To coincide with the release of our new Rebel Library site, we’re sharing some of the writing that’s been most influential to us this month. Need something to wet your whistle in the run-up to Extinction Rebellion and supporters’ ‘The Big One’ demonstration at Westminster, April 20-24th? Then look no further than our short but carefully hand-picked selection of fiction, non-fiction and poetry from some of the most inspiring and imaginative thinkers and writers on climate collapse, activism and visions for a better ecology and society.

Have our recommendations given you a desire for a deeper connection with those who dream and act for a healthier, fairer, more representative and more sustainable culture? Make a commitment to be one of 100,000 like-minded people who stand up at Westminster for ‘The Big One’ – and we’ll see you there.

Fiction

Hope: Visions for a Better Future by Create the Future

Too often, we focus on the kind of future we fear. It’s time to start creating the one we long for.

Creating the future means finding the courage to re-imagine life on this beautiful planet, and having the determination to make it happen. It means seeking out hope in times of darkness, and seeing community in the midst of distrust. Most of all, it means flipping the script: it’s time to turn our anxieties about the climate crisis into action and justice. It’s time to be the change we want to see.

Hope: Visions Of A Better Future is a collection of stories, artwork and interviews from experts, thinkers, campaigners and writers, Hope is part-guide and part-inspiration that invites us to celebrate the solutions and actions that are already in progress, and feel the power which lies within all of us to be a force for good through our contributions to a better, more sustainable world.

This tremendous anthology from the inspirational Create the Future team includes six creative writing pieces, five ‘postcards from the future’ created by schoolchildren throughout the UK, and fifteen interviews with some fascinating experts on a wide range of climate topics. There is a lovely

Read Hope: Visions for the Future online and free thanks to Create the Future.

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

Five years ago, Mira Bunting founded a guerrilla gardening group: Birnam Wood. An undeclared, unregulated, sometimes-criminal, sometimes-philanthropic gathering of friends, this activist collective plants crops wherever no one will notice, on the sides of roads, in forgotten parks, and neglected backyards. For years, the group has struggled to break even. Then Mira stumbles on an answer, a way to finally set the group up for the long term: a landslide has closed the Korowai Pass, cutting off the town of Thorndike. Natural disaster has created an opportunity, a sizable farm seemingly abandoned.

But Mira is not the only one interested in Thorndike. Robert Lemoine, the enigmatic American billionaire, has snatched it up to build his end-times bunker – or so he tells Mira when he catches her on the property. Intrigued by Mira, Birnam Wood, and their entrepreneurial spirit, he suggests they work this land. But can they trust him? And, as their ideals and ideologies are tested, can they trust each other?

A psychological thriller from the Booker Prize-winning author of The LuminariesBirnam Wood is Shakespearean in its wit, drama and immersion in character. A brilliantly constructed consideration of intentions, actions, and consequences, it is an examination of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.

The Deluge by Stephen Markley

In the first decades of the 21st century, the world is convulsing, its governments mired in gridlock while an ecological crisis looms. America is battered by violent weather and extreme politics. In California, Tony Pietrus, a scientist studying deposits of undersea methane, receives a death threat. His fate will become bound to cast of characters—a broken drug addict, a star advertising strategist, a neurodivergent mathematician, a cunning eco-terrorist, an actor turned religious zealot, and a young activist named Kate Morris, who, in the mountains of Wyoming, begins a project that will alter the course of the decades to come.

From the Gulf Coast to Los Angeles, the Midwest to Washington DC, their stories unfold against a backdrop of accelerating chaos as they summon up courage, galvanize a nation, fall to their own fear, and find hope in the face of staggering odds. Each faces a reckoning: what will they sacrifice to salvage humanity’s last chance of a future?

Read more of our Climate Classics: timeless works exploring themes of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Non-Fiction

Tiger Work by Ben Okri

Twenty thousand years after a catastrophe wiped out the human race, visitors uncover their final messages scattered across the planet, in flooded cities and disintegrating books. These writings reveal the tragedies of people who continued to live as they always did—fearfully, selfishly—even as the end of their world loomed.

These haunting stories within a story, together with a powerful selection of poems, fables, and essays, are a necessary reminder of the beauty of the earth and the importance of addressing the climate crisis with clarity, artistry, and passion.

Ben Okri is a longtime friend and collaborator with Writers Rebel; watch his speech, ‘Can’t You Hear the Future Weeping?’, recorded with Writer’s Rebel’s Paint the Land project in 2021, in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow, UK.

Letters to the Earth introduced by Emma Thompson

How can we begin to talk about what is happening to the world? How can we explain to our children, and to ourselves, what the future of our planet might look and feel like? Letters to the Earth is the beginning of 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. Gathering together over 100 letters written in response to a callout from Culture Declares Emergency, 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 the way it faithfully sustains us. But they are also an opportunity to act, to respond to this crisis. To put pen to paper and make your voice heard.

A collection of 100 letters from around the world responding to the climate crisis, illustrated by CILIP award winner Jackie Morris. Includes contributions from activist Yoko Ono, actor Mark Rylance, poet Kae Tempest, author (of Rebel Library favourite The Ice) Laline Paull, illustrator of The Lost Words Jackie Morris, novelist Anna Hope, environmental writer Jay Griffiths and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

The conversation is still going, so get in on it: submit your own Letter to the Earth here.

The Nerves and Their Endings by Jessica Gaitán Johannesson

The body as a measuring tool for planetary harm. A nervous system under increasing stress.

In this collection that moves from the personal to the political and back again, writer, activist, and migrant Jessica Gaitán Johannesson explores how we respond to crises. She draws parallels between an eating disorder and environmental neurosis, examines the perils of an activist movement built on non-parenthood, dissects the privilege of how we talk about hope, and more. The synapses that spark between these essays connect essential narratives of response and responsibility, community and choice, belonging and bodies.

Jessica Gaitán Johannesson discussed her book The Nerves and Their Endings with Writers Rebel’s Toby Litt back in November 2022. Read their conversation and learn more about the book here.

Poetry

Out Of Time: Poetry from the Climate Emergency edited by Kate Simpson

If you compressed the whole of Earth’s history into a single day, the first humans that look like us would appear at less than four seconds to midnight. In the last few seconds, we begin to burn fossil fuels at an alarming rate. The Anthropocene is an artificial geological epoch of our own design – one defined by emergency, with disastrous ecological effects rippling outwards across the entire globe. The illusions of civilisation, