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.
November 14, 2023
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Don’t have time to read the book? You can find a 1hr 11min documentary of the same name on Amazon Prime. In this documentary, Elliot Page returns to his home province in Canada to meet with Black and Indigenous women who are working to end environmental racism in Nova Scotia.
In “There’s Something In The Water”, Ingrid R. G. Waldron examines the legacy of environmental racism and its health impacts in Indigenous and Black communities in Canada, using Nova Scotia as a case study, and the grassroots resistance activities by Indigenous and Black communities against the pollution and poisoning of their communities.
Using settler colonialism as the overarching theory, Waldron unpacks how environmental racism operates as a mechanism of erasure enabled by the intersecting dynamics of white supremacy, power, state-sanctioned racial violence, neoliberalism, and racial capitalism in white settler societies. By and large, the environmental justice narrative in Nova Scotia fails to make race explicit, obscuring it within discussions on class, and this type of strategic inadvertence mutes the specificity of Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian experiences with racism and environmental hazards in Nova Scotia. By redefining the parameters of critique around the environmental justice narrative and movement in Nova Scotia and Canada, Waldron opens a space for a more critical dialogue on how environmental racism manifests itself within this intersectional context.
Waldron cites Sheren Razack who argues that individuals hold multiple identities simultaneously and that these produce hierarchies of privilege and disadvantage. These include race, gender, class, and other social identities. Is this reflected in how you see your identity? If so, how?
Was there a specific example of the health impacts highlighted in the book or movie that caught your attention about the burden of pollution in African Nova Scotian and Indigenous communities?
Waldron explains that environmental racism is a subset of the larger environmental justice movement that started in the United States. She referred to this as “old wine in a new bottle.” What does she mean by that reference? How is it different from mainstream environmental activism?
“Space is never apolitical” but involves a web of relations that includes inequalities in housing, schools, zoning, and policy. These help to shape opportunities that determine access to high quality air, water, land, and food. Are you aware of instances in your community or region where “your postal code determines your health?”
Studies conducted in Nova Scotia and Canada show that Indigenous communities are “more likely than other communities to be located near polluting industries.” Do you think that this would hold true in the United States? Can you cite examples of this?
Boat Harbour is a quiet estuary near Pictou Landing First Nation, an Indigenous reserve, that was once a fertile hunting and fishing ground. The provincial government did not address contamination until significant and sustained protests occurred. Was the effort successful?
A natural gas storage facility was scheduled to be built on the Shubenacadie River. This would require the development of a brine discharge system to be located near First Nation communities. Local resistance grew, arguing that the Sipekne’katik and Millbrook Nations had not been consulted. There were also concerns about treaty rights and water contamination from other sources. Conceived in 2014, the Alton Gas Project was cancelled and decommissioned at the end of 2022 citing economic challenges. How do you think the resistance by the local communities affected this result?
Waldron pointed out many instances where opposition to environmental racism was being led primarily led by women. What are some of the financial, psychological, physical, and health implications of this work on women over many years?
Waldron suggests using a multi-prong strategy for addressing environmental racism. This includes using an environmental justice lens to look at how race intersects with class, gender, and other social identities, better environmental policy, partnerships between white-led organizations and Indigenous and Black communities and alliances between Indigenous and Black communities. How can we help students to understand the important of good communication and the understanding of different perspectives in recognizing and addressing environmental racism?
This book is peppered with references to many studies that demonstrate the important role that research has to bring facts to the forefront of any environmental conflict. Waldron suggests that we also need to consider community members as experts in their own lives and include them as participants in the co-creation and dissemination of knowledge. Do you think that researchers typically include local community knowledge in their studies? Why or why not?
October 10, 2023
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From sixteen-year-old Dara McAnulty, comes a memoir about loving the natural world and fighting to save it.
Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of a year in Dara’s Northern Ireland home patch. Beginning in spring—when “the sparrows dig the moss from the guttering and the air is as puffed out as the robin’s chest”—these diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world are vivid, evocative, and moving.
As well as Dara’s intense connection to the natural world, Diary of a Young Naturalist captures his perspective as a teenager juggling exams, friendships, and a life of campaigning. We see his close-knit family, the disruptions of moving and changing schools, and the complexities of living with autism. “In writing this book,” writes Dara, “I have experienced challenges but also felt incredible joy, wonder, curiosity and excitement. In sharing this journey my hope is that people of all generations will not only understand autism a little more but also appreciate a child’s eye view on our delicate and changing biosphere.”
What is citizen science? Do you have experience as a citizen scientist? Is this a skill we can teach children in formal and informal settings?
Citizen science is one of three main themes throughout the book. What other themes do you see, and how do they all connect?
