The following are books suggested by educators and discussed at previous NOAA Planet Stewards Book Club meetings. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 10, 2023 7:00 pm ET
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The Intersectional Environmentalist examines the inextricable link between environmentalism, racism, and privilege, and promotes awareness of the fundamental truth that we cannot save the planet without uplifting the voices of its people — especially those most often unheard. Written by Leah Thomas, a prominent voice in the field and the activist who coined the term "Intersectional Environmentalism," this book is simultaneously a call to action, a guide to instigating change for all, and a pledge to work towards the empowerment of all people and the betterment of the planet.
Thomas shows how not only are Black, Indigenous and people of color unequally and unfairly impacted by environmental injustices, but she argues that the fight for the planet lies in tandem to the fight for civil rights; and in fact, that one cannot exist without the other. An essential read, this book addresses the most pressing issues that the people and our planet face, examines and dismantles privilege, and looks to the future as the voice of a movement that will define a generation.
Was there anything in the book that surprised you?
Does your local school system discuss the topic of environmental justice in its classes?
How can you create a “space” in your school, organization, workplace or community for voices that have been marginalized?
How can racial progress and equality also aid environmental justice in the U.S.?
Why have the nations in the Global North chosen low-income cities in the Global South for their waste disposal? Does the potential for some economic benefit through the resale of waste outweigh the environmental and health hazards to these communities?
What resources could you use to learn more about another cultural community before asking someone from that community questions about a particular topic? Why is this important?
In past movements, race and gender have been excluded from the issue at hand – i.e. climate change. What can we do in the future to ensure this doesn’t happen?
December 13, 2022 7:00 pm ET
Video Meeting Link: meet.google.com/wqg-hcay-nkb
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This urgent call to action will empower you to stand up to climate change and environmental pollution by making simple but impactful everyday choices.
With urgency and wit, Tatiana Schlossberg explains that far from being only a distant problem of the natural world created by the fossil fuel industry, climate change is all around us, all the time, lurking everywhere in our convenience-driven society, all without our realizing it.
By examining the unseen and unconscious environmental impacts in four areas-the Internet and technology, food, fashion, and fuel - Schlossberg helps readers better understand why climate change is such a complicated issue, and how it connects all of us: How streaming a movie on Netflix in New York burns coal in Virginia; how eating a hamburger in California might contribute to pollution in the Gulf of Mexico; how buying an inexpensive cashmere sweater in Chicago expands the Mongolian desert; how destroying forests from North Carolina is necessary to generate electricity in England.
Cataloging the complexities and frustrations of our carbon-intensive society with a dry sense of humor, Schlossberg makes the climate crisis and its solutions interesting and relevant to everyone who cares, even a little, about the planet. She empowers readers to think about their stuff and the environment in a new way, helping them make more informed choices when it comes to the future of our world.
Most importantly, this is a book about the power we have as voters and consumers to make sure that the fight against climate change includes all of us and all of our stuff, not just industry groups and politicians. If we have any hope of solving the problem, we all have to do it together.
How did the book title get your attention? Did the author’s presentation of the complicated and depressing topic of climate change help make the book readable? How so?
Did you learn anything new from the first section of the book about technology and the internet’s impact on the environment? If so, what? Did you end up using a kill-a-watt meter in your own house (or a friends’?) to find vampire culprits, or set up power strips with off switches on some appliances? Why or why not? What changes might you be able to make in your use of technology?
Did you learn anything new from the second section of the book about food? If so, what? What changes might you want to make in your own food choices?
In the third section of the book, about clothing - the author drilled down in her discussion of jeans/cotton and cashmere. Was this an effective writing strategy? Did these very specific examples of inconspicuous consumption change your thinking? What changes might you be able to make in your clothing choices?
Section four of the book - about fossil fuels, was left for last because, as the author states, it’s kind of boring. However, she makes this topic quite readable and brings up more immediate aspects such as coal ash, and deforestation from burning wood. What changes might you be able to make in your fossil fuel “usage”?
