“What in the world are we doing by reading environmental literature?” asks Greta Gaard. I often wonder the same thing and feel like reading books about environmental issues will never be enough to help. Sometimes it feels like all the glaciers will melt, the ocean will get too hot and all the trees will be chopped down, and there’s nothing we can do about it, but I recently had a realization. Reading is learning and learning is educating. Without books, where would we be? While reading environmental books might not feel like the most direct course of action to solve the climate crisis, everyone must start somewhere with their learning.
As part of my I.S. research, I’ve spent the last few months reading countless environmental books geared towards middle and high schoolers. Even though it was extremely disheartening at times to read about the devastation happening all over the world due to large environmental issues, these books gave me a renewed sense of hope in the future of this lovely planet. If children read these books, they are able to better understand climate issues and see how other people their age respond to the overwhelming sense of urgency and uncertainty often felt in regard to the climate crisis. Reading these books as a senior in college was just as interesting. I learned so much about the environment and enjoyed reading stories that dealt with real environmental issues but, with resilience and hardwork, turned out fine in the end.
Everyone claims that they are “too busy” to read or that “there’s nothing good to read,” so here are some of my favorite environmental books that are enticing, quick reads and will leave you with a sincere feeling of hope and warmth for the future generations that will inhabit our planet. We are never “too busy” to learn about climate change and the never-ending effects we are experiencing.
“The Ballad of Tubs Marshfield” by Cara Hoffman is one of the cutest books you will ever read. It is a very short book but teaches readers about the impacts of dumping oil and sludge into the water ways. The main character in the book, a frog named Tubs Marshfield, embarks on a journey to find out why his friends, other animals in the bayou, are getting very sick. Eventually he finds out that an industrial plant is dumping oil into the water that is then making its way back to his bayou, causing everyone to get sick. Through the power of music, friendship and a little bit of bayou magic, the company stops dumping oil into the water and his friends start to get better. This book is a sweet read about friends coming together to save their home.
“No Planet B: A Teen Vogue Guide to Climate Justice,” edited by Lucy Diavolo, showcases numerous articles published by Teen Vogue throughout the years that discuss climate change. I had no clue that Teen Vogue had such a concern for the environment but it made me realize that a lot more people care about the planet than we think. The book is separated into several different topics that relate to climate change and climate justice. Since it contains numerous short articles that only span three to five pages, there is no reason as to why we do not have time to read one of these short articles instead of scrolling endlessly on social media. They are written for teenagers, so the language is intriguing and even though the articles are about scientific topics, they are a simple and thought-provoking read.
Finally, “Global” by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, is a graphic novel that is told in alternating points of view, which already makes it more enticing to read, plus the book is broken up into chapters, making it easy to stop and pick it back up. It’s not every day that you find a graphic novel that is focused on climate change. As someone who was thesitant to read graphic novels for the longest time, “Global” did not disappoint. It tells the story of two tweens living on opposite sides of the earth—one on an island in the middle of the ocean, the other in the Arctic—but they are both experiencing the negative effects of climate change. It is a newer book and showcases many potential issues of climate change that are currently happening all across the globe.
These are three short books that you can pick up and read at your convenience. Environmental literature is an unread and underappreciated genre, but you can learn a lot from books written for kids. The time that is spent watching an outfit of the day video or one that tells us which skincare product to use can easily be spent reading one chapter of the aforementioned books. If we all just make a little bit of time to read every day, we can learn a lot about the world we live in and regain a sense of fulfillment for the future.