In the book, Dara talks about the Gray Seal Protection Act. Are you familiar with the Endangered Species Act? Are there any local species whose numbers you are noticing a decline in?
Does there have to be a conflict between nature and agriculture? Do you see this in your community? Do you have suggestions on how to blend the two philosophies on land management?
Domestic cats are interesting, are they a cause for concern in maintaining ecological diversity in areas where urban and natural areas interface?
Dara uses poetic language throughout the biography, “bruised blackberry sky,” how did this enhance his story?
Throughout the story, Dara uses sight, sound and smell to enhance his dialog. How do you use these senses when you are outside?
Intertwined throughout the story Dara talks about autism, education and his family. Did this enhance the story or distract from it? How can educators use nature to work with a diverse group of students?
September 12, 2023
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Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), an astronomy grad student, and her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) make an astounding discovery of a comet orbiting within the solar system. The problem - it's on a direct collision course with Earth. The other problem? No one really seems to care. Turns out warning mankind about a planet-killer the size of Mount Everest is an inconvenient fact to navigate. With the help of Dr. Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), Kate and Randall embark on a media tour that takes them from the office of an indifferent President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her sycophantic son and Chief of Staff, Jason (Jonah Hill), to the airwaves of The Daily Rip, an upbeat morning show hosted by Brie (Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry). With only six months until the comet makes impact, managing the 24-hour news cycle and gaining the attention of the social media obsessed public before it's too late proves shockingly comical - what will it take to get the world to just look up?
The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted the following after watching Don't Look Up: “Finally saw the @Netflix film Don’t Look Up, a fictional tale of a Nation distracted by pop-culture and divided on whether to heed dire warnings of scientists. Everything I know about news-cycles, talk shows, social media, & politics tells me the film was instead a documentary.” In what ways might he be right?
How did you feel about the movie?
Since we don't currently know of any asteroids on approach to Earth, upon which critical scientific questions of our age, if any, does this movie reflect, and in what ways does it do so? Are there ways it does not reflect the problems we face?
When Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) is bundled onto a train to New York to meet the press, Dr. Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) advises him to keep it simple and tell stories. Is he right? Why or why not?
In the same scene, Dr. Oglethorpe continues by saying "...and no math." As the train doors slide shut, Dr. Mindy responds, "but it's all math." Who is right and why?
In the movie, Dr. Mindy is a regular guest on a news program but the show’s presenters are always trying to “keep it light.” Dr. Mindy never succeeds in getting his message across. How do you see the state of science journalism today? Are journalists able to effectively get complex topics across to an audience of non-scientists? Are you able to - with your students/audiences? How?
One of the themes of the movie is that the people are distracted by petty politics, the love affairs of pop stars among other factors. They’re too distracted to hear the message that the scientists are trying to convey until it is too late. Do you find your students are more distracted today? Can they handle complex topics as well as they did in the past? If you are concerned, how do you deal with the distraction?
In the movie, a few mislead the many for short-term political power and profit. Ultimately scientists fail to counter misinformation and the Earth is destroyed. How do you deal with misinformation and how well do you succeed? What works for you?
As the comet gets closer and more people are able to see it with their own eyes, they are able to verify its existence and the threat that it presents. As the effects of climate change become more obvious and visible, do you see more people willing to accept the science? Do you see enough people willing to accept the science?
If you watched enough of the end credits to see the strange twist at the end, the President (Meryl Streep) and BASH CEO Peter Irsherwell (Mark Rylance) journey to a planet circling another star where the President is immediately eaten by a Bronteroc. If the Earth becomes unable to sustain humanity, is there another place we can go? Is there a “planet B?”
May 9, 2023 7:00 pm ET
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All We Can Save is an anthology of writings by 60 women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward.
There is a renaissance blooming in the climate movement: leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration. While it’s clear that women and girls are vital voices and agents of change for this planet, they are too often missing from the proverbial “table.” More than a problem of bias, it’s a dynamic that sets us up for failure. To change everything, we need everyone.
This anthology shares lots of women’s voices – what are some benefits of having many different authors in a book about the climate crisis?
The writings in this book are in eight sections (root, advocate, reframe, reshape, persist, feel, nourish, and rise). How did the sequence of sections shape your experience as a reader?
This anthology combines nonfiction stories and essays with poetry and visual art. How do you think the poetry and art adds to the book? Do you have a favorite poem?
Are there any quotes from the stories or poems that resonated with you?
Did you see yourself and your point of view in any of the writings in All We Can Save? If so, which essay, story, or poem really resonated?
Has anything in this book seeded new ideas or plans for how you teach about climate change and solutions?
The stories include emotions related to the climate crisis. How do you think we can process emotions related to climate change while also teaching the science and taking action on solutions?
