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NOAA Planet Stewards Book Club

The NOAA Planet Stewards book club has a great line-up of books slated for discussion for this academic year. Scroll down to see the titles, brief descriptions, dates and connection links for each Book Club meeting. Discussion Questions will be posted approximately one week before each meeting.

To see previously selected books and associated discussion questions, have a look at our Book Club Archive Page.

To make sure you receive reminder announcements about our Book Club, sign up to our mailing list.

Here’s the general information for participating in our Book Club. We hope you’ll join us as we explore new and thought-provoking topics.

  • All book club meetings begin at 8:00 pm Eastern Time.
  • Anyone can participate. Just read the book prior to the discussion.
  • On the day of the meeting, click on the Video Meeting Link noted for that event. You may need to wait briefly to be let in by the facilitator.
  • If you prefer, you may dial into the meeting with your telephone using the meeting specific number noted for each event, then entering the meeting event specific PIN.
  • Before each meeting we will send out a reminder note through our email list with discussion questions prepared by the meeting facilitator.
  • There are a limited number of “seats” available for each meeting. Plan to dial in just a few minutes before the official start time.
  • Have questions? Contact: oceanserviceseducation@noaa.gov

2023 -2024 Academic Year Book Club Selections & Meeting Dates

Book cover for Fen, Bog & Swamp: A Short History
of Peatland Destruction and Its Role 
in the Climate Crisis

May 14, 2024

Fen, Bog & Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis

Time: 8:00 PM Eastern Time
Video Conference Log In: meet.google.com/wnf-wuxm-dom
Phone Dial In #: (‪US‬) ‪+1 401-285-4760‬
Pin: 743 337 488#‬

A lifelong acolyte of the natural world, Annie Proulx brings her witness and research to the subject of wetlands and the vitally important role they play in preserving the environment—by storing the carbon emissions that accelerate climate change. Fens, bogs, swamps, and marine estuaries are crucial to the earth’s survival, and in four illuminating parts, Proulx documents their systemic destruction in pursuit of profit.

In a vivid and revelatory journey through history, Proulx describes the fens of 16th-century England, Canada’s Hudson Bay lowlands, Russia’s Great Vasyugan Mire, and America’s Okeefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. She introduces the early explorers who launched the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and writes of the diseases spawned in the wetlands—the Ague, malaria, Marsh Fever.

A sobering look at the degradation of wetlands over centuries and the serious ecological consequences, this is “an unforgettable and unflinching tour of past and present, fixed on a subject that could not be more important” (Bill McKibben).

  1. How are fens, bogs, and swamps similar? How are they different?

  2. What’s your experience with wetlands? What are they like in your region?

  3. The peat in wetlands is able to sequester (absorb and hold onto) large amounts of carbon, keeping it from the atmosphere. What other aspects of fens, bogs, and swamps does the author value?

  4. This book often focuses on public perception of wetlands, and how that has changed over time. From your perspective, what has the public appreciated about wetlands? What have been seen as drawbacks of wetlands?

  5. The book discusses how wetlands have been destroyed – for example, drained to create farmland or the peat harvested for fuel. Are there environmental concerns about wetlands near where you live?

  6. Share an interesting fact about fens, bogs, and swamps that you learned from this book.

  7. This book combines science, history, literature, and geography. What do you think about this? Do you make multidisciplinary connections in your teaching or in your life?

  8. Has your perspective on fens, bogs, and swamps changed after reading this book? If so, how?

Book cover for Consumed

May 28, 2024

Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change, and Consumerism

Time: 8:00 PM Eastern Time
Video Conference Log In: meet.google.com/wnf-wuxm-dom
Phone Dial In #: (‪US‬) ‪+1 401-285-4760‬
Pin: 743 337 488#‬

A call to action for consumers everywhere, Consumed asks us to look at how and why we buy what we buy, how it's created, who it benefits, and how we can solve the problems created by a wasteful system.

We live in a world of stuff. We dispose of most of it in as little as six months after we receive it. The byproducts of our quest to consume are creating an environmental crisis. Aja Barber wants to change this--and you can, too.

