by Lisa Gardiner

So far, humanity hasn’t done very well in addressing the ongoing climate catastrophe. Veteran science educator L. S. Gardiner believes we can learn to do better by understanding how we’ve dealt with other types of environmental risks in the past and why we are dragging our feet in addressing this most urgent emergency. Weaving scientific facts and research together with humor and emotion, Gardiner explores human responses to erosion, earthquakes, fires, invasive species, marine degradation, volcanic eruptions, and floods in order to illuminate why we find it so challenging to deal with climate change. Insight emerges from unexpected places - a mermaid exhibit, a Magic 8 Ball, and midcentury cartoons about a future that never came to be.

Instead of focusing on the economics and geopolitics of the debate over climate change, this book brings large-scale disaster to a human scale, emphasizing the role of the individual. We humans do have the capacity to deal with disasters. When we face threatening changes, we don’t just stand there pretending it isn’t so, we do something. But because we’re human, our responses aren’t always the right ones the first time—yet we can learn to do better. This book is essential reading for all who want to know how we can draw on our strengths to survive the climate catastrophe and forge a new relationship with nature.

  1. What did this book make you wonder about?
  2. (About coping and resilience) The bulk of the stories in chapters 2-7 are examples of how individuals cope with environmental change. What types of environmental change happen in your region and how have you coped with those? How is coping with small-scale change like coping with a large-scale change? How are they different?
  3. (About uncertainty in science) How people interpret and understand information that has some uncertainty is a recurring theme in this book. In chapter 8, the author tests her own ability to make decisions based on uncertain information by relying on a Magic 8 Ball’s wishy-washy answers for guidance. How do you deal with uncertain information in order to make decisions in your own life? How do your students think about uncertainty in science? How do you teach about scientific uncertainty?
  4. (About the natural and human-built world) Through the book’s examples of disasters, the choices that people make and the emotions they are feeling are often related to the way they see nature and their role in it. What stories and characters resonated with you? How would your students define nature? Would their definitions include the human-built world?
  5. (Envisioning the future) Chapter 9 explores past visions of the future and wonders about how we see the future today. Is it possible to look at the future with optimism when there are problems like climate change? Or does the future look like a dystopia? How do you teach about environmental problems that have long-term impacts without depressing students about the future?

Energy: A Human History by Richard Rhodes

In Energy: A Human History. Author Richard Rhodes reveals the fascinating history behind energy transitions over time—wood to coal to oil to electricity and beyond.

Through a cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable energy. Rhodes looks back on five centuries of progress, through such influential figures as Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford.

In Energy, Rhodes highlights the successes and failures that led to each breakthrough in energy production; from animal and waterpower to the steam engine, from internal-combustion to the electric motor. He addresses how we learned from such challenges, mastered their transitions, and capitalized on their opportunities. Rhodes also looks at the current energy landscape, with a focus on how wind energy is competing for dominance with cast supplies of coal and natural gas. He also addresses the specter of global warming, and a population hurtling towards ten billion by 2100.

  1. What parallels can you draw between the energy situation Londoners in the 1600's faced (having used up all the trees for fuel, the Londoners were switching to coal), and the world today? Think in terms of energy use, as well as the dangers and health risks presented by burning fuels.
  2. Why is London, according to Rhodes, like many modern cities, so much cleaner today than it was years ago? And if we are able to burn fuels so much more cleanly, why are we having a global problem?
  3. Think of how many ways that the hundreds of years of the coal industry effected the entire society in England and beyond. This book details how the coal industry led to the creation of the first railroads, the first steam engines, and so much more. Is it possible to create a situation where a technology -- such as renewable energy -- could have the same effect today: causing us to create an entirely new infrastructure to support a new kind of fuel based on a different technology? If we do this for another form of energy, what might the new society look like?
  4. The author describes a succession of technologies: from wood to coal to oil. The adoption of each new fuel source led to resistance from whoever owned the prior one. How did new fuel advocates break that cycle in the past, and how can we break that cycle now?
  5. According to the quotation below, author Paul Ehrlich was a false prophet when he predicted a “population bomb.” Is Rhodes correct or is Ehrlich's “population bomb” coming? What makes you think so?
  6. “...Like most false prophets, Ehrlich’s answer to his failed predictions of catastrophe has been to move the date of the end of the world a few more decades along the calendar. By now, he’s reached the 2050s. The end is still not in sight, but Ehrlich, eighty-six years old in 2018, is still certain it’s coming.” (pp. 312-313 of the Kindle Edition ).
  7. Rhodes makes a good case for nuclear power as an option for clean energy. What do you think?
  8. Rhodes ends the book on a hopeful note: “Far from threatening civilization, science, technology, and the prosperity they create will sustain us as well in the centuries to come. They are the only institutions human beings have yet devised that consistently learn from their mistakes.” (p. 344 of the Kindle Edition). What do you think? Does science, technology and the prosperity they create sustain us or threaten us?
  9. What ideas from this book stick with you? What might you do with your class related to this topic?

Please Don't Paint Our Planet Pink by Gregg Kleiner

This is a story about climate change for kids... and their adults. What might happen if we could SEEcarbon dioxide in the atmosphere? What if CO2 were, say, pink? In this engaging, funny, and highly timely book, a young boy whose parents named him Wilbur "in honor of that pig in Charlotte's Web" discovers the power of the human imagination and how he can tap that power to see a shade of pink he has never imagined – a pink so astonishing it just might save the Planet. With help from his geeky "dorkasaurus" Dad and a pair of bright green goggles, young Will learns all about carbon and caring, carpooling and climate change, and how learning to see "this particular pink" will help all of us keep our Planet cool.

  1. Many students have a hard time understanding that gases are present all around them in the atmosphere. The goggles with no lenses are an interesting way for Wilbur to “see” carbon dioxide. How might this strategy be used for other purposes?
  2. On page 18, the author talks about activities that students love (like campfires) but contribute small amounts of carbon dioxide. In the grand scheme of things, some of these might not be big contributors in the United States. However, the use of fossil fuels and vegetation for cooking and heating is used in other countries because of the lack of other types of energy. “Some three billion people around the world cook their food and heat their homes with open or barely contained fires, and while the smoke dissipates quickly, its accumulated costs are steep.” https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/07/guatemala-cook-stoves/
  3. How can we help students understand that living conditions (and energy sources and use) are vastly different in other countries?
  4. The author provides an explanation of how trees “suck” carbon dioxide out of the air and put it into wood and leaves. Photosynthesis is a tough concept. Does this analogy help you? Would it help your students?
  5. The carbon cycle is an unspoken concept of the book. What activities have you tried in class or other learning situations that help to explain the cyclic nature of carbon?
  6. The author briefly discusses the carbon costs of eating beef on page 19. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has many reports about the impact of activities like beef production. “Agricultural intensification has had major detrimental impacts on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the world. Conversion of natural vegetation to agriculture is a major source of CO2, not only due to losses of plant biomass but also, increased decomposition of soil organic matter caused by disturbance and energy costs of various agricultural practices such as fertilization and irrigation. CO2 emissions from the agricultural sector represent 21-25 percent of total CO2 emissions, due to fossil fuels used on farms, shifting patterns of cultivation and chiefly, deforestation. Appropriate management practices could increase carbon sinks and energy efficiency improvements and production of energy from crops and residues would result in a further mitigation potential, or a cumulative carbon storage95.” Organically-managed soils have a high potential to counter soil degradation as they are more resilient both to water stress and to nutrient loss….Due to the resulting high moisture retention capacity the amount of water needed for irrigation can be reduced substantially.” http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y4137e/y4137e02b.htm
  7. Are community, school and home gardens prevalent in your area? Are agricultural practices or gardening part of your school curriculum?
  8. The book offers several things that we can do to reduce the amount of “pink” in the atmosphere. It might be helpful to start with the knowledge of our ecological footprint. EPA calculator at https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/
  9. How do you think you stack up in terms of energy use? Are you planning ways to reduce your carbon footprint?
  10. What are some ways we can get students to think “pink”?

Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by Edward O Wilson by Edward O Wilson

In this book Pulitzer Prize winning author and world-renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson states that to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must move swiftly to preserve the biodiversity of our planet. Half-Earth argues that the situation facing us is too large to be solved piecemeal and proposes a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: dedicate fully half the surface of the Earth to nature. Identifying actual regions of the planet that can still be reclaimed―such as the California redwood forest, the Amazon River basin, and grasslands of the Serengeti, among others.