Are there any stories, essays, poems that you plan to share with students? How would you recommend educators use this book?
Did the book help you move towards hope and away from despair? If so, how?
Is there a climate solution in the book that inspired you?
April 11, 2023 7:00 pm ET
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They are climate scientists, journalists, professors, academics, researchers, and policy makers from around the world who draft policies with real-life solutions, run science labs to find new solutions to old problems, and lead organizations at the forefront of change. These women do not shy away from showing how racial and social injustices lie at the root of so many climate-related issues.
Their stories are accessible and energetic, with spotlights on the triumphs and struggles of women who are working to protect the planet.
As young readers learn how these champions are rising up around the world, they will learn how to be part of the solution.
The book is broken down into three sections: Challenge the System, Hold Fast to Science, and Take a Stand for Justice. Why do you think these titles are significant?
In the introduction the author references “hope”. With todays’ rapidly changing climate what does hope look like for you and your community?
As you we move through the book there are many comments made by the women that are profound. What do you think about this statement: “Lives absorbed with seeking solutions,” What does this mean to you? How do you see solutions progressing globally to mitigate the climate crisis?
In the first vignette, Molly references her participation in the Democratic National Convention in 2008. What is your experience with the relationship between politics and climate science?
What do you think about the quote on page 5: “The average person struggling to get by doesn’t have the luxury of being able to worry about things happening thousands of miles away. That’s why we must solve climate change for everyone.”
One of Amy Westervelt’s initial awareness to a changing climate were the devastating fires that plague Northern California every year. What significant environmental events do you remember that piqued your interest in climate change and that may have motivated you to become more active in climate awareness?
How do we as a society use recent weather events to motivate people in their awareness about a rapidly changing climate?
How do we as educators or influential humans capitalize on life changing moments? Is there a way to increase the availability for individuals to have life changing moments?
Did any of the trailblazers at the end of the segments speak to anyone? If so, who? and why?
Have you heard of the 2020 Global Climate Risk Index which presents the countries most impacted by climate change today? Do you think its conclusions would sway Americans to take a stronger stand on climate change?
Katharine Hayhoe wonders: How do scientists bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and the understanding of the general public? Is there a distinction between climate change and ecological issues in general? What do you think?
Do celebrity activists i.e. Sir David Attenborough, Leonardo DiCaprio, Greta Thunberg, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Prince Harry, etc., help, harm, or have no impact on raising climate awareness or developing mitigation strategies?
This is a list of the 100 most influential people on climate ( Apolitical 100 Most Influential People in Climate | 2022 ). The top three individuals on this list are women, have you heard of them? Why or why not? Is the world totally ethnocentric? How do we communicate better between countries?
How can data and information from the past (paleoclimate) help scientists in the future? What does it mean to the planet that the permafrost is melting? Is this relevant to the general public? should it be relevant?
On page 121 of the book Debra talks about indigenous stories and uses John Muir as an example as a human who did not recognize the work of the indigenous peoples in Yosemite and how they “landscaped” ecosystems. Do federal land policies come into conflict with traditional native sustainable land practices?
Tessa Khan questions, what do you think of the expression “Fossil Fuel Racism?” Can this expression be turned into a positive? How do citizens with the power to bring about change fight the dogma of economic superiority? (Page 155)
The women in this book are motivating with their passion and drive for climate awareness, equity, and change. How can we take this and move forward? How can we engage our communities, our schools, our local governments?
March 14, 2023 7:00 pm ET
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One moonlit night, thirteen-year-old Miles O'Malley sneaks out of his house and goes exploring on the tidal flats of Puget Sound. When he discovers a rare giant squid, he instantly becomes a local phenomenon shadowed by people curious as to whether this speed-reading, Rachel Carson obsessed teenager is just an observant boy or an unlikely prophet. But Miles is really just a kid on the verge of growing up, infatuated with the girl next door, worried that his bickering parents will divorce, and fearful that everything, even the bay he loves, is shifting away from him. As the sea continues to offer up discoveries from its mysterious depths, Miles struggles to deal with the difficulties that attend the equally mysterious process of growing up.
Miles, the main character and narrator in The Highest Tide, says: "most people realize the sea covers two thirds of the planet, but few take the time to understand even a gallon of it... Then they'll have a hard time not thinking about the beginnings of life itself and of an earth without pavement, plastic or Man" (pages 1 and 2).
According to NOAA, coastal counties of the U.S. are home to over 128 million people, or almost 40 percent of the nation's total population, yet the coast accounts for less than 10 percent of the nation's land mass – making population density in these areas over five times greater in coastal shoreline counties than the U.S. average. This means that issues affecting the coasts affect a large proportion of Americans.