An underlying theme throughout the book is the disproportionate effects these issues (climate change itself and related pollution, growing convenience and comfort for richer people/nations) have on the marginalized, on less developed countries, and how much of it is seated in racial injustices. What new understandings did you discover?
An ever-improving and convenient world for those of us with privilege comes at a cost. How do we assess that cost and pay our fair share? Demanding transparency from companies so that we can better understand environmental and societal costs? Are we willing to pay higher prices on goods and services so they can be made more eco-friendly and just?
As Schlossberg says, our daily activities are “much more connected to each other, to global climate change, and to each one of us than we think….I don't think we should feel individually guilty necessarily for our consumption, but we should feel collectively responsible for fixing the systems and building a better world.” What next steps can/should we take – individually, and collectively?
November 15, 2022 7:00 pm ET
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Middle-class African American households with incomes between $50,000 and $60,000 live in neighborhoods that are more polluted than those of very poor white households with incomes below $10,000.
When swallowed, a lead-paint chip no larger than a fingernail can send a toddler into a coma — one-tenth of that amount will lower his IQ.
Nearly two of every five African American homes in Baltimore are plagued by lead-based paint. Almost all of the 37,500 Baltimore children who suffered lead poisoning between 2003 and 2015 were African American.
From injuries caused by lead poisoning to the devastating effects of atmospheric pollution, infectious disease, and industrial waste, Americans of color are harmed by environmental hazards in staggeringly disproportionate numbers. This systemic onslaught of toxic exposure and institutional negligence causes irreparable physical harm to millions of people across the country-cutting lives tragically short and needlessly burdening our health care system. But these deadly environments create another insidious and often overlooked consequence: robbing communities of color, and America as a whole, of intellectual power.
In A Terrible Thing to Waste, award-winning science writer Harriet A. Washington argues that IQ is a biased and flawed metric, but that it is useful for tracking cognitive damage. She takes apart the spurious notion of intelligence as an inherited trait, using copious data that instead point to a different cause of the reported African American-white IQ gap: environmental racism — a confluence of racism and other institutional factors that relegate marginalized communities to living and working near sites of toxic waste, pollution, and insufficient sanitation services. She investigates heavy metals, neurotoxins, deficient prenatal care, bad nutrition, and even pathogens as chief agents influencing intelligence to explain why communities of color are disproportionately affected — and what can be done to remedy this devastating problem.
Join us even if you have not been able to read the book! In A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and its Assault on the American Mind, Harriet A. Washington discusses many instances of the long-ranging impacts of environmental racism on black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities. Her extensively researched book documents communities suffering with the effects from chemicals causing severe health complications and a lowering of IQ which can serve as “a predictor of success in school, social settings, work achievements, and lifetime earnings.” She investigates heavy metals, neurotoxins, deficient prenatal care, bad nutrition and pathogens as agents influencing intelligence to explain why communities of color are disproportionately affected. Washington ends with suggestions on actions that can taken individually and collectively to remedy these problems. Harriet Washington is the Shearing Fellow at the University of Nevada’s Black Mountain Institute, a research fellow in medical ethics at Harvard Medical School and a senior research scholar at the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University.
NPR's Sarah McCammon spoke with author Harriet A. Washington about the incidences of environmental racism. (https://www.npr.org/2019/07/27/745925045/book-a-terrible-thing-to-waste) She asked “Why are people of color are disproportionately affected by this?” Washington responded “For the same reasons they're disproportionately affected by many things. It's various racist policies that have persisted for decades - and in some cases centuries - have herded them into areas where they are exposed to toxins. Segregation is a factor in many urban areas. Do you see this in your community?
Washington pointed out that environmental poisoning inflicts a loss of intelligence and behavioral problems but that alarms have not been raised to these issues. Were you aware of the pervasiveness of these problems and the relationship between intelligence and pollution?
Have you experienced or seen examples of environmental pollution affecting your education environment?