  1. By preserving half of the planet, we would theoretically protect 80% of the world’s species from extinction, according to the species-area curve. If protection efforts, however, focus on the most biodiverse areas (think tropical forests and coral reefs), we could potentially protect more than 80% of species without going beyond the half-Earth goal. In contrast, if we only protect 10% of the Earth, we are set to lose around half of the planet’s species over time. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2016/jun/15/could-we-set-aside-half-the-earth-for-nature) Which of these scenarios do you think are most likely in the future?
  2. Wilson’s idea is not without its critics. “In an essay for Aeon, Robert Fletcher and Bram Büscher, both social scientists with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, dub Wilson’s idea “truly bizarre.” “For all his zeal, (misplaced) righteousness and passion, his vision is disturbing and dangerous,” they write. “It would entail forcibly herding a drastically reduced human population into increasingly crowded urban areas to be managed in oppressively technocratic ways… Conservation has a long and ugly history of forcibly moving indigenous and local people out of areas to make way for protected areas.” However, recent research has found that contrary to popular belief, protected areas may actually improve the conditions of local communities (at least in countries like Uganda, Thailand and Costa Rica) instead of impoverishing them.” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2016/jun/15/could-we-set-aside-half-the-earth-for-nature) Recent examples of the spread of eco or green tourism come to mind in other countries as well. Do you think that the scenarios of past injustices to indigenous and local people will be repeated now? Think about your community/region. How would creating larger nature reserves in your area benefit or harm the people living there?
  3. “75% of our agricultural land area is currently devoted to growing crops for livestock consumption. The amount of land required for agriculture today could be drastically curtailed – but only if people eat significantly less meat and livestock products, a trend that is currently going in the opposite direction globally.” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2016/jun/15/could-we-set-aside-half-the-earth-for-nature) Are we ready to become a vegetarian nation? Do you see this food choice becoming more common?
  4. “At least 2/3 of the species on Earth remain unknown and unnamed and of the ½ known, fewer than one in a thousand have been subject to intensive biological research.” (p. 104) Does this number surprise you? How can we encourage the “naturalist” viewpoint in students and not just see ecosystems and food webs?
  5. Wilson discussed the Anthropocene philosophy as focused on ecosystems and not on species, that there is no more wilderness and that Earth is already a used planet. The result is a focus on what can nature do for humans and their economy. Compare that to the view of experienced naturalists and conservation biologists who are focused on species known and unknown and that biodiversity is under threat. Do you agree with his assessment of these 2 viewpoints?
  6. The bizarre relationships that Wilson describes in chapter 12 are fascinating; Vampire hunters, Zombie Masters, Swindlers, Slave makers and Giant Killers. He also discussed the existence of an independent layer of life in the deep ocean in chapter 13 that could survive any apocalypse. These are certainly great examples of phenomena that educators can use to their advantage. How might you use the stories of the book in your classroom?
  7. Some believe that human activity has raised the extinction rate to a thousand times its pre-human level and the only solution is to increase the area of natural reserves. Wilson has suggested the best places in the biosphere to set aside. Do you agree with his selections? Are there some areas that you would add?
  8. Wilson believes that digital technology may make it possible to complete a census of biodiversity and to determine that status of each species. He also believes that we need to connect the human future to the rest of life and adopt a moral precept “Do no further harm to the biosphere.” How can we as educators help students and our communities to develop a deep love of nature? How can we connect our digital students to nature?

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall Kimmerer, “a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation,” uses the indigenous cultures’ sacred plant, sweetgrass, as a poetic metaphor to explain the origins of plant, animal, and human life on Mother Earth. Dr. Kimmerer presents this book as a gift of braided stories “meant to heal our relationship with the world” by weaving together the three strands of “indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service to what matters most.” She explains the necessity for humankind to be rejoined with its relationships to nature, and to understand the implications of the Earth’s gifts and our responsibility to return these gifts.

  1. Dr. Kimmerer recounts the philosophical dilemmas upon entering her scientific studies; personal experiences with nature and her indigenous teachings during her formative years, and the reconnection with her heritage through the last nine fluent Potawatomi speakers. Her definition of indigenous includes “living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both physical and spiritual, depended on it.” She also talks about “a nation of immigrants” who might embrace the Skywoman story as instructions for the future; to become native and make a home. What can we, as immigrants, do to become more “indigenous?”
  2. In the story ‘Maple Sugar Moon’, Nanabozho finds that people have grown lazy due to the bounty of the first Maple trees. Nanabozho removes this culture of plenty by diluting the sap and teaching the people to honor and respect the gift of the Maple tree. Can you draw any parallels from this story and our consumer-driven economy?
  3. Scientists are investigating how trees “communicate” and are finding evidence that they use mycorrhizae deep underground or pheromones in the air to defend against insect invaders or to fruit en masse. Indigenous tribes have long believed that trees can “talk” to each other. Does the concept of trees having a community relationship and the scientific explanations of their possible means of communications change how you view our relationship with forests? If so, how?
  4. Kimmerer “discusses a gift economy which has, at its root, reciprocity.” Western thinking treats private land as a “bundle of rights”. A gift economy has a bundle of responsibilities. How has this difference affected historical land use? What can we offer earth in return?
  5. “Ceremony is a vehicle for belonging – to a family, to a people, and to the land.” How have ceremonies affected you? Were any ceremonies more meaningful than others?
  6. The author describes the objectivity and rigor of science as something that separates the observer from the observed. How can we help students learn the “names” but also hear the “songs”? How can we do science with “awe and humility”?
  7. Kimmerer introduces the Thanksgiving Address used by the indigenous people to give thanks to the land. She states, “...it is the credo for a culture of gratitude.” How does the Thanksgiving Address support the concept of “our mutual allegiance as human delegates to the democracy of the species”? What does that mean to you?
  8. The Three Sisters garden is a traditional method to grow corn, squash and beans together providing mutual support for growth. Can you think of other examples of such win-win situations? How can we teach people to “remember that what’s good for the land is also good for the people”?
  9. The significance of braiding plaits of sweetgrass into three strands is symbolic of the philosophy and spirituality of the indigenous people. Sweetgrass is a sacred, healing plant to the Potawatomi people and is braided “… as if it were our mother’s hair, to show our loving care for her. A sweetgrass braid is burned to create a ceremonial smudge that washes the recipient in kindness and compassion to heal the body and the spirit.” Ceremony focuses attention so that it becomes intention. How can we use ceremonies to hold communities more accountable to the natural world?
  10. What can educators do to promote good manners to the natural world, the tenets of an Honorable Harvest?
  11. Native elders look at the people who have come to our shores and say,” The problem with these new people is that they don’t have both feet on the shore. One is still on the boat.” How has this immigrant attitude determined our treatment of the natural resources?
  12. “Recent research has shown that the smell of humus exerts a physical effect on humans.” Soil studies are readily available to most schools. Does your school incorporate this in your curriculum?
  13. Kimmerer draws parallels between the indigenous people’s stories of the Windigo monster and the greedy nature of mankind today that allows for the destruction of nature’s structures, habitats, and balance in the name of progress and profit. This selfish behavior is our Windigo. The need for the healing of the land and the ecological restoration of the gifts that Mother Earth has given us is passionately presented in the ‘The Sacred and the Superfund’ chapter. What would we need to change in our society to stop overconsumption?
  14. “Each of us comes from people who were once indigenous.” How can a deep awareness of the gifts of the earth, practice of gratitude and restoration rebuild the connections that all humans once had with the Earth?
  15. Adapted from: https://longwoodgardens.org/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/Discussion_And_Question_Guide_Braiding_Sweetgrass.pdf

Adapted from: https://longwoodgardens.org/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/Discussion_And_Question_Guide_Braiding_Sweetgrass.pdf

The Teacher Friendly Guide to Climate Change by Don Duggan-Haas, Ingrid Zabel, and Robert Ross (free download from the site)

The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change by Ingrid Zabel, Don Duggan-Haas and Robert Ross is a comprehensive tool for educators that “focuses on the scientific aspects of climate change: how climate works and why scientists think it’s changing, and the science and engineering behind the steps that would mitigate climate change and enable humans to adapt to climate changes that do occur.” Although the focus is on high school educators, teachers of all ages can find scientifically accurate information and links to highly regarded resources