How is America affected by: mangroves, salt marshes, sea grass meadows and coral reefs? What are some of the ecological issues facing coastal communities? How could we teach the 60% of the American population not living in coastal counties about the importance of these aquatic ecosystems?
Every day Miles observes sea life - i.e., giant squid (page 8), organ-vomiting sea cucumber (page 56), horny phosphorescent worms (page 59), scarred and battered Ragfish (pages 59-61), giant sunflower star (page 75), moon jellies (page 131), etc.
Are humans missing something exciting if we don't pay attention to the natural world? Why are these observations important? Why is citizen science so important?
Miles references Rachel Carson. Is this author typical of a current day teenager? Phelps tells Miles that he's in love “with a spinster who's been dead for decades" (page 31). Phelps also tells Miles, "You're a freak... Why don't you use all your homo-reading to study something of value to us"... "like the G-spot?" (page 30). How and why does the author introduce male puberty into the story?
In the book many strange events occur in the Sound during the summer: winds, weather, flooding, could these be attributed to rapid climate change? Miles says, "People lost interest once the explanations rolled in. Some even got angry, as if scientists were determined to squeeze the magic out of everything" (page 243). Given people's desire to fixate on mystical explanations for environmental events rather than the rational ones, how likely does it seem that people will take responsibility for actions that have an environmental impact? In the novel, how does the media, feed this type of irrational response?
February 21, 2023 7:00 pm ET
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Called “one of the nation's most effective communicators on climate change” by The New York Times, Katharine Hayhoe knows how to navigate all sides of the conversation on our changing planet. A Canadian climate scientist living in Texas, she negotiates distrust of data, indifference to imminent threats, and resistance to proposed solutions with ease. Over the past fifteen years Hayhoe has found that the most important thing we can do to address climate change is talk about it — and she wants to teach you how.
In Saving Us, Hayhoe argues that when it comes to changing hearts and minds, facts are only one part of the equation. We need to find shared values in order to connect our unique identities to collective action. This is not another doomsday narrative about a planet on fire. It is a multilayered look at science, faith, and human psychology, from an icon in her field — recently named chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy.
Drawing on interdisciplinary research and personal stories, Hayhoe shows that small conversations can have astonishing results. Saving Us leaves us with the tools to open a dialogue with your loved ones about how we all can play a role in pushing forward for change.
Dr. Hayhoe tells us what is best when talking about climate change in this book and from her years of experience communicating on the topic. What recommendation in the book was most helpful or surprising to you?
Before a Rotarian event Dr. Hayhoe recalls reading their four-way test for any issue worthy of their time and attention:
What did she do as a result? How does this illustrate her advice as to how best to address climate change with others?
Why have so many Christians been dismissive of climate change according to Dr. Hayhoe? How does she recommend that someone of faith should communicate climate change to another or others of faith?
What does Dr. Hayhoe have to say about government regulation on the topic of climate change? What about addressing climate change and the environment? Do you agree?
Dr. Hayhoe uses the term “zombie arguments” regarding scientific-sounding views that attempt to discredit scientific facts. What are some zombie arguments that she speaks of and which arguments if any have you commonly heard from a naysayer or naysayers?
Ronald Reagan coined the saying, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.” How does this relate to climate change communication and what does Dr. Hayhoe recommend instead?
Dr. Hayhoe frequently refers to the survey, “Global Warming’s Six Americas” from Yale’s Program on Climate Change Communication. What six categories does the survey identify? Do you find these six categories all-encompassing and satisfactory? What category do you identify with? How has the survey changed over time?
What role does fear play when we’re communicating the impacts and projections of climate change? When is fear good? When is it bad? What does the author say about eliciting guilt?
Dr. Hayhoe frequently uses terms that are important for us to understand regarding climate communication. A few are listed below. What do they mean?
What does Dan Kahan’s Science Intelligence Scale tell us about motivational reasoning? Who is most susceptible to utilizing it?
Climate change solutions are important to include, especially when talking about the impacts of climate change. Solutions give hope. What are some solutions that Dr. Hayhoe discusses?
One educator elicits questions about climate change from her students, then addresses these questions in her teaching on the subject. Do you see this as effective? What approach have you used in or out of the classroom with positive results?
Outside of your work (if you’re tasked with addressing climate change), have you spoken about climate change with another or others? Who? Where did those you spoke to fall in terms of categories identified in the “Global Warming Six Americas” survey? What tactic did you employ? How did it go? Where you successful and if so, how so?
Do you agree with Dr. Hayhoe that a “Dismissive” person isn’t worth your time to speak to about climate change, especially since they represent only seven percent of Americans? What has been your experience?
As a result of reading this book, what one piece of advice will you carry out when communicating climate change?
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
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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
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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.