FBA’s Round-Up of Must-Read Books on Climate Change
Posted on 10/11/2021
With global temperatures on the rise and many of us feeling the effects of climate anxiety, environmental crises are becoming ever more entangled with our daily lives. To coincide with this month’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), currently taking place in Glasgow, we have curated a pick of titles that celebrate the resilience and beauty of the natural world and empower us with knowledge on how to fight for its future.
A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis, Vanessa Nakate
In A Bigger Picture, Vanessa Nakate exposes the shortcomings of our global discussions around climate change, which consistently envisage the environmental crisis as a problem for future generations. Such an image is only possible through the erasure of the voices of people living in the Global South, where environmental disasters are already having a devastating impact on communities, and especially on women. Despite this, people from the Global South – and people of colour from across the world – are often expunged from the picture of climate activism, as typified by Vanessa’s own erasure from a press photograph at Davos in 2020. As she explains, ‘we are on the front line, but we are not on the front page.’ Witnessing the destructive effects of global warming in her own community propelled Vanessa to become the first climate striker in Uganda at just twenty-one years old, despite risks to her personal safety. Buy a copy here.
Everybody Needs Beauty: In Search of the Nature Cure, Samantha Walton
Everybody is talking about the healing properties of nature. Hospitals are being retrofitted with gardens, and forests reimagined as wellbeing centres. On the Shetland Islands, it is possible to walk into a doctor’s surgery with anxiety or depression, and walk out with a prescription for nature.
Where has this come from, and what does ‘going to nature’ mean? Where is it – at the end of a garden, beyond the tarmac fringes of a city, at the summit of a mountain? Drawing on history, science, literature and art, Samantha Walton shows that the nature cure has deep roots – but, as we face an unprecedented crisis of mental health, social injustice and environmental devastation, the search for it is more urgent now than ever. Described by Lara Maiklem (author of Mudlarking) as ‘a call to us all to find a place within the simplicity and complexity of nature’, Everybody Needs Beauty scrutinises the harmful trends of a wellness industry and explores how the nature cure might lead us towards a more just and radical way of life. Buy a copy here.
How to Love Animals: In a Human-Shaped World, Henry Mance
A far-reaching, urgent, and thoroughly engaging exploration of our relationship with animals – from the acclaimed Financial Times journalist. We all love animals, but does that make their lives happier? With factory farms, climate change and deforestation, this might be the worst time in history to be an animal. In an age of extinction and pandemics, our relationship with the other species on our planet has become unsustainable. What if we took animals’ experiences seriously – how would we eat, think and live differently?
Henry Mance sets out on a personal quest to see if there is a fairer way to live alongside other species. He goes to work in an abattoir and on a farm to investigate the reality of eating meat and dairy. He explores our dilemmas around hunting wild animals, over-fishing the seas, visiting zoos, saving wild spaces and owning pets. He meets the chefs, farmers, activists, philosophers, scientists and tech visionaries who are redefining how we think about animals. This is not a book about what animals can do for us, but what we can do for animals. Buy a copy here.
Elegy for a River, Tom Moorhouse
Water voles are small, brownish, bewhiskered and charming. Made famous by ‘Ratty’ in The Wind in the Willows, once they were a ubiquitous part of our waterways. They were a totem of our rivers. Now, however, they are nearly gone. This is their story, and the story of a conservationist with a wild hope: that he could bring them back.
Tom Moorhouse spent eleven years beside rivers, fens, canals, lakes and streams, researching British wildlife. Quite a lot of it tried to bite him. He studied four main species – two native and endangered, two invasive and endangering – beginning with water voles. He wanted to solve their conservation problems. He wanted to put things right.
This book is about whether it worked, and what he learnt – and about what those lessons mean, not just for water voles but for all the world’s wildlife. It is a book for anyone who has watched ripples spread on lazy waters, and wondered what moves beneath. Or who has waited in quiet hope for a rustle in the reeds, the munch of a stem, or the patter of unseen paws. Buy a copy here.
Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils, David Farrier
A profound meditation on climate change and the Anthropocene and an urgent search for the fossils – industrial, chemical, geological – that humans are leaving behind. In Footprints, David Farrier explores what traces we will leave for the very deep future. From long-lived materials like plastic and nuclear waste, to the 50 million kilometres of roads spanning the planet, in modern times we have created numerous objects and landscapes with the potential to endure through deep time. Our carbon could linger in the atmosphere for 100,000 years, and the remains of our cities will still exist millions of years from now as a layer in the rock.
Travelling from the Baltic Sea to the Great Barrier Reef, and from an ice core laboratory in Tasmania to Shanghai, one of the world’s biggest cities, David Farrier tells a story of a world that is changing rapidly, and with long-term consequences. Footprints will not only alter how you think about the future, it will change how you see the world today. Buy a copy here.
Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis, Introduced by Emma Thompson
This profound, powerful and moving collection of 100 letters from around the world responds to the climate crisis and begins a new conversation. One that attempts to answer some of these questions by listening to the voices of parents and children; politicians and poets; songwriters and scientists. Each entry begins to give language to the unspeakable, and shows how our collective power is present when we are ready to slow down and listen to each other.
It’s natural to feel worried or concerned about what the future of the earth holds. These letters are an opportunity to reflect on our connection to the planet and each other in times of crisis. They are also an opportunity to act and respond to this crisis. To put pen to paper and make your voice heard. Letters to the Earth includes contributions from activist Yoko Ono, actor Mark Rylance, poet Kate Tempest, author Laline Paull, illustrator of The Lost Words Jackie Morris, novelist Anna Hope, environmental writer Jay Griffiths Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Booker prize Winning author Ben Okri and actor Freya Mavor. Buy a copy here.
Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth, Dan Richards
Through a series of personal journeys, Dan Richards explores the appeal of far-flung outposts in mountains, tundra, forests, oceans and deserts. Following a route from the Cairngorms of Scotland to the fire-watch lookouts of Washington State; from Iceland’s ‘Houses of Joy’ to the Utah desert; frozen ghost towns in Svalbard to shrines in Japan; Roald Dahl’s writing hut to a lighthouse in the North Atlantic, Richards explores landscapes which have inspired writers, artists and musicians, and asks: why are we drawn to wilderness? What can we do to protect them? And what does the future hold for outposts on the edge? Buy a copy here.
The Dun Cow Rib: A Very Natural Childhood, Sir John Lister-Kaye
Sir John Lister-Kaye has spent a lifetime exploring, protecting and celebrating the British landscape and its wildlife. His memoir The Dun Cow Rib is the story of a boy’s awakening to the wonders of the natural world. Lister-Kaye’s joyous childhood holidays – spent scrambling through hedges and ditches after birds and small beasts, keeping pigeons in the loft and tracking foxes around the edge of the garden – were the perfect apprenticeship for his two lifelong passions: exploring the wonders of nature, and writing about them.
Threaded through his adventures – from moving to the Scottish Highlands to work with Gavin Maxwell, to founding the famous Aigas Field Centre – is an elegy to his remarkable mother, and wise and affectionate celebration of Britain’s natural landscape. Shortlisted for the 2018 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize, The Dun Cow Rib was described by The Sunday Times as ‘an utterly charming and captivating narrative’. Buy a copy here.
At the Water’s Edge: A Walk in the Wild, Sir John Lister-Kaye
For the last thirty years Sir John Lister-Kaye has taken the same circular walk from his home deep in a Scottish glen up to a small hill loch. Each day brings a new observation or an unexpected encounter – a fragile spider’s web, an osprey struggling to lift a trout from the water or a woodcock exquisitely camouflaged on her nest – and every day, on his return home, he records his thoughts in a journal.
Drawing on this lifetime of close observation, At The Water’s Edge encourages us to look again at the nature around us, to discover its wildness for ourselves and to respect and protect it. Buy a copy here.
The Girl Who Talked to Trees, Natasha Farrant
Magical interlinked stories about what one girl learns from talking to trees throughout Time and from around the world in a sumptuous gift book presentation. From the team who brought you Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror, Costa Book Award winning Natasha Farrant and Lydia Corry.
Olive’s best friend is a four-hundred-year-old oak tree, and it is in danger. As she tumbles into its magic world, she makes it a promise. From deep roots to high branches, a Persian garden to an underwater forest, from tulip trees to wild apples to vengeful box, she listens to the trees telling stories for all time. And she keeps her promise. With a conservation message and facts about tree science alongside the magic and wonder of seven beautifully imagined original stories, this full-colour gift book enchants and reminds us of the importance of trees in our lives. Buy a copy here.
This Books Is Cruelty Free, Linda Newbery
How do the everyday choices you make affect animals and the environment? This book looks at all the things you can do to live cruelty free. It’s a guide designed for older children and teenagers concerned about animals, wildlife and the planet we live on. Packed with information on how to live a cruelty-free life, it includes sections on spending power, fashion and beauty, vegetarianism and veganism, the ethics of owning a pet, conservation work and the ecosystem. It will teach young environmental activists what they can do to resist throwaway culture and how to feel confident in their decisions.
Linda Newbery is an ardent supporter of various animal welfare and environmental campaigns including Compassion in World Farming, Wild Justice, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Veganuary, Authors4Oceans and the League Against Cruel Supports. Buy a copy here.
October, October, Katya Balen
A classic in the making for anyone who ever longed to be wild.
October and her dad live in the woods. They know the trees and the rocks and the lake and stars like best friends. They live in the woods and they are wild. And that’s the way it is. Until the year October turns eleven. That’s the year October rescues a baby owl. It’s the year Dad falls out of the biggest tree in their woods. The year the woman who calls herself October’s mother comes back. The year everything changes.
Written in Katya Balen’s heart-stoppingly beautiful style, this book is a feast for the senses, filled with the woodsmoke smell of crisp autumn mornings and the sound of wellies squelching in river mud. And, as October fights to find the space to be wild in the whirling chaos of the world beyond the woods, it is also a feast for the soul. October, October was a Times Children’s Book of the Week, who described it as deserving ‘a very special new addition to the shelf’. Buy a copy here.
What I Was, Meg Rosoff
Meg Rosoff explores the pain of first love and coming-of-age in her compelling novel What I Was. Set in a flooded future when the sea levels have risen over East Anglia, her book looks back to an idyllic adolescent past.
Shall I tell you about the year I discovered love? I’d been kicked out of two boarding schools and the last thing I wanted was to be here, on the East Anglian coast, in a third. But without St Oswald’s, I would not have discovered the fisherman’s hut with its roaring fire, its striped blankets, its sea monster stew. Without St Oswald’s, I would not have met the boy with the beautiful eyes, the flickering half-smile, and no past. Without St Oswald’s I would not have met Finn. And without Finn, there would be no story. Shall we begin?
Published in 2007, this third novel from Meg Rosoff was shortlisted for both the Costa Children’s Book Award and the Carnegie Medal. The Times describe it as ‘mordantly funny and searingly well written’. Buy a copy here.