  1. The preface indicates that the evidence is not presented as a debate topic but as evidence that climate change is happening now built upon decades of the work of thousands of scientists. There has been a lot of discussion in science education literature about whether (or not) to use debate in the science classroom. What are your thoughts about this?
  2. A great set of starting questions to consider is found on page 1 of Chapter 1 based on local and personal factors. Are there additional factors that you would add to this list in your teaching situation?
  3. In Chapter 1, the authors suggest that educators should be careful not to “tread into political advocacy” and to communicate to students that climate change is politically but not scientifically controversial. What strategies have you used to accomplish this?
  4. Cognitive research provides information about why some people have a hard time accepting the scientific evidence for climate change. Ultimately, we tend to discount data to maintain our conceptions and to maintain our world view. How would you respond to people that do not accept scientific data?
  5. In chapter 2 (p. 17-22) the authors identified 5 big ideas and 2 questions about climate change that can serve as a course framework and are important aspects of earth system science. Would this framework fit into your present courses?
  6. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 provide overviews of climate science and climate change through history. The authors indicate that understanding ancient climate change may help students to see that climate can change and “put the kinds of changes we see today into a historical perspective.” Does your curriculum provide time to delve into proxy date or past climate change?
  7. Understanding time scales is important in understanding earth system science. What strategies have you found to be successful with your students?
  8. A term that is relatively new (for the discussion leader at least) is critical zone science and the book shares a website (p. 90) of resources. In areas with little access to natural areas, focusing on critical zone science may provide opportunities for student investigations into geologic processes and time scales. What is your experience with this aspect of earth science?
  9. Chapter 5 and 6 focuses on recent and regional climate change. One analogy that might relate to students (at least the boys) is found on p. 110 comparing the climate system to a fancy sports car. Can you think of another analogy that might help students see the parts and complexity of climate?
  10. Chapter 7 provides a comprehensive look at climate change mitigation strategies and geoengineering was covered in Chapter 8. There are uncertainties with geoengineering proposals in terms of effectiveness and impacts. Would you favor using geoengineering? If so, under what circumstances? If not, what mitigation strategies would you favor?
  11. Chapter 9 discusses adaptation strategies that may need to be employed as our civilization comes to terms with carbon dioxide that will remain in the Earth system for hundreds or thousands of years. Pages 196-197 include a comprehensive list of strategies that might be employed but might also be worthy topics of student investigations. The authors also include a suggestion for classroom discussion around global environmental justice. Have you included these topics in your climate science units? Is this something you would consider using in the future?
  12. Chapters 12 and 13 address obstacles to addressing climate change and general rules for approaching controversial topics. There are many factors that influence how we think and most people believe things that are false despite information to the contrary. Dire messaging and warnings “may not lead to the responses we might expect.” What are your thoughts about approaching climate change as an “opportunity?”

The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change by Gleb Raygorodetsky

“The Indigenous communities and their traditional territories are the islands of biocultural diversity in the ever-rising sea of development and urbanization. The Archipelago of Hope takes readers on a journey to explore the inextricable links between Indigenous cultures and their lands, and how they form the foundation for climate change resilience around the world.

Indigenous peoples have a millennia-long track record of maintaining intimate relationships with the natural world, which has nourished their communities and sustained their cultures. This is the track record that they have maintained despite formidable odds, including multiple “izations”—colonization, Christianization, sedentarization, and globalization.

What makes Indigenous communities indispensible in the search for climate change solutions is that their ancestral territories are the “living laboratories,” where the traditional practices and understanding of nature meet modern technology and scientific insights, generating new knowledge critical for developing relevant climate change responses.” Excerpt from https://orionmagazine.org/2017/11/eight-questions-author-gleb-raygorodetsky-archipelago-hope/

Here's an article by Gleb Raygorodetsky about how Indigenous peoples are disproportionally burdened by climate change and why their traditional knowledge is essential to securing the health of our planet https://www.guernicamag.com/the-archipelago-of-hope/

  1. Do you think that traditional knowledge is gaining recognition in national and regional discussions about solutions to climate change? Have your local communities engaged local Native communities?
  2. In the prologue, Marcos Terena states that Indigenous communities are islands of biological and cultural diversity, our archipelago of hope to remember how to care for Earth. Can you suggest examples of curricula that can be woven into classroom lessons about the contributions of Indigenous knowledge?
  3. There were many instances in the book of decision-making that ignores the presence and knowledge of Indigenous peoples. With 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity in traditional territories, how can we increase the voice of Indigenous populations?
  4. Residential schools have been used for many decades in many countries including our own. What are the long-term consequences of these school for the Indigenous people and for the countries that instituted them?
  5. Many northern Indigenous people are dealing with the need for fossil fuels by an energy-hungry world economy. Do you think that this will change in the future?
  6. The book describes many instances of Indigenous knowledge being used to tackle pressing climate change impacts on Native land and customs such as fishing, farming, logging and medicines. How might these strategies be implemented on a larger scale?
  7. Swidden agriculture or shifting cultivation is viewed by governments as backward and harmful. In the U.S. monoculture with its accompanying dependence on intense cultivation is most popular. Do you see the move toward organic farming and the increase in organic products changing this view?
  8. “To understand how Indigenous communities stay resilient in the face of challenges, including climate change, it is essential to go beyond dissecting specific how-to lessons and attempt to explore the fundamental principles of how these communities maintain their relationships with the living world around them.” How can we be a good ally and move those around us to have a healthier relationship with the land?

Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and Rising Tide of Activities to Fight Plastic Pollution

In Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activities to Fight Plastic Pollution, Marcus Eriksen tells the story of how he, his wife Anna Cummins, and hundreds of volunteers began studying the world’s oceans and found a “plastic smog of microscopic debris that permeates our oceans globally, defying simple clean-up efforts. What’s more, these microplastics and their toxic chemistry have seeped into the food chain, threatening marine life and humans alike.

"Far from being a gloomy treatise on an environmental catastrophe, Junk Raft tells the exciting story of Eriksen and his team’s fight to solve the problem of plastic pollution."

  1. What do you think is the take-away message from this book?

  2. Eriksen discusses gyres and the myth of a giant floating garbage patch and ”smog” of micro-plastics. What do you think can be done as a next step in terms of the science of studying plastics in the world’s oceans? How do ocean gyres affect your local community?

  3. What are some solutions and innovations to address micro-plastics in the oceans problem? What advice can we give our colleagues who want to make a difference?

  4. What are your thoughts and concerns of micro-plastics moving up the food chain?

  5. There is a big discussion of plant-based plastic in the book. In your opinion, are plant-based plastics good or bad for our environment?

  6. Eriksen states that “chemistry, product, process and system are the four intervention points where the utility of plastics needs to be reinvented.’ What are you thoughts on this?

  7. B Corp are corporations with a mission statement that “social or environmental justice is of equal standing with the profit margin.” Eriksen lists a few B Corporations do you know of others?

  8. What is your reaction to his letter to the "Member Corporations of the American Chemical Council?"

  9. Earth Day is but 5-weeks away – how might we use the plastic we collect from our oceans, rivers, streams and land to help educate our community?

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

In this NOAA Planet Stewards Book Club meeting we'll be discussing Ship Breaker, a 2010 young adult Cli-fi novel by Paolo Bacigalupi set in a post-apocalyptic future. Human civilization is in decline for ecological reasons. The polar ice caps have melted and New Orleans is underwater. In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota - and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life.

  1. How do humans define wealth, could this cause a conflict with ecological awareness and activism?

  2. How much is your world worth?

  3. Dystopian literature is frequently portrayed as a stark and depressing genre that occasionally offers some form of hope. How does Ship Breaker fit into that description, and in what ways (if any) does it break the mold?

  4. How does social class play out in Ship Breaker and are there similar disparities in today’s society? Please elaborate on what this means for equitable societies.

  5. The Patrick Ness review and the Paolo Bacigalupi interview offer up different viewpoints on the purpose of dystopian literature. Ness argues that dystopian lit is popular with YA readers because it represents their lives and the challenges they face. Bacigalupi comments on its ability to give readers an opportunity to think about some of the issues our society faces. Does Ship Breakersucceed at either?

  6. What will our world look like when we run out of nonrenewable resources in a post global climate change age? How do we engage YA in this discussion without the readers feeling defeated?

  7. How does this book address green issues? Are some of these issues already occurring today?

    • Recycling

    • Drastic change in the environment

    • Corporate consumption of resources

    • Harvesting body parts

    • Genetic engineering

    • A few key themes included in the story: sea level rise, extreme weather, climate change, segregation of the elite, recycling…How do these concepts play out today as we enter a changing planet ecosystem?

  8. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where climate change has completely altered the processes of civilization. Discuss the importance of the setting to the events of the story.