Washington uses the loss of IQ as one of the consequences of environmental pollution. She indicates that IQ tests can measure a loss of cognition but it is an imperfect instrument. Although IQ can be used as a relative test of intellectual ability, it has also been used to justify a biased, intentional ranking of world peoples. Do you agree with the use of IQ as a data point for studying the impacts of environmental pollution? Are there other measures we might consider?
Washington indicates that the IQ gap caused by environmental pollution, nutritional deficiencies, alcohol, drugs and pathogens can be closed with proper action. She does not agree that IQ is innate and permanent and that we have failed communities of color by not addressing these factors. What actions can educators use to help counteract the causes and impacts of environmental pollution?
There are 60,000 chemicals approved for the workplace, but testing is not usually done prior to use. Poverty and especially, race, are drivers in environmental exposure. Chemicals are far more likely to find their way into African-American, Hispanic and Native American communities which affect all aspects of their lives, including water, land and schools. Flint’s water supply with contamination by lead and Native American communities contaminated by uranium and coal mines are just 2 examples highlighted in the book. These pollutants affect all members of the community but can impact children and infants even more. Even small doses can trigger lifelong disabilities by hampering proper development of the brain. Was there an instance of pollution highlighted in the book that especially spoke to you?
The book highlights many examples of government, industry and political leaders who have evaded responsibility for environmental pollution. Additional examples come to light every year. One recent example is the radioactive contamination of an elementary school in the Midwest. What can be done to support healthy environments for our children?
Washington suggests many steps that individuals can take to fight for a less toxic environment. This includes uplifting the grassroots environmental justice organizing of black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities. She also provides a helpful glossary and long list of “Known Chemical Brain Drainers” in addition to supporting a positive connection to the natural environment in childhood to optimize mental and physical health. Many Planet Stewards projects have developed school gardens, study areas and natural areas for native plants and animals. Are there opportunities for your students to enjoy natural, healthy surroundings outside?
Climate change will increase the incidence and spread of pathogens and disease. Vectors will expand their territories and disseminate infectious diseases to communities that are not wealthy enough to deal with the factors that increase exposure and spread of disease. Why is an understanding of the health effects of climate change critical for everyone? What resources have you used about the health impacts of climate change?
Washington outlined steps that can be taken by individuals and communities to fight for a less toxic environment. These include:
What steps have you taken to develop healthy environments for your family?
October 11, 2022 7:00 pm ET
Video Meeting Link: meet.google.com/sze-mdtt-dtm
To Dial in Using Phone Only: +1 413-308-2184
Pin: 424 267 521#
Two young travelers, 13-year-old Ezzy Skylar and her younger brother Luke, find wonder and terror on the spectacular Kangia Icefjord. No sooner do they arrive with their dad in Ilulissat on Greenland’s western coast than they are embroiled in eco-themed bad behavior. Ezzy and Luke find themselves shot at, left in a locked room, forced to make their way through a deadly iceberg field (once on foot and later by boat), and, most thrilling of all, kayaking wildly through the glacier’s interior down a meltwater tunnel. At last, however, they uncover an unethical plan to stimulate the local trade in tourists eager to see melting glaciers. Encounters with fetching sled dog puppies, impressive humpback whales, and enormous mosquitoes add lighter notes to these misadventures, and frequent references to climate change and its effects supply a unifying theme.
September 13, 2022 7:00 pm ET
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Craig Foster, suffering from a loss of purpose, begins a daily diving regimen in the freezing kelp forests at the tip of Africa in order to re-energize himself. What he discovers below the water’s surface is a totally alien motivation in the form of an unusually curious octopus. This beautiful record of an animal’s entire life — something seldom achieved in the wild, let alone underwater — was shot over a full year and explores the habits and personality of a strange, undulating creature that most of us have only ever eaten.
Beyond intelligent, dextrous and resilient, the cephalopod shares her secret world with Foster as they develop a touching bond. The underwater encounters are literally breathtaking as Foster holds his breath while interacting with the octopus. An immersive portrait of human–animal understanding, brimming with danger, drama and devastating emotion, My Octopus Teacher grabs you with all eight arms and changes its camouflage — showing you colors and textures you’ve never seen before.