In Consumed, Barber calls for change within an industry that regularly overreaches with abandon, creating real imbalances in the environment and the lives of those who do the work—often in unsafe conditions for very low pay—and the billionaires who receive the most profit. A story told in two parts, Barber exposes the endemic injustices in our consumer industries and the uncomfortable history of the textile industry, one which brokered slavery, racism, and today’s wealth inequality. Once the layers are peeled back, Barber invites you to participate in unlearning, to understand the truth behind why we consume in the way that we do, to confront the uncomfortable feeling that we are never quite enough and why we fill that void with consumption rather than compassion. Barber challenges us to challenge the system and our role in it. The less you buy into the consumer culture, the more power you have. Consumed will teach you how to be a citizen and not a consumer.

  1. What does Aja Barber see as the connection between skin color and the fashion industry?

  2. What connection does she make with colonialism? In what ways do you agree or disagree with her?

  3. Can you offer a definition for colonialism that the author would agree with? Do you see it differently than she does, and if so, how?

  4. How did the book make you feel? Might there be a connection to how you feel and see yourself (skin color, majority, minority, economic status, gender, etc.)?

  5. Who does the fashion industry benefit? How? Is this system of hyper-consumption benefitting our world in any way?

  6. How has the system of hyper-consumption hurt our planet and humankind?

  7. What is the connection between climate change and consumerism?

  8. What suggestions are offered to make the fashion industry more fair, just, and sustainable?

  9. Are you in any way associated/connected with the fashion industry? If so, do you feel that the industry is making progress in the areas discussed in Aja Barber’s book - if at all?

  10. What is your connection to consumerism and how has it been a part of your life, your family’s, and/or your community’s life for good or ill?

  11. Has this book changed your perspective to consumerism in the fashion industry and/or other industries re: stuff (food, housing, furniture, automobiles, etc.)?

  12. Is it possible to have capitalism without consumerism?

  13. Is consumerism so deeply rooted in American life and culture that we don’t even recognize the extent that it plays at every level in our life, status, and values?

Video Interview with Aja Barber

The Story of Stuff Videos

Quotes on Consumerism

We live in an era of consumerism and it’s all about desire-based consumerism. It has nothing to do with things we actually need. -Aloe Blacc

We always want more. Whether it is better clothes, a bigger house, faster cars, or the latest gadgets; satisfaction in these days of consumerism is a difficult find. -Tulsi Tanti

The corruption of the American soul is consumerism. -Ben Nicholson

We live in a society that, for the most part, is morally and spiritually bankrupt. Our culture is a culture of consumerism. How sustainable is that? -Benjamin Bratt

Socialism may have failed as an economic theory, but global warming alarmism, with its dire warnings about the consequences of industry and consumerism, is equally a rebuke to capitalism. -Bret Stephens

What consumerism really is, at its worst, is getting people to buy things that don't actually improve their lives. -Jeff Bezos

Consumerism diverts us from thinking about women’s rights, it stops us from thinking about Iraq, it stops us from thinking about what’s going on in Africa – it stops us from thinking in general. -Pink

Ecological thought rejects consumerism at its peril. -Timothy Morton

My first rule of consumerism is never to buy anything you can’t make your children carry. -Bill Bryson

Since the 1970s, we have witnessed the forces of market fundamentalism strip education of its public values, critical content, and civic responsibilities as part of its broader goal of creating new subjects wedded to consumerism, risk-free relationships, and the destruction of the social state. -Henry Giroux

Pop culture is not about depth. It’s about marketing, supply and demand, and consumerism. -Trevor Dunn

I’ve long been interested in looking at the culture of consumerism and also was interested in this connection between the American dream and the house, and the house being kind of the ultimate expression of self and success. -Lauren Greenfield

Feckless as it was for Bush to ask Americans to go shopping after 9/11, we all too enthusiastically followed his lead, whether we were wealthy, working-class or in between. We spent a decade feasting on easy money, don’t-pay-as-you-go consumerism and a metastasizing celebrity culture. -Frank Rich

Consumerism is at once the engine of America and simultaneously one of the most revealing indicators of our collective shallowness. -Henry Rollins

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NOAA Planet Stewards Workshops

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