  9. For additional thought and discussion:


A Hole in the Wind cover

A Hole in the Wind: A Climate Scientist's Bicycle Journey Across the United States by David Goodrich

About the Book: In 2011, David Goodrich rides his bike from the coast of Delaware to the coast of Oregon through gas-drilling Pennsylvania, tornado-prone Missouri, drought-ridden Kansas, and wildfire-choked Montana - to tell the story that our planet is in peril. As he pedals from town to town and from state to state, he connects the dots for us on climate change, sharing what he experiences from this ride and a few prior and subsequent treks. He also combines personal reflections with sobering facts, figures, and his own eyewitness account of climate change impacts and other’s perspectives from across much of our nation.

About the Author: Out of college David Goodrich worked briefly on a Gulf Coast drilling rig but then settled down to a scientific career, working for the U.N. Global Climate Observing System in Geneva, Switzerland and at NOAA in Silver Spring, Maryland. There, he served for many years as director of NOAA's Climate Observations and Monitoring Program and from 1998 to 1999 as the head of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Despite his late introduction to cycling, David not only rode the 26 miles round-trip from his home to his work at NOAA for many years, but he set out on a 4,200 mile Trans-america bike trek. On this ride he combined his avocation as a cyclist with his vocation as a scientist to examine climate change.

  1. You mention various authors/books, historical events, and prior travels by bike that inspired your Trans-america journey. Can you tell us about them and any other inspiration for the ride?
  2. How did the Trans-america journey and the book come about? When did you compile reflections of your journey to share the crisis of climate impacts, our lack of will of will to address it, and possible avenues for leadership with both the people you met on the rode and the larger reading public?
  3. In the preface, you mention a Thoreau quote: “Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you….” What did you learn about yourself and your ultimate objective to learn about climate change in the US and share the climate change story on your journey? Did anything surprise you? And what would you tell others about pursuing such a quest?
  4. Your work as a NOAA scientist at sea; Director of the UN Global Climate Observing System in Geneva; head of the US Global Change Research Program; and head of NOAA’s Climate Observations and Monitoring Program gave you a front row seat to our nation’s efforts to bring scientific know how and verification about our changing climate to everyday people. In light of our failure thus far to address this big audacious challenge, where do you draw hope and avoid despair.
  5. You mention that you can’t talk about climate change without talking about energy, but you also imply that economics must be part of the discussion (i.e., conversation of farmers in Kansas; later chapter on solutions). Can you talk a little about this and what you believe is imperative to attain progress and significantly address viable solutions. What progress if any do you see at the federal, state, local, corporate, or non-profit levels?
  6. Impacts due to fossil fuel extraction and climate change are threaded throughout each chapter of the book and the geography you experience from sea level rise and coastal erosion to hydro fracking with its “mailbox money”, fires, pine bark beetle kill, hurricanes, flooding, and other weather-related extremes. What impact awakened your senses to the severity of the impacts we face to the greatest degree on your ride. What impact due to a changing climate do you feel will awaken our nation – in whole or part – due to economics, loss, quantity of people impacted, treasures we take for granted, or otherwise?
  7. You met many people along your various bike treks, some who reminded you that discussing climate change issues and impacts can be an uphill battle, even when the evidence is right before one’s eyes. Of the people you met, who will stick with you the most and why? What if anything did they teach you or did you teach them?
  8. As a nation, we’ve discussed the scientific consensus of climate change, its human-made cause, and its many impacts both now and in the future. Recently on Black Friday, the Fourth Climate Assessment Report was released – which you at one time led in 1998-99. What parallels exist between the content of your book and the report’s, and which style of communication can awaken the average US citizen to the reality of the problem?
  9. Is there one reflection/fact/action that you would choose to impress upon us from your Trans-america trek and the issue of climate change more than other reflections/facts/actions? Is there a critical message you want to leave with us?
  10. What have you done since your ride and what do you still hope to do on your bike and/or about climate change?

Betting the Farm on a Drought cover

Betting the Farm on a Drought by Seamus McGraw

Seamus McGraw takes us on a trip along America’s culturally fractured back roads and listens to farmers and ranchers and fishermen, many of them people who are not ideologically, politically, or in some cases even religiously inclined to believe in man-made global climate change. He shows us how they are already being affected and the risks they are already taking on a personal level to deal with extreme weather and the very real consequences for their livelihoods. McGraw also speaks to scientists and policymakers who are trying to harness that most renewable of American resources, a sense of hope and self-reliance that remains strong in the face of daunting challenges. By bringing these voices together, Betting the Farm on a Drought ultimately becomes a model for how we all might have a pragmatic, reasoned conversation about our changing climate.

  1. McGraw highlighted the controversy over fracking, noting his mixed feelings when he allowed it on his family’s land. He compared the potential benefits of natural gas with concerns about the environmental consequences of the process to extract the gas; fuel that is dirtier than the gas itself and the methane that is released in the process. Although the methane remains in the atmosphere a much shorter time than carbon dioxide, it is a stronger greenhouse gas while it’s up there. Unfortunately, if we abandon fracking, he says, the gas would be replaced by coal. Do you agree with his statement?
  2. McGraw says that reduction in carbon dioxide in the U.S. that has come from switching coal-burning electrical power plants to gas has occurred due to market forces. However, the EPA says that Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States increased by about 9% between 1990 and 2014. Since the combustion of fossil fuel is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, changes in emissions from fossil fuel combustion have historically been the dominant factor affecting total U.S. emission trends. Changes in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion are influenced by many long-term and short-term factors, including population growth, economic growth, changing energy prices, new technologies, changing behavior, and seasonal temperatures. Between 1990 and 2014, the increase in CO2 emissions corresponded with increased energy use by an expanding economy and population, and an overall growth in emissions from electricity generation. Transportation emissions also contributed to the 9% increase, largely due to an increase in miles traveled by motor vehicles. https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/co2.html

    Since 2008, coal emissions have also generally declined. While total coal emissions are below those from petroleum and other liquids, there is more CO2 released per Btu of energy. The decline in coal emissions has contributed to a lower carbon intensity of U.S. energy consumption. Natural gas emissions have generally increased since 2008, primarily reflecting growth in the natural gas share of electricity generation largely through displacement of coal-fired generation. http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon//

    What do you see for the future of coal and the use of methane? What efforts are happening in your community to reduce/sequester carbon dioxide?

  3. The climate controversy has been dominated by widely separated positions. Partisans on both sides claim that there are only 2 sides. We have fought to a standstill, claiming the moral high ground and the public hears only the extreme positions. He cites the Six Americas study with the majority of people either Concerned or Cautious, so there is room to hope. McGraw advocates for more reasoned discussions led by people who share the same values. He gives the example of Katharine Hayhoe, a scientist with an evangelical background. Have you seen this approach work in your community?
  4. In an interview with Jeffrey Gleaves from Harper’s magazine, McGraw stated “It would be nice to think that buying local and organic will solve the problem. But the global food crisis can only be solved if we get the bankers out of the system and begin to regulate the $648 trillion global-derivatives business that has made food into a speculative buy. The problem can only be solved if we can achieve greater transparency in global food reserves, more-equitable international-trade agreements, and reform of plant patent laws that allow companies like Monsanto and Pioneer their monopolistic practices. Smaller-scale, agro-ecological farming methods may be the ultimate solution, but the problem will not begin to go away until we can enforce the idea that the benefit of wheat is not cash.” Do you agree or disagree?
  5. Scientists have a high degree of certainty about where our climate is heading: “the leopard is crouching and twitching.” “But there is some evidence to suggest that among some believers on either side of the cultural barricades, the more fraught the debate becomes with end-of-the-world imagery, the less likely they are to support specific steps to address it.” Some believe in the end-of-times are willing to accept that we are hurtling toward global catastrophe. How have you approached people with this stance?
  6. Todd Tanner believes that sportsmen and -women are a resource that has been largely untapped in the discussions about climate. The tradition of Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation efforts may provide lessons to energize the sporting community. (Conservation Hawks) Are sportsmen and –women active in your community? How might they be engaged to identify changes that are taking place and then take action?
  7. Richard Alley said that the climate issue is more like saving for retirement, “Every day you delay is costing you, but when you decide to start, it helps.” He also said that “we are weeds” and we have an astounding ability to adapt. (whale oil to petroleum, for example) In the short run, we will have to compromise and perhaps that should start with respectful conversations and sincere efforts at problem-solving. How can we help our students and communities see that the issue of climate change and taking action is not a 2-sided issue and it would benefit us to start now?

The Water Knife cover

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

In this fiction, water is scarce in the American Southwest. Texas and New Mexico are all but abandoned, and the Texans are struggling to survive along with the other unfortunates of society.