Monday, May 16, 2022
Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been spurred by it, national diets have been based on it, economies have depended on it, and the settlement of North America was driven by it. Cod, it turns out, is the reason Europeans set sail across the Atlantic, and it is the only reason they could. What did the Vikings eat in icy Greenland and on the five expeditions to America recorded in the Icelandic sagas? Cod -- frozen and dried in the frosty air, then broken into pieces and eaten like hardtack. What was the staple of the medieval diet? Cod again, sold salted by the Basques, an enigmatic people with a mysterious, unlimited supply of cod.
Cod is a charming tour of history with all its economic forces laid bare and a fish story embellished with great gastronomic detail. It is also a tragic tale of environmental failure, of depleted fishing stocks where once the cod's numbers were legendary. In this deceptively whimsical biography of a fish, Mark Kurlansky brings a thousand years of human civilization into captivating focus.
Monday, April 11, 2022
In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food.
Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.
Monday, March 7, 2022
They organize, they network, they give speeches. They travel, they pick up trash, they volunteer, they establish organizations. They raise their voices, and they emphasize the role of climate justice in dismantling other systems of oppression. Most of all, these young people fight for their right to a future and the necessity of a healthy planet to that future. From a Brazilian girl whose concern for the ocean’s health began with her love of surfing to a young Harlemite of Dominican descent whose cerebral palsy doesn’t stop her from doing the work, whether it’s leading a county committee or going to medical school, these stories enlighten and inspire. Each activist is introduced with a color photograph, birth date, Instagram handle, pronouns, and something she loves. The four-page text of each profile offers descriptions of the activist in action and quotes by and about her, with her activist origin story woven in. These young people are both remarkable in their hard work and dedication and also ordinary in the sense that they simply decided this issue was too important not to focus on—a winning combination that invites readers to get involved. The anecdotes draw readers in, the facts encourage commitment, and the global diversity drives home the point that this is everyone’s responsibility and an urgent social justice issue.
Monday, February 7, 2022
Our Changing Menu unpacks the increasingly complex relationships between food and climate change. Whether you're a chef, baker, distiller, restaurateur, or someone who simply enjoys a good pizza or drink, it's time to come to terms with how climate change is affecting our diverse and interwoven food system.
The authors offer an eye-opening journey through a complete menu of before-dinner drinks and salads; main courses and sides; and coffee and dessert. Along the way they examine the escalating changes occurring to the flavors of spices and teas, the yields of wheat, the vitamins in rice, and the price of vanilla. Their story is rounded out with a primer on the global food system, the causes and impacts of climate change, and what we can all do. Our Changing Menu is a celebration of food and a call to action―encouraging readers to join with others from the common ground of food to help tackle the greatest challenge of our time.
- Planting shade trees amongst coffee plants to buffer temperature extremes
- Increase habitat for pest-eating birds
Adaptation- Choosing pest and heat-tolerant varieties
Reversal- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Monday, January 10, 2022
A vital investigation of the economic and environmental instability of America’s food system, from the agricultural issues we face — soil loss, water depletion, climate change, pesticide use — to the community of leaders who are determined to fix it. Sustainable is a film about the land, the people who work it and what must be done to sustain it for future generations.
The narrative of the film focuses on Marty Travis, a seventh-generation farmer in central Illinois who watched his land and community fall victim to the pressures of big agribusiness. Determined to create a proud legacy for his son, Marty transforms his profitless wasteland and pioneers the sustainable food movement in Chicago.
Sustainable travels the country seeking leadership and wisdom from some of the most forward thinking farmers like Bill Niman, Klaas Martens and John Kempf – heroes who challenge the ethical decisions behind industrial agriculture. It is a story of hope and transformation, about passion for the land and a promise that it can be restored to once again sustain us.
