Fighting for the Planet: Inspiring Books for Earth Day

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An eclectic list of inspiring books about fighting to protect the planet.

*****

Northern Light, by Kazim Ali

About the book: "It begins to rain as we fly, falling in solid sheets, water from sky to earth—a free system of exchange."

Kazim Ali’s earliest memories are of Jenpeg, a temporary town in the forests of northern Manitoba where his immigrant father worked on the construction of a hydroelectric dam. As a child, Ali had no idea that the dam was located on the unceded lands of the Indigenous Pimicikamak, the "people of rivers and lakes."

Northern Light recounts Ali’s memories of his childhood and his return to Pimicikamak as an adult. During his visit, he searches for the sites of his childhood memories and learns more about the realities of life in Pimicikamak: the environmental and social impact of the Jenpeg dam, the effects of colonialism and cultural erasure, and the community’s initiatives to preserve and strengthen their identity. Deeply rooted in place, Northern Light is both a stunning exploration of home, belonging, and identity and an immersive account of contemporary life in one Indigenous community.

*

The Zero-Waste Chef, by Anne-Marie Bonneau

About the book: A sustainable lifestyle starts in the kitchen with these use-what-you-have, spend-less-money recipes and tips, from the friendly voice behind @ZeroWasteChef.

In her decade of living with as little plastic, food waste, and stuff as possible, Anne-Marie Bonneau, who blogs under the moniker Zero-Waste Chef, has preached that "zero-waste" is above all an intention, not a hard-and-fast rule. Because, sure, one person eliminating all their waste is great, but thousands of people doing 20 percent better will have a much bigger impact. And you likely already have all the tools you need to begin.

In her debut book, Bonneau gives readers the facts to motivate them to do better, the simple (and usually free) fixes to ease them into wasting less, and finally, the recipes and strategies to turn them into self-reliant, money-saving cooks and makers.

Rescue a hunk of bread from being sent to the landfill by making Mexican Hot Chocolate Bread Pudding, or revive some sad greens to make a pesto. Save 10 dollars (and the plastic tub) at the supermarket with Yes Whey, You Can Make Ricotta Cheese, then use the cheese in a galette and the leftover whey to make sourdough tortillas. With 75 vegan and vegetarian recipes for cooking with scraps, creating fermented staples, and using up all your groceries before they go bad--including end-of-recipe notes on what to do with your ingredients next--Bonneau lays out an attainable vision for a zero-waste kitchen.

*

No More Plastic, by Alma Fullerton (Picture Book)

About the book: A young girl takes action against ocean pollution in a timely story with unique plastic-waste diorama art from award-winning author-illustrator Alma Fullerton.

Isley loves the ocean and everything in it. Well, almost everything. Her heart sinks at the sight of her Alantic Ocean shoreline covered in trash. One day, upon discovering a beached right whale that has starved to death after swallowing plastic, Isley decides enough is enough. She steers her family into adopting a zero-waste lifestyle, inspiring others to do the same. But when the adults around her give way to apathy and routine, how can Isley make sure her whale’s memory inspires lasting change?

With diorama art made from plastic waste by award-winning author-illustrator Alma Fullerton, No More Plastic is a moving, eye-catching, and ultimately hopeful reminder that the health of our oceans—and our planet—is in our hands.

*

Hope Matters, by Elin Kelsey

Read an excerpt from Hope Matters on our blog!

About the book: “This book comes at just the right moment. It is NOT too late if we get together and take action, NOW.” —Jane Goodall

Fears about climate change are fueling an epidemic of despair across the world: adults worry about their children’s future; thirty-somethings question whether they should have kids or not; and many young people honestly believe they have no future at all. 

In the face of extreme eco-anxiety, scholar and award-winning author Elin Kelsey argues that our hopelessness—while an understandable reaction—is hampering our ability to address the very real problems we face. Kelsey offers a powerful solution: hope itself.

Hope Matters boldly breaks through the narrative of doom and gloom to show why evidence-based hope, not fear, is our most powerful tool for change. Kelsey shares real-life examples of positive climate news that reveal the power of our mindsets to shape reality, the resilience of nature, and the transformative possibilities of individual and collective action. And she demonstrates how we can build on positive trends to work toward a sustainable and just future, before it’s too late.

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How to Change Everything: The Young Human's Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other, by Naomi Klein & Rebecca Stefoff (YA)

About the book: A long-awaited guide to climate action and justice for young readers by bestselling, award-winning, internationally acclaimed writer and climate activist Naomi Klein.

Temperatures are rising all over the world, leading to wildfires, droughts, animal extinctions and ferocious storms -- climate change is real. But how did we get to this state, and what can we do next? What if we could work to protect the planet, while also taking action to make life fairer and more equal for the people who live on it?

We can—if we're willing to change everything.

In her first book written for young readers, internationally acclaimed, bestselling author and social activist Naomi Klein, with Rebecca Steffof, lays out the facts and challenges of climate change and the movement for climate justice. Using examples of change and protest from around the world, including profiles of young activists from a wide range of backgrounds, Klein shows that young people are not just part of the climate change movement, they are leading the way.

How to Change Everything will provide readers with clear information about how our planet is changing, but also, more importantly, with inspiration, ideas, and tools for action. Because young people can help build a better future. Young people can help decide what happens next. Young people can help change everything.

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How to Become an Accidental Activist, by Elizabeth MacLeod & Frieda Wishinsky, illustrated by Jenn Playford (Middle Grade)

About the book: Just Get Started! Be Unstoppable! Dream Big! How to Become an Accidental Activist profiles almost 100 activists from around the world, including change-makers like Greta Thunberg, Pete Seeger and Lilly Singh. This book shows us how ordinary people have persevered throughout history to do extraordinary things to help themselves and others.

These activists come from many different backgrounds and a drives to take action. They work for human rights, to help the environment, to preserve historic buildings and more. This book will inspire young readers by giving them tips on getting started, continuing when the going gets tough and encouraging others to get involved. They will learn how to use determination, channel their passions and dream big to change the world.

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Not On My Watch, by Alexandra Morton

About the book: Alexandra Morton has been called "the Jane Goodall of Canada" because of her passionate thirty-year fight to save British Columbia's wild salmon. Her account of that fight is both inspiring in its own right and a roadmap of resistance.

Alexandra Morton came north from California in the early 1980s, following her first love--the northern resident orca. In remote Echo Bay, in the Broughton Archipelago, she found the perfect place to settle into all she had ever dreamed of: a lifetime of observing and learning what these big-brained mammals are saying to each other. She was lucky enough to get there just in time to witness a place of true natural abundance, and learned how to thrive in the wilderness as a scientist and a single mother.

Then, in 1989, industrial aquaculture moved into the region, chasing the whales away. Her fisherman neighbours asked her if she would write letters on their behalf to government explaining the damage the farms were doing to the fisheries, and one thing led to another. Soon Alex had shifted her scientific focus to documenting the infectious diseases and parasites that pour from the ocean farm pens of Atlantic salmon into the migration routes of wild Pacific salmon, and then to proving their disastrous impact on wild salmon and the entire ecosystem of the coast.

Alex stood against the farms, first representing her community, then alone, and at last as part of an uprising that built around her as ancient Indigenous governance resisted a province and a country that wouldn't obey their own court rulings. She has used her science, many acts of protest and the legal system in her unrelenting efforts to save wild salmon and ultimately the whales--a story that reveals her own doggedness and bravery but also shines a bright light on the ways other humans doggedly resist the truth. Here, she brilliantly calls those humans to account for the sake of us all.

*

Growing Up Elizabeth May: The Making of an Activist, by Sylvia Olsen, with Cate May Burton (Middle Grade)

About the book: Before most people had thought about pollution, Elizabeth May was an anti-pollution activist. Before most people had heard about environmentalism, she was an environmentalist. As a young girl, Elizabeth was worried about the health of the planet. She believed it was her job to protect it. “I have to do something” became the principle she lived by.

Growing Up Elizabeth May: The Making of an Activist tells the story of Elizabeth's life and what motivated her to take action for the environment. Co-written by Elizabeth's daughter Cate, this book is full of quotes, art and poetry from young activists as well as tips for making change in your own community. Part biography and part blueprint for activists in the making, this book shows how Elizabeth continues to inspire young people today to stand up for the planet.

*

Just Like Us: A Veterinarian’s Visual Memoir of Our Vanishing Great Ape Relatives, by Rick Quinn, foreword by Jane Goodall

About the book: A stirring account of hope and survival for the planet's endangered great ape species.

For most of his life, veterinarian Rick Quinn ignored a deep longing to meaningfully protect the endangered animals that fascinated him. Then one day, he read two magazine clippings about the great apes and knew it was time to set aside excuses and find the means to help. Armed with his camera and an insatiable curiosity, Dr. Quinn set off for the front lines of great ape conservation.

Just Like Us is a gorgeous tribute to our not-too-distant relatives as well as the courageous people who are risking their lives to protect them.

In this remarkable memoir, we follow Dr. Quinn’s seven-year journey across seven African countries and Indonesia, where he photographed each great ape species in its natural habitat. Using inspiring stories juxtaposed with stunning photographs, he illuminates the threats to great ape survival as well as the complexity of saving them. The result delivers an empathetic sense that these magnificent beings really are—strikingly so—just like us.

*

Our Livable World: Creating the Clean Earth of Tomorrow, by Marc Schaus

About the book: A vital journey to the frontlines of our fight against climate change and the bold scientific and technological innovations that will revolutionize our world

There’s finally reason to hope. Climate change is the existential threat of our time, but incredible new advancements in science and engineering can allow us to avoid the worst repercussions of global warming as we work to reverse it over time. In Our Livable World, research specialist and author Marc Schaus leads readers in an exploration of new and upcoming innovations in green technology poised to prevent the climate apocalypse—and usher in a sustainable, livable world.

To beat a challenge the size of climate change, our solutions will have to be ambitious: solar thermal cells capable of storing energy long after the sun goes down, “smart highways” designed to charge your vehicle as you drive, indoor vertical farms automated to maximize crop growth with no pesticides, bioluminescent vines ready to one day replace our streetlights, jet fuel created from landfill trash—and next-generation carbon capture techniques to remove the emissions we have already released over the past several decades. Far from the geoengineering schemes of cli-fi action thrillers, real solutions are being developed, right this moment. Our Livable World features interviews with the innovators, real talk on the revolutionary technology, and a clear picture of a cleaner planet in the future.

Though climate change is arguably the biggest threat humankind has ever faced, this book proves that our ability to fight this change is limited only by the scope of our imagination and the power of our will.

*

I Have the Right to Save My Planet, by Alain Serres, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty, translated by Shelley Tanaka

About the book: All children have the right to learn about the world, to celebrate the water, air and sunshine, and to be curious about the animals and plants that live on our planet. All children also have the right to learn about endangered species, to be concerned about plastic in the ocean, and to understand what a changing climate means for our Earth.

Scientists tell us that every living thing is connected. When we cut down forests, we destroy animal habitats. When we throw plastic in the garbage, it never really goes away. When we spray pesticides on our fruit and vegetables, we poison the earth, animals and ourselves.

What can children do to help? All children can draw posters of endangered animals to raise awareness. All children can send a letter to the leader of their country, signed by every member of their family. All children can protest along with their parents. Children have the right to do all these things as proclaimed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. All children have the right to try to help our Earth, in whatever ways they can.

Told from the perspective of a child, this colorful and vibrant book explores what it means to be a child who dreams of a beautiful future for their planet.

*

Wild Roses Are Worth It: Reimagining the Alberta Advantage, by Kevin Van Tighem

About the book: A timely collection of provocative, personal, and thoughtful essays for an Alberta in transition.

This selection of works by naturalist, hunter, conservation activist, and outdoors journalist Kevin Van Tighem will both inspire and provoke, because it offers an unflinching challenge to cherished myths and conventional wisdom in a troubled province beset with profound questions about its future. Even at their most provocative, however, these writings remind us of what is best about the Alberta spirit, and offer the possibility of a more sustaining relationship with our place and with one another.

The rich imagery in these writings is drawn from the author's intimate relationship with the streams, forests, grasslands, and mountains of the Canadian West. There may be no sacred cows in Van Tighem's prose, but even the most unblinkingly critical of his writings resonate with a love of place and an abiding respect for the people whose lives he shares. He reminds us that Alberta's stories were always meant to be about much more than oil. At a time when social, economic, and environmental changes confront and confound what is still one of Canada's greatest provinces, we need better ways of remembering our past, knowing our present, and imagining our future. That's what this inspiring body of work offers — just in time for tomorrow.

April 21, 2021
Books mentioned in this post
The Zero-Waste Chef

The Zero-Waste Chef

Plant-Forward Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen and Planet
edition:Paperback
More Info
Hope Matters

Hope Matters

Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis
edition:Paperback
also available: Audiobook
More Info
How to Change Everything

How to Change Everything

The Young Human's Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
More Info
Not on My Watch

Not on My Watch

How a renegade whale biologist took on governments and industry to save wild salmon
edition:Hardcover
More Info
Wild Roses Are Worth It

Wild Roses Are Worth It

Reimagining the Alberta Advantage
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
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