With natural resources dwindling, Arizona, Nevada, and California are locked in a fierce battle for what little relief the shriveling Colorado River can provide. Catherine Case, the Queen of the Colorado—murderous and hard as steel—seems to be coming out on top with enough control to manage luxury arcology developments in Las Vegas while the rest of civilization descends into a scene of anarchic violence and poverty.

Into this volatile environment steps Angel, a Las Vegas water knife. His job is to secure, or cut the water for the Southern Nevada water authority, deal with authorities that won’t play. Rumors abound of a new source of water in Phoenix, a place full of refugees hoping to head to California. Angel heads off to investigate but answers are elusive and meets Lucy Monroe, a journalist who covers the new form of reality reporting, a voyeuristic look at those suffering the most. She is investigating the death of her friend Jamie. As the water levels drop, the stakes are raised much higher than any of them anticipate, and the fragments of knowledge that they have must be pooled to save their lives.

The drought in America has reached epic proportions and law and order has vanished, leaving the population at the mercy of gangs and warlords. There is water available, but this is controlled from the end of the gun, leaving those without looking longingly at the lush gardens and pools of those with power. There is mass migration too, but rather than Mexicans trying to reach America, you have Texans travelling to reach water.

Additional Resources:

  1. In Chapter 3, a discussion about the price of water which is available at pumps around the city much like we pump gas now. Getting enough water is a daily ritual and the prices are astounding. ($6.95/liter) How did that change the way of life for people in Phoenix?
  2. The water pump is a gift of the Red Cross and China to Phoenix. Much of the new construction is also paid for by China. Do you see any trend of foreign investments at the present time that would lead to this?
  3. There are several references to the book, Cadillac Desert. This was a great 4-part series done by PBS about water, money, politics and the transformation of nature. See a summary here. Films are also available on YouTube

    In many ways, The Water Knife is an extension of the results of the trends seen in that video series. What do you think the future holds for water regulation and population growth in the southwest?

  4. Toomie says, “We’re all each other’s people” (250). He also says that an Indian man once told him that he believed that the people of India could survive an apocalypse while Americans could not. Why does the Indian man believe this? Do you agree?
  5. The wealthy of the southwest live in arcologies, large condo buildings that are self-sufficient with solar power and recycled water. If you look at any large city today, you will see huge apartment/condo buildings but they are not self-sufficient. What do you see as the future of self-sufficient housing in terms of power and water (even single-family homes)?
  6. For those of us in well-watered areas of the country, we don’t hear much about water rights (see definition below). However, it is an issue in the west or drought-stricken areas. As western cities and farms expand their need for water, many stakeholders vie for their fair share. The U.S. Department of the Interior has an Indian Water Rights Office to manage, negotiate and oversee settlements of Indian water rights to deliver long-promised water resources to tribes. The Water Knife’s stakeholders are all struggling for control of water rights granted to Indians in the 1800’s. What do you think about the choices that were made at the end of the book with the water rights? Do you agree with the actions that were taken?

    The Legal Dictionary explains water rights:

    A group of rights designed to protect the use and enjoyment of water that travels in streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, gathers on the surface of the earth, or collects underground.

    Water rights general emerge from a person’s ownership of the land bordering the bank of a watercourse or from a person’s actual use of a watercourse. Water rights are conferred and regulated by judge-made Common Law, state, and federal legislative bodies and other government departments Water rights can also be created by contract, as when one person transfers his water rights to another.

    In the eighteenth century, regulation of water was primarily governed by custom and practice. As the U.S. population expanded over the next two centuries, however, and the use of water for agrarian and domestic purposes increased, water became viewed as a finite and frequently scarce resource. As a result, laws were passed to establish guidelines for the fair distribution of this resource. Courts began developing common-law doctrines to accommodate landowners who asserted competing claims over a body of water.

    These doctrines govern three areas: riparian rights, surface water rights, and underground water rights. An owner or possessor of land that abuts a natural stream, river, pond, or lake is called a riparian owner and the law gives owners certain rights to water that are incident to possession of the adjacent land. Riparian owners have a right to enjoy the natural condition of the water undiminished in quantity or quality by other riparian owners.

    Every riparian owner enjoys this right to the same extent and degree, and each such owner maintains a qualified right to use the water for domestic purposes, such as drinking and bathing. However, this qualified right does not entitle riparian owners to transport water away from the land abutting the watercourse not does it permit owners to use the water for most irrigation projects or commercial enterprises.

  1. "When people aren't convinced by hearing the scientific facts of climate change, then the facts have been repeated and multiplied. Or shouted in a louder voice. Or with more pictures of drowning polar bears...The rule of thumb has been to try to shout louder yet." (Per Espen Stoknes) So why aren't people listening and acting?

  2. Evolutionary psychology suggests that we are wired to elicit certain behaviors: Flock status, imitation, short-term thinking, and a perception to overvalue immediate dangers while ignoring less palpable threats. But our climate attitudes are also influenced by our social networks. Per Stoknes suggests that there are 5 main barriers to climate action.

    • Distance - we don't see it happening
    • Doom - when framed as an encroaching disaster, we tune out
    • Dissonance - if what we know conflicts with what we do
    • Denial - avoid acknowledging the unsettling facts
    • iDentity - we filter news through our professional and cultural identity

    Instead, he suggests that we upend the 5 D's:

    • Make the issue feel near, human, personal and urgent
    • Use supportive framings that do not create negative feelings
    • Provide opportunities for consistent and visible action
    • Avoid triggering the emotional need for denial through fear or guilt
    • Reduce cultural and political polarization on the issue

    What are concrete ways we can use these strategies in our own communities or schools and with people close to us?

  3. Climate is often presented in abstract and graphical ways. These authors suggest that climate should be presented more personal experiences with strong images and frame climate change as an informed choice. Have you had any experience using this presentation style? How do you approach audiences that are not climate science savvy?
  4. The authors suggest that we need to understand people’s emotional and cognitive responses to this new reality, which can run the gamut from denial to indifference to outrage to anger to grief. (Turn off your lights or the puppy gets it) Climate messages of increasing disaster, damage, and doom is uncomfortable to live with. People make it a low priority or call the science wrong. Reframing the conversation:

    • Destruction to Health and Heart
    • Uncertainty to preparedness and ethics
    • Sacrifice to opportunity

    How can we use these reframing ideas in our work with students and their families?

  5. Marshall gave an example of Greg Craven, the science teacher who produced "The Most Terrifying Video You Will Ever See" and says that the messenger is more important than the message.

    Do you agree? What is the role of the teacher as a climate communicator in your community?

  6. Marshall "argues that once we understand what excites, threatens, and motivates us, we can rethink and re-imagine climate change, for it is not an impossible problem. Rather, it is one we can halt if we can make it our common purpose and common ground. We need to mourn what is lost (even fossil fuels) and value what remains. (http://www.climateconviction.org/)

    This approach would be ideal for helping students envision a different low-carbon world. How would you use this in your work?

  7. The western worldview makes it difficult to "incorporate aspects of family and nature into the very notion of self" and is very different from First Nations people who have a keen sense of extended self. Per Stoknes suggests that we shift this worldview to "nature connectedness".

    Is this a shift that you have already taken or one that you would consider in the future? Are there things the Planet Stewards program can help you and ultimately your students become more connected to the world around them?

Climate Fiction aka Cli-Fi

This new genre explores the potential, drastic consequences of climate change. "It’s not an entirely new concept—Jules Verne played with the idea in a few of his novels in the 1880s—but the theme of man-made change doesn’t appear in literature until well into the 20th century. The British author J.G. Ballard pioneered the environmental apocalypse narrative in books such as The Wind from Nowhere starting in the 1960s. But as public awareness of climate change increased, so did the popularity of these themes: Searching for the term “climate fiction” on Amazon today returns over 1,300 results. Since the turn of the millennium, cli-fi has evolved from a subgenre of science fiction into a class of its own. Unlike traditional sci-fi, its stories seldom focus on imaginary technologies or faraway planets. Instead the pivotal themes are all about Earth, examining the impact of pollution, rising sea levels, and global warming on human civilization. And the genre’s growing presence in college curriculums, as well as its ability to bridge science with the humanities and activism, is making environmental issues more accessible to young readers—proving literature to be a surprisingly valuable tool in collective efforts to address global warming." (Margaret Atwood in the Atlantic)

  1. "Cli-Fi: Birth of a Genre"
  2. The fundamental story of climate change is simple. Human behavior provoked a change in the weather, unleashing, among other effects, dangerous storms. This story should sound familiar. It’s one of the oldest narratives in the human repository. In a February 2015 feature for The Guardian, the cli-fi author Sarah Holding wrote that the genre “reconnects young readers with their environment, helping them to value it more, especially when today, a large amount of their time is spent in the virtual world.” Also check out Sarah Holding's Top 10 cli-fi books"

    Are there any books that you have used with students? How did you incorporate it into your curriculum? Are any books particularly attractive for future use?