Monday, December 13, 2021
What should we have for dinner? Ten years ago, Michael Pollan confronted us with this seemingly simple question and, with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, his brilliant and eye-opening exploration of our food choices, demonstrated that how we answer it today may determine not only our health but our survival as a species. In the years since, Pollan’s revolutionary examination has changed the way Americans think about food. Bringing wide attention to the little-known but vitally important dimensions of food and agriculture in America, Pollan launched a national conversation about what we eat and the profound consequences that even the simplest everyday food choices have on both ourselves and the natural world. Ten years later, The Omnivore’s Dilemma continues to transform the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.
In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan guides the reader through an extensive tour of food production in America, tracing a series of food chains from the seed to the table. In the first part, he takes us to a massive farm in Iowa, where the formerly diverse yield of hay, apples, hogs, and cherries has given way to a vast monocultural enterprise, in which, thanks to government subsidies, corn is king. Weaving history, science, and sociology, Pollan shows how America has bent its priorities in the service of this single crop, converting it into ethanol, the now-ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup, and even disposable diapers. Pollan next transports us to a small, ecologically balanced farm in Virginia, where the chickens and cattle roam more freely, and animals and humans alike reap the benefits of a natural food chain based on grass. Finally, Pollan resolves to prepare a meal that he has hunted and gathered by himself. As he stalks a feral pig, dives for abalone, and wonders whether that mushroom he has picked just might kill him, we rediscover food not merely as a physical source of life but as a medium for communion with nature and one another.
Monday, November 15, 2021
That man should have dominion “over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” is a prophecy that has hardened into fact. So pervasive are human impacts on the planet that it’s said we live in a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene.
In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth.
One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a ten-thousand-year exercise in defying nature. In The Sixth Extinction, she explored the ways in which our capacity for destruction has reshaped the natural world. Now she examines how the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face
Monday, October 18, 2021
Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet's slide toward certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, but also details what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal.
He gives us a clear-eyed description of the challenges we face. Drawing on his understanding of innovation and what it takes to get new ideas into the market, he describes the areas in which technology is already helping to reduce emissions, where and how the current technology can be made to function more effectively, where breakthrough technologies are needed, and who is working on these essential innovations. Finally, he lays out a concrete, practical plan for achieving the goal of zero emissions-suggesting not only policies that governments should adopt, but what we as individuals can do to keep our government, our employers, and ourselves accountable in this crucial enterprise.
As Bill Gates makes clear, achieving zero emissions will not be simple or easy to do, but if we follow the plan he sets out here, it is a goal firmly within our reach.
Monday, September 13, 2021
In this 2003 Newberry award winning book we’re introduced to Roy, and his first acquaintance in Florida, Dana Matherson, a well-known bully. Then again, if Dana hadn't been sinking his thumbs into Roy's temples and mashing his face against the school-bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. And the running boy is intriguing: he was running away from the school bus, carried no books, and here's the odd part - wore no shoes. Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy's trail. The chase introduces him to potty-trained alligators, a fake-fart champion, some burrowing owls, a renegade eco-avenger, and several extremely poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails. Roy has most definitely arrived in Carl Hiaasen's Florida, where the creatures are wild and the people are wilder!
A Silent Spring for our era, this eloquent, urgent, fascinating book reveals how just 50 years of swift and dangerous oceanic change threatens the very existence of life on Earth. Legendary marine scientist Sylvia Earle portrays a planet teetering on the brink of irreversible environmental crisis.
In recent decades we’ve learned more about the ocean than in all previous human history combined. But, even as our knowledge has exploded, so too has our power to upset the delicate balance of this complex organism.
Fortunately, there is reason for hope, but what we do—or fail to do—in the next ten years may well resonate for the next ten thousand. The ultimate goal, Earle argues passionately and persuasively, is to find responsible, renewable strategies that safeguard the natural systems that sustain us. The first step is to understand and act upon the wise message of this accessible, insightful, and compelling book.
In your opinion should the United States ratify the treaty? Why or why not?
Website links on pages 316-318 in The World is Blue were reviewed prior to the NOAA Planet Stewards Book Club meeting. Amended website URLs are noted below
In A Tale of Two Planets John Freeman draws together a group of writers from around the world to help us see how the environmental crisis is hitting some of the most vulnerable communities where they live.
