Coral bleaching, Floods, bushfire, The decline in biodiversity and its extinction – as we witness the effects of climate change, amid a stream of ReportsWarning The costIt is easy for government inaction to cause overwhelm.
How can you counter the despair? We asked six experts in environmental science to nominate a book that provides hope about the climate crisis.
1. All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis – edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Keeble Wilkinson (2020)
Positive action is impossible without despair, disempowerment, and division. They are also crippling when faced with huge challenges like the climate change crisis. All We Can SaveThis is the antithesis of these emotions and concerns. Hope is a powerful motivator, especially when it’s delivered in such a creative, thoughtful, inclusive and diverse way.
Critically, All We Can Save brings together women’s voices, spanning culture, geography and ages. Women are still, shamefully, not heard nearly enough – and worse, actively suppressed in some instances and quarters. This is a problem for society.
Through their essays, poetry, and other art, scientists, artists, lawyers, journalists, farmers, journalists, activists, and lawyers share their unique perspectives in this book. They discuss how to deal with the climate crisis, the damage already done, and how to promote positive change and progress.
Food for the mind and soul at the right moment it’s needed more than ever.
2. Great Adaptations: In the Shadow of a Climate Crisis – Morgan Phillips (2021)
Pretending is not an option. There are no “good stories” about global warming. All of them are framed by the crisis that we refuse to discuss in Australia. We urgently need a national conversation on how to live in the dangerous world around us.
Morgan Phillips’s Great Adaptations: Under the Shadow of Climate CrisisThis is not an Australian book. Its perspectives are international – British, European, Nepalese, North American.
Phillips doesn’t flinch from contemplating bleak prospects: systemic collapses, food and water insecurity, biodiversity decline. Phillips’ focus is not on doom and gloom, nor techno-optimism. He is careful to balance his considerations of good and harmful (mal), adaptation.
He pushes us to think beyond fragmented reactions to individual climate catastrophes, such as droughts, fires, floods and storms – reactions that favour the wealthy and are based on the delusion that all will spring back to “normal”.
His aim is realistic “deep adaptation”. He argues for enduring, flexible and equitable adjustments to nature’s new lottery. At the heart of his examples of success – from “fog harvesting” for water in arid Morocco to climate-responsive agro-forestry in Nepal – is the need for constant dialogue to guide adjustments to changing conditions.
Great Adaptations is a wonderful provocation for the discussions we must have.
3. Who Really Feeds the Planet? The Failure of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology – Vandana Shiva (2016)
The climate crisis has made already unjust and environmentally unsustainable global food systems more severe. Australia’s recent bushfires and floods, for example, destroyed crops, devastated food-producing landscapes and their communities, and disrupted transport networks. Each exposed a corporate-controlled food system that is characterized by increasing food prices, increasing rates of hunger, as well as food insecurity.
How might fair and just food systems be fostered – systems that are resilient in the face of climate chaos?
In Who Really Feeds the Planet? The Failure of Agribusiness and Agroecology: A Promise of AgroecologyVandana Shiva offers some principles and practices that might offer some solutions. The examples include the following:
NavdanyaMovement based in India (which she co-founded), Shiva presents agroecology as a life-affirming response.
Small-scale farmers on small parcels of land already produce 70% of the world’s food. They are capable of feeding the world.
The challenge then – one of many – is how we might breathe life into the principles advocated by ThisAward-winning environmental activist, winner of the Right Livelihood Award (Australia) and the Sydney Peace Prize (Australia). In an Australian context, this will include addressing the violent settler-colonial foundations upon which Australia’s agriculture and food systems have been built.
Stories from the sky: Indigenous knowledge and astronomy
4. Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science – Jessica Hernandez (2022)
Climate catastrophe’s terror and power is demonstrated by the terrifying effects of raging fires, severe droughts, and unprecedented floods. Many of us are looking for a new way to connect with the world as we witness these terrible reminders of our dependence upon healthy ecosystems.
In Fresh Banana Leaves, Jessica Hernandez offers us the concept of “kincentric ecology”, in which the enduring relationship between Indigenous peoples and place is one of mutual interdependence.
She argues that “we are not separate from nature” and that “Indigenous peoples view their natural resources and surroundings as part of their kin, relatives, and communities”.
Hernandez’s book demonstrates the power of Indigenous science (and the leadership of Indigenous peoples) to help bring all of us back into good relations with nature. She offers us a glimpse into a decolonized, just, and sustainable future.
5. The Precipice – Toby Ord (2020)
In The Precipice, Toby Ord considers a range of “existential risks” that could, in the next few centuries, curtail the immense potential for long-term human flourishing. Three reasons make me optimistic about climate change:
Firstly, while acknowledging that climate change will cause immense suffering, Ord only identifies a few, relatively unlikely scenarios that leave humanity extinct or “stuck” barely surviving.
Second, he also considers a wide range of natural and human-generated threats that are even more serious. These risks are magnified by the availability of powerful technologies that were once only available to elites like bio-engineering or artificial intelligence. All these are risks we can either create or must cooperate to mitigate. Their occurrence and level of impact are within the reach of our control.
Ord also makes a convincing case that we have all the necessary institutions, technologies, and policy tools to manage long-term existential threats. All of us have the ability to do our part now. Climate change can make many other risk worse. This problem must be solved simultaneously with other issues.
The Precipice leaves us with the feeling that we need to be better people to make it through the next century, but there is a brighter future. We will be able to achieve this future if we combine our power and wealth with civilisational maturity and compassion, wisdom and wisdom.
6. Trees and Global Warming: The Role of Forests in Cooling and Warming the Atmosphere – William J. Manning (2020)
Trees are often seen as a panacea as climate change and Australia heats. But, as is always the case with ecosystems – things can get complicated.
According to William J. Manning, Global Warming and TreesTrees can both heat and cool the air. The colour of the leaves (light- or dark-colored) determines how much radiation is absorbed and transmitted, and how much it cools.
Manning does not see trees and forests with rose-colored glasses. He instead views them through a strong scientific lens. They are the best at tackling climate change. If cultivated well, they can shade, cool, reduce urban heat-island effect and sequester carbon.
Trees are an essential part of living with climate change. They are cost-effective, sustainable, and they are essential. We must preserve the forests and trees that we have. Planting more trees can be a quick and affordable solution, resulting in more cities and towns across our continent.