  3. In a nutshell, Game of Thrones is about nine noble families fight for control of the land of Westeros. There is a lot of intrigue and power struggles, but amidst the war and political confusion, a military order of misfits, the Night's Watch, is all that stands between the realms of men on the warm side of a very large wall and the icy horrors beyond. This video makes the case that the TV show has an underlying theme. "The Game of Thrones is secretly about climate change."

    If you have seen the show, do you agree that climate is enough of a climate theme to call it cli-fi?

  4. This list of "12 works of climate fiction everyone should read" has books that we have previously read for our book club. Are there others here that had particularly good messages for educators? Which ones might be potential books for next year?
  5. "Climate fiction fantasy on the Silver Screen." and "Climate Change Movies: The Summer of 2015"

    “Ecological meltdown makes for a reliable sci-fi setting for the same reason Wall Street tycoons are convenient villains – to the average moviegoer, it’s believable. Serious environmental dislocations (at some scale) are all but inevitable. Many of them are underway. As a movie set up, an eco-dystopia needs no explication." Do you agree? Do you think that these movies increase awareness that there is "no escape" and we need to take care of planet Earth?

  6. Piers Torday, a children's author, talks about popular books like Hunger Games and the Divergent series, scenarios in a post-climate change world. He writes that "Is this appropriate for children? Am I doom mongering? Today, the sun is shining in a bright blue sky. There are birds in the garden, and bees beginning to visit the flowers. Food, water and air are all readily available. I don’t want to give any younger readers sleepless nights about tomorrow or even the day after tomorrow. But the likelihood is that climate change will reach crisis point in your lifetimes. So writing provocative stories about the state we’ve left the planet in that’s not science fiction or fantasy. It’s all too contemporary." What do you think? Do you have any favorite cli-fi books that you have used with students?

The Attacking Ocean cover

The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels by Brian Fagan

Discussion questions for The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels. Don’t have time to read the book? Just read the summary below and watch the intro video.

Summary: The past fifteen thousand years--the entire span of human civilization--have witnessed dramatic sea level changes, which began with rapid global warming at the end of the Ice Age, when sea levels were more than 700 feet below modern levels. Over the next eleven millennia, the oceans climbed in fits and starts. These rapid changes had little effect on those humans who experienced them, partly because there were so few people on earth, and also because they were able to adjust readily to new coastlines.

Global sea levels stabilized about six thousand years ago except for local adjustments that caused often quite significant changes to places like the Nile Delta. So the curve of inexorably rising seas flattened out as urban civilizations developed in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and South Asia. The earth's population boomed, quintupling from the time of Christ to the Industrial Revolution. The threat from the oceans increased with our crowding along shores to live, fish, and trade.

Since 1860, the world has warmed significantly and the ocean's climb has speeded. The sea level changes are cumulative and gradual; no one knows when they will end. The Attacking Ocean, from celebrated author Brian Fagan, tells a tale of the rising complexity of the relationship between humans and the sea at their doorsteps, a complexity created not by the oceans, which have changed but little.

  1. Watch this video introduction by Brian Fagan about rising sea levels and the threat they pose to coastal cities. He says that some of the world’s population is good at denial. Who is he referring to?
  2. Fagan says the lesson of history is that we eventually rise to the challenge but what we are confronting now is a unique long-term problem of sea level rise with expanding populations. The book has many stories of the effect of the rising sea on ancient populations in northern Europe, the Black Sea, the Nile, Mesopotamia, China, Japan, and Rome. The same processes are at work today but with many more people at risk. Was there a story from the past that was new to you or that you found uniquely compelling?
  3. Fagan says that we have a huge responsibility for the future and we need to start thinking about this and move away from “short-term political thinking”. How can we help to move the conversation to long-term solutions?
  4. Humans have been opportunistic when settling on the world’s coasts for food, economy and transportation but there are many historical accounts of the dangers of living near a rising ocean. How can we take the lessons from these powerful memories and develop long-term solutions? What are some of the simple solutions that farmers, communities and Native peoples are using to respond to the effects of sea level rise?
  5. Ocean encroachment has long been a problem for humankind but has now accelerated due to climate change. Historical accounts of encroachment from the Netherlands show us how the Dutch have dealt with the problem with amazing land reclamation from a very early date.

    "There is a strong realization that we have to do it together," said Chris Zevenbergen, chair of the Flood Resilience Group of the Unesco-IHE Institute for Water Education. “There is a continuous effort to keep our feet dry, to keep our country safe. I think that is a bit at the heart of the Dutch people and in their DNA.” Are there lessons for other countries with the Dutch methods?

  6. One blog post says “Stephen King?... Bah, Humbug! Wanna read a real horror story?…Read this nightmare book that deals with starvation, land subsidence, floods, fresh water scarcity, rising ocean levels, and overpopulation…Horrific stuff…And it's all true!” Is this reality just too scary for students?
  7. The book ends on a hopeful note but one thing is certain: the world at the end of this century will look different than it does now. How can we help young people see the hope rather than the doom of these scenarios?

Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge cover

Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge by Joana Cole

  1. What age (grade) of student do you think would find this book most interesting and useful?
  2. This book has an incredible number of climate topics covered in just a few words or images. Is this useful for your students or does this oversimplify the science?
  3. Have you used the Magic School Bus books as a foundation for a unit in the past? Would this book be useful as such a foundation?
  4. Check out this article from The Guardian: Which books deal with climate change for younger children? Have you used any of these in the past? Do you have recommendations for other books?
  5. What strategies do you use to incorporate science trade books in to your reading or science lessons?

Diet for a Hot Planet cover
  1. The author focuses her opening chapter on the connections between the climate crisis and the food system. Were there facts that surprised you? In what way, if any, has your understanding or opinion changed?
  2. In “The Shape of Things to Come,” the author argues that the expansion of the American-style fast food and processed food diet is driven by three forces, including the food industry’s explicit push to change the tastes of consumers around the globe. She writes, “Our food future is being forged by specific policies, unquestioned assumptions, and corporate decisions” (43). Do you agree? Can you think of specific examples of how the food industry may have influenced your choice as a consumer?
  3. Henry Miller of the Hoover Institution writes that “neither free enterprise nor the human condition is likely to experience net benefit from companies pursuing corporate responsibility” (87). Do you think corporations have a social responsibility? Do you think that food companies should be held to a higher social standard that other types of corporations? In “Beyond the Fork,” Lappe details activities who are pushing food corporations to be more socially responsible. Did you think their actions are justified? Which kinds of campaigns do you think are most successful?
  4. In her discussion of the motivations for social change, Lappe quotes the authors of Break Through who write, “Ecological concern remains far weaker in Brazil, India, and China than in the United States, Japan, and Europe. And it explains why, when environmentalism does emerge in developing countries, such as Brazil, it does so in Rio De Janeiro’s most affluent neighborhoods, where people have met their basic material needs, and not in its slums where people live in fear of hunger and violence” (162). Does this statement seem logical? What argument does Lappe give that this idea is a myth?
  5. On page xxii of the introduction, Lappe writes that “by turning our sights to food, we may just find the integrating lens – and grounding source – for bringing to life the real solutions already before us.” What do you think she means by this? How do you feel after reading Diet for a Hot Planet? Did the book inspire you to make changes in your diet, or to take other action? In what ways could you make a difference?

Working to Eliminate the Debate About Climate Change in the Classroom

  1. Have you used classroom activities that encourage students to critically evaluate the arguments about climate change raised in a climate contrarian newspaper op-ed.
  2. Do you think this approach strengthens student critical thinking and content knowledge?
  3. What drawbacks do you see in using debate strategies in the science classroom?
  4. Are there other strategies useful to spark interest about climate science? For example, having students collect and share real-life stories of the personal impacts felt by climate change.

Resource List:

Consider actions that were taken in some recent healthcare studies.

Climate Stories - The Climate Minnesota project is collecting "climate stories".

Sudden Sea cover

Sudden Sea by R.A. Scotti

This book focuses on the great hurricane of 1938, the early days of weather and hurricane forecasting, and presents first hand accounts of the tracking and impacts of the storm. You can find more information at the following sites:

  1. There were a lot of buildings on barrier reefs and low-lying land near the ocean that were completely destroyed in the 1938 hurricane. Do stories like this affect your view of "beachfront property"? Should people build in those areas? How does sea level rise affect this situation?
  2. Were there personal accounts of the hurricane that spoke to you more than others?
  3. The book showcases the state of weather forecasting in the 1930's and provides some information about the fact that this event and the resulting controversy caused by the lack of warning led to drastic revisions in the national weather service. Where do you go to get your weather information? How do your students/constituents get their information? Are weather radios accessible in your school?
  4. The Hurricane of 1938 was overshadowed by events in Europe, so it received relatively little press coverage. Compare this to the coverage of an event like Sandy in today's media. Is it now adequate? Too much?
  5. Hurricane Sandy has been compared to the Great Hurricane of 1938. "Limited data suggests that the 1938 hurricane was perhaps an event similar to Sandy in terms of baroclinic enhancement of a tropical system." However, the forecasts for Sandy were spot-on unlike the ones for 1938. Still, there were 117 deaths in the U.S. and 69 in Canada and the Caribbean. Why did they occur and how can we reduce the loss of life in severe storms even more?
  6. Finally, there is a teacher guide that accompanies a PBS special on this hurricane. Are hurricane (or severe storm) preparations part of your curriculum?

Why Creativity Now cover

Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson

  1. Sir Robinson talks about creativity being an essential 21st Century skill but there have been misconceptions about the linkages between it and critical thinking. Do you agree with his explanation?
  2. Robinson says that “collaboration, diversity, the exchange of ideas, and building on other people's achievements are at the heart of the creative process.” What classroom and informal strategies promote these behaviors to solve tough challenges such as adapting to climate change impacts?

    Robinson also makes an entertaining case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. Click here to see his TED talk. Also consider reading the following books by Dr. Robinson, The Element and Out of Our Minds, Learning to be Creative.

    Lisa Rivero writes about the father of creativity, E. Paul Torrance, who developed the widely used Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, used to identify creative ability in children. He also created the Future Problem Solving Program, “to develop the ability of young people globally to design and promote positive futures using critical, creative thinking.”

    E. Paul Torrance's Manifesto:

    • Don't be afraid to fall in love with something and pursue it with intensity.
    • Know, understand, take pride in, practice, develop, exploit, and enjoy your greatest strengths.
    • Learn to free yourself from the expectations of others and walk away from the games they impose on you. Free yourself to play your own game.
    • Find a great teacher or mentor who will help you.
    • Don’t waste energy trying to be well-rounded.
    • Do what you love and can do well.
    • Learn the skills of interdependence.

  3. What parts of Torrance’s Manifesto speak to you? Which ones could be applied to your teaching situation and to your students and audiences?

    Here are a couple of great lists of ideas for Teaching for Creativity

  4. There are many contest/challenges that encourage creative solutions to challenges like reducing our need for energy - see some links below. Have you been part of contests like this and have you seen changes in your students as a result of their participation?

The Collapse of Western Civilization cover

The Collapse of Western Civilization by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway

  1. The end of Western culture in 2093 is the premise of this book about not heeding the warning signs of a changing climate and not being able (or willing) to act upon that knowledge. The authors indicate that the scientists who understood the problem were somewhat limited in speaking out because they were limited to their area of specialty which hindered conversations about larger, complex systems. Even the scientific process requiring rigor and burden of proof became a tool for climate denial. Do you think that this is the case at the present time? How can we help students better understand the balance between scientific investigation and taking action?
  2. The authors talk about a Penumbral age (time before the crash when actions should have been taken) started in 1988 when the IPCC was formed and the world recognized the crisis at hand. Key to the discrediting of scientific findings was the idea of “uncertainty”. How has this key scientific premise been used as a weapon of deniers? How can we help students understand the concept of uncertainty in looking at climate information?
  3. The book indicates that the 2009 Copenhagen meeting was “viewed as the last best chance the Western world had to save itself”. Do you agree? What signs would you point to that this is or is not the case.
  4. The book discusses the release of Arctic methane which accelerated the warming significantly. Are there signs that this is happening now? Do you think this a serious threat? Potential sites for review:

  5. Aerosol injection of sulfates was discussed as a climate engineering project to slow the warming. It eventually was stopped due to unforeseen problems. Here’s some additional information about this strategy.

  6. What “tools” do you think we should use to counteract the effects of climate change?

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind cover

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

In addition to the book (or if you do not have the book), we recommend the documentary film of William's journey at www.movingwindmills.org.

  1. How did the villagers compensate for not having electricity, telephones, or most of the modern conveniences we take for granted?
  2. Malawi is an extremely poor nation. What are some of the causes of this poverty and how might these causes and influences be overcome?
  3. William writes of the corruption, greed, nonexistent services, and lack of empathy that turned the drought into a disaster for average people like him and his family. How did the Malawi government exacerbate the problems of the citizens during the drought?
  4. William exhibited the kind of curiosity that we would like to encourage in all students. (asking people how things work, reading books from the library, tinkering, scouring junkyards, etc) What lessons from this book might you employ with your students?
  5. What motivates people like William to attempt the unthinkable? How would you describe him to someone who's never heard of his achievement?
  6. William was desperate to stay in school but could not because of money. How might William's life be different if he had access to education without having to pay like most American students?

Hot, Flat and Crowded cover

Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman

  1. Friedman suggests that Green is about a new form of generating national power and that this is building alternatives to oil. This book was written in 2008 so how do you think we are doing toward that objective?
  2. That rise of radicalized factions and destabilization in the mid-east is a development that would not be surprising to Friedman. He discussed the Energy-Climate Era as a convergence of global warming, global flattening, and global crowding driving problems in energy supply, petro-dictatorship, climate change, energy poverty and biodiversity loss and that we are past the tipping points. Is there evidence that these changes can be laid at the doorstep of a changing climate?
  3. Flattening refers to the “levelling” of the global economic playing field due to several factors: personal computers, the Internet, and the development in software that enable fast, global communications. Now add to this the growth of smartphones and social networking since 2008. Do you think that this is will increase or decrease our response time to global issues like climate change?
  4. On page 125, John Holdren’s First Principle of Climate Change is that “the more aspects of the problem you know something about, the more pessimistic you are...because you know how long it takes to change all the systems that are driving the problem.” Does this affect your commitment to climate literacy?
  5. What did you discover about the importance of biodiversity by reading Hot, Flat, and Crowded? Why do the efforts of groups such as Conservation International receive less attention than climate-change studies, though Friedman asserts that they are equally crucial?
  6. “Energy poverty" is a key to healing third-world populations, particularly in Africa, and it is mostly the women that bear the greatest burden of energy poverty. What is the best way to balance the need for energy in these regions with the destructive effects of power-supply emissions?
  7. Confronting today’s energy-climate challenge is a “series of great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems” and on p. 212-213 Friedman lists a series of potential actions that can start to make a difference. How might you use this in the development of stewardship actions in your community?

Early Warming cover

Early Warming by Nancy Lord

“An alarming report from Alaska and Northwest Canada, ground zero for climate change. Disproportionate temperature increases in the north, relative to the lower latitudes, make the region a perfect laboratory for witnessing the effects of global warming and for designing strategies to mitigate or adapt to altered weather patterns. According to longtime Alaska resident and veteran author Lord (Creative Writing/Univ. of Alaska, Anchorage; Rock, Water, Wild: An Alaskan Life, 2009, etc.), climate-related changes are happening now, radically transforming landscapes and lives. Her account’s power stems from her on-site observations, lyrical descriptions of the land and sea and sensitive interviews of local officials and natives whose insight and experience humanize an otherwise vast and arcane subject. They’re already making hard choices about land and water use, fire prevention and species conservation, as well as about combating climate change while still respecting traditional cultures.”

  1. Sea ice is receding in coastal areas, water temperatures are climbing, and acidity of the water is increasing. The impact of these factors, and how they interact, is still very much an open question. Evolving technology and climate forecasting is a great way to bring the tools and methods of science to students and modeling is a skill featured in the NGSS. Are there dangers when discussing changes in predictions and uncertainty with a population that is not science-literate?
  2. A salmon-dependent economy (or any oceanic creature, for that matter) will see changes as species move to different areas. This will cause a cascading effect on the population. Do you foresee any impact on your local economy to changes in climate?
  3. Thawing permafrost and diminished sea ice expose a vulnerable coastline and villages like Shishmaref, causing them to make hard decisions about relocating their homes and businesses . Climate migrants will be an increasing fact of life for many in coastal areas. Coastal resiliency is being highlighted as a method of preparation in many parts of the country. Did you sense from the examples in the book that current efforts will be sufficient in the Arctic?
  4. Village elders near the Bering Sea gather to advise fishery managers and Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK) has been considered in making decisions. Knowledge from the past can be woven into interdisciplinary units for students when looking at environmental change. Have you used this method in the past? If so, what topics or resources would you recommend?
  5. Lord reminds readers that northern forestlands capture more CO2 than the more celebrated rainforests and that algae under the ice is extremely important. “The equation’s pretty simple: no ice = no algae = no zooplankton = no ‘higher order’ animals, all the way through the food chain.” At what point does that include us?

Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low Carbon Living cover

Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low Carbon Living, Union of Concerned Scientists

  1. Cooler. Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living provides compelling evidence that the collective efforts of many can make a big impact on our climate future and that “we need to make swift and deep reductions of carbon dioxide.” The message that “small individual actions can reap huge dividends in the aggregate” is one that would resonate with students of all ages. Have you employed any projects in your classrooms or with other groups that demonstrated this lesson?
  2. The book takes a very careful look at all of the potential effective steps that individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprint. These included transportation, food, home heating and cooling, other home energy use, and the stuff that we buy. (pie chart on page 16) Were any of the suggestions for the reductions in these categories useful in developing a class stewardship project? Were any of them new strategies that you can personally employ?
  3. On page 19, the authors note that “people tend to underestimate how powerful it can be to use energy more efficiently.” How can we make people (your students, parents, community) more aware that improving efficiency can yield better saving in energy and emissions than simply doing without?
  4. The information boxes in each chapter pointed to interesting tidbits and calculations that might be potentially useful in classroom activities or projects. (pages 35, 53, 59, 60, 69, 97, 119, 120, 128, 140, 145, 164 are just a few) The book is full of useful information and succinct explanations. Did any of them provide a new nugget of information or an “aha” moment for you?
  5. The authors make the case that recycling reduces in 2 ways; reducing the need for virgin materials and reducing emissions from landfills. Does your school/community recycle enough? Are there ways to increase recycling efforts or reduce what we create? (The average American creates 4.3 pounds of trash each day.)
  6. The costs of transporting water over long distances is carbon-intensive and the need will likely increase in certain areas of the U.S. If you live in an area where water is scarce, what measures does your community make to reduce the need for water? What do you see for your water future?
  7. On page 183, the authors explain that we want to inspire, not frighten people into action. A reference is made to research done in that people are most inclined to address climate change when they understand three things:
    • The basic mechanism behind global warming
    • The prospects for achieving practical solutions
    • The economic benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy
  8. How might this advice be woven into your work on climate?

Earth: The Operator's Manual cover

Earth: The Operator's Manual by Richard Alley

Using one engaging story after another, coupled with accessible scientific facts, world authority Richard B. Alley explores the fascinating history of energy use by humans over the centuries, gives a doubt-destroying proof that already-high levels of carbon dioxide are causing damaging global warming, and surveys the alternative energy options that are available to exploit right now.

  1. Dr. Alley uses a number of analogies when describing concepts. Did these help you, and if so, what was the most effective one? How could you use this analogy with your students/audience?
  2. Dr. Alley discusses modelling in climate science in some detail. Did this add to your understanding of the way scientific models work? How can this add to your repertoire of climate teaching tools? How could this information help you address the less-convinced who view them as “only models” that can be manipulated to show what the investigator wants to show?
  3. Dr. Alley discusses a variety of possible energy sources other than fossil fuels. Which is the most viable in your area according to his presentation and your previous knowledge? Why?
  4. Dr. Alley maintains a positive tone throughout the book despite the subject matter. How does he do it? What can we take away from the book to maintain our own positivity with our students and audience?
  5. Does this book speak to the heart or the mind or both? How? Do communicators need to speak to both?
  6. What was your most important take away from the book?

The Story of Stuff cover

The Story of Stuff (all videos available here: storyofstuff.org/movies)

All the videos are a bit less than an hour in length. We know "Stuff" is something many of us struggle with in our lives, so it was really interesting to hear what educators think about these issues as individuals and the myriad of ways they present them in their classes.

  1. What was your initial reaction to the video?
  2. Annie says "you can't run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely." Another way to interpret this statement is you can't have unlimited economic growth with limited resources. Do you agree? Why or why not? What could this mean for the future of the U.S. economy? What changes could be made to ensure our economic system supports, rather than undermines, the planet's biological systems on which we depend?
  3. Annie says the U.S. has 5% of the world's population but uses 30% of the resources and makes 30% of the waste, and that is is a problem. Do you agree that this is a problem? Why or why not? If so, how did it come to be this way, and what are some of the steps that we in the U.S. can take to reduce the quantity and impact on our nation's consumption?
  4. Some people would say "The Story of Stuff" is anti-capitalist. What do you think?
  5. Is Annie's story complete? If not, what else should be added?
  6. Would you use these videos and/or the book in your classrooms? Why or why not? If yes, how would you use it?
  7. Related Resources:

Chasing Ice cover

Chasing Ice

This is a remarkable documentary transports the viewer to the arctic to experience shrinking glaciers and ice-sheets. The photographing is breathtaking. You can feel the ice, so grab a warm blanket and check it out!

The official synopsis from Google Play:
Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski profiles National Geographic photographer James Balog as he endeavors to capture undeniable proof of climate change by launching the ambitious Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), a project that entails using time-lapse photography to document shifting ice glaciers. With the aid of his young assistants, Balog travels to three continents, placing 30 cameras in key positions to record vivid images of the majestic ice caps as they slowly melt away. In the process of capturing these incredible shots, Balog finds his skepticism fading, and experiences a brush with mortality that leaves him positively convinced that nature is currently experiencing a profound shift, the likes of which has never been witnessed by modern man.

If you haven't seen the film, here are some places you can get it:

  1. The subject of the film is a man who endeavors to capture irrefutable proof of human caused climate change. From a scientific point of view, do you think he succeeds?
  2. Do you think films like this are more likely or less likely to change hearts and minds than well-presented science? Why?
  3. Here is one reaction to the movie from a blogger who remains unconvinced that human beings are causing the climate to change.

    One of the more popular climate scams employed by the EPA, Katherine Hayhoe and many others – is to show photographs of glaciers from the 1940s (or later) next to recent photos. The implication being that these glaciers started to retreat sometime recently, and that it is due to global warming. This is blatant fraud. These glaciers have been retreating for hundreds of years, and it has nothing to do with CO2. http://antigreen.blogspot.com/2012/01/time-lapse-video-shows-how-glacier.html

    If a student came to your class with this information, how would you handle it?

  4. Would you use the film with your students? Why or why not?
  5. Did the film have an impact on you? What is your take-away from the film?

Flight Behavior cover

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

  1. Is this small town in Tennessee where Dellarobia lives familiar to you? What is everyday life like for them?
  2. Cub and his father, Bear, want to sell the patch of forest where the Monarchs are to a lumber company for clear-cutting. How do you strike a balance between protecting nature when your livelihood depends upon its destruction?
  3. Flight Behavior illuminates the conflicting attitudes of different classes towards nature and the idea of climate change. How does each side see this issue? Where do they find common ground?
  4. Why do so many Americans fear or dislike science? What impact do these attitudes have on the nation now and what do they portend for our future?
  5. How is media both a help and a hindrance in our understanding of issues like climate change? How does it offer clarity and how does it add confusion? How is the media portrayed in Flight Behavior?
  6. What did you take away from reading Flight Behavior?

Teaching About Climate Change

Teaching About Climate Change by Tim Grant and Gail Littlejohn

  1. This book includes many activities for K-12 (see curriculum index on p.73) that focus on the multidisciplinary nature of climate change. On page 7, a quote states, "Students need to learn how different disciplines approach the subject of global change. While scientists can reveal the nature and causes of global changes, science does not automatically determine what actions we should take in the light of this knowledge." In addition, the NGSS and the Framework for K-12 Science Education highlight the social impact of science. Climate change is well-suited to this approach. Are you including this in your teaching? If not, what are the challenges you face implementing this approach?
  2. The book includes many options for investigating energy use and alternatives. Was there on activity that particularly attracted you for use with your students or informal audiences?
  3. In the activity, "From Gridlock to Global Warming", (p. 44-48) students investigate the link between local transportation issues and global climate change. Last month we talked about the ecophobia ideas promoted by David Sobel in which students may become dismayed with the huge issues that face us related to climate change. This activity had positive results in that "Learning of other communities' successful efforts to solve similar traffic problems helped them move beyond this (defeatist) attitude." What strategies have you employed (or seen) that help students move beyond fear?
  4. The Climate Change Roundtable (p. 69-70) emphasizes consensus-building rather than winning or losing. The book round table suggests that this is a 2-day activity. What do you think?