In the past five years he has compiled two anthologies that deal with income inequality as it is experienced. In the course of this work, one major theme came up repeatedly: Climate change is making already dire inequalities much worse, devastating further the already devastated. But the problems of climate change are not restricted to those from the less developed world.
Galvanized by his conversations with writers and activists around the world, Freeman engaged with some of today’s most eloquent storytellers, many of whom hail from the places under the most acute stress–from the capital of Burundi to Bangkok, Thailand. The response has been extraordinary. Margaret Atwood conjures a dystopian future in a remarkable poem. Lauren Groff whisks us to Florida; Edwidge Danticat to Haiti; Tahmima Anam to Bangladesh; Yasmine El Rashidi to Egypt, while Eka Kurniawan brings us to Indonesia, Chinelo Okparanta to Nigeria, and Anuradha Roy to the Himalayas in the wake of floods, dam building, and drought. This is a literary all-points bulletin of fiction, essays, poems, and reportage about the most important crisis of our times.
Published in 1951, The Sea Around Us is one of the most remarkably successful books ever written about the natural world. Rachel Carson's rare ability to combine scientific insight with moving, poetic prose catapulted her book to first place on The New York Times best-seller list, where it enjoyed wide attention for thirty-one consecutive weeks. It remained on the list for more than a year and a half and ultimately sold well over a million copies, has been translated into 28 languages, inspired an Academy Award-winning documentary, and won both the 1952 National Book Award and the John Burroughs Medal.
This classic work remains as fresh today as when it first appeared. Carson's writing teems with stunning, memorable images--the newly formed Earth cooling beneath an endlessly overcast sky; the centuries of nonstop rain that created the oceans; giant squids battling sperm whales hundreds of fathoms below the surface; and incredibly powerful tides moving 100 billion tons of water daily in the Bay of Fundy. Quite simply, she captures the mystery and allure of the ocean with a compelling blend of imagination and expertise.
When Plastic Free July founder Rebecca Prince-Ruiz made a commitment to try to avoid single-use plastic a decade ago, the decision started at her bin. In the first half of 2020, a year of unexpected change, the humble bin has been in the limelight again, though for very different reasons. Aussies, their laconic sense of humour coming to the fore during the pandemic, used their weekly bin outing as an opportunity to dress up in outlandish costumes, the theory being that our bins were going out more than we were.
Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters is, at its heart, a book about how ordinary people can make extraordinary changes. It tells the story of Plastic Free July, a social phenomenon involving over 250 million people in 177 countries. Most importantly, it shows how a determined community can be a formidable force.
Additional points for discussion:
After the climate wars, a floating city is constructed in the Arctic Circle, a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, complete with geothermal heating and sustainable energy. The city’s denizens have become accustomed to a roughshod new way of living, however, the city is starting to fray along the edges—crime and corruption have set in, the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside direst poverty are spawning unrest, and a new disease called “the breaks” is ravaging the population.
When a strange new visitor arrives—a woman riding an orca, with a polar bear at her side—the city is entranced. The “orcamancer,” as she’s known, very subtly brings together four people—each living on the periphery—to stage unprecedented acts of resistance. By banding together to save their city before it crumbles under the weight of its own decay, they will learn shocking truths about themselves.
Blackfish City is a remarkably urgent—and ultimately very hopeful—novel about political corruption, organized crime, technology run amok, the consequences of climate change, gender identity, and the unifying power of human connection.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
“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/
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."
What do you think is the take-away message from this book?
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?
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?
What are your thoughts and concerns of micro-plastics moving up the food chain?
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?
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?
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?
What is your reaction to his letter to the "Member Corporations of the American Chemical Council?"
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?
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.
How do humans define wealth, could this cause a conflict with ecological awareness and activism?
How much is your world worth?
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?
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.
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?
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?
How does this book address green issues? Are some of these issues already occurring today?
Drastic change in the environment
Corporate consumption of resources
Harvesting body parts
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?
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.
For additional thought and discussion:
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.