Get to Grips With the Climate Emergency With These Nonfiction Books

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The world is changed. It seems that human civilisation has now threatened the ground beneath us, the water around us, and the air we flail through to live. Growing up, I knew it as ‘global warming’. In the years since it has become ‘climate change’ and now, as I commence the third decade of my life, it is more resoundingly known as a ‘climate emergency.’

There are those, world leaders among them, who deny the climate emergency – and so to preface this little list of books, we should state that they are wrong. The climate emergency is real. We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event. This is the Anthropocene, and the impact of humans on the earth cannot be overstated.

In the past few years, I have immersed myself in reading about the climate – from fossil fuels to the suppression of honeybee populations and the notion of re-wilding land to undo the ravages of industrial farming, I have been a sponge for learning about what I have contributed to. I make the same efforts as others – I reduce my use of single use plastic (and plastic more broadly). I’m fine with gooey paper straws. I walk a lot to avoid using even public transport. But a handful of people alone can’t turn back a tide. The effort to reduce our impact and cease our own extinction needs everyone, from the largest corporation to the smallest family home.

Below are a few of the books that I have enjoyed most in my learning. Some of these scared me so much I couldn’t sleep at night. Some are written by men, and some by women. Some are collective efforts. What is clear though, is that much of the science and knowledge we rely on was determined and written by white men. The underrepresentation of writers of colour in the field of climate writing is horrifying – particularly when the fossil fuel use of the Global North has mortgaged the future of the South. In time, I hope that trend can change, and more scientists of colour can come to the fore with their research, findings, and opinions.

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

The striking cover of this book depicts a single fallen bee. The message is clear and from front page to back, Wallace-Wells admits his own feelings of complicity in the destruction of the planet, determines that we must change our behaviours and sets out to chart what the future will look like. In essay-style chapters arranged around themes like Heat Death and Hunger, Wallace-Wells is here to scare you.

This is Not a Drill by Extinction Rebellion

Presented fresh off the back of the global climate protests by non-hierarchical group Extinction Rebellion, This is Not a Drill is a handbook for climate activists to know their reasons and their rights in the midst of rebellion. Pinpointing key facts about climate change, coupled with aesthetically pleasing illustrations and stories from the frontline. The book is a gentle push in the right direction.

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

If I had somehow acquired Thunberg’s emotional maturity and clarity of purpose at 16, it would be been a miracle. This tiny book collects some of her key speeches and thoughts on the climate emergency, long after she first commenced her School Strike. Small but mighty, it makes me feel hopeful and it merits inclusion for that reason alone.

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Klein set out to move the dial, instilling hope in her readers as she advocated an end to capitalism’s pogrom against the planet. Breaking down the free-market requirements that have pushed us into the arms of fossil fuels and demonstrating the multiple levels of resistance working globally to prevent disaster, Klein makes a radical thesis: that we must do better.

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming edited by Paul Hawken

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re likely both panicked and pleased. Panicked that we’re all dying, and pleased that at least some of us are trying to stop it. But, you ask, what are we really going to do? Where are the actual solutions?

Drawdown emerged from a coalition of leading scientists, policymakers, and researchers sitting down to determine real, tangible solutions to climate change. Demanding bold action and backed up with solid modelling, this golden source will introduce you to theories you’ve never heard of and solutions you’ve never considered. From food consumption to female education, the proposed solutions would, if applied correctly, engender drawdown: the point where greenhouse gases in the atmosphere peak and commence into decline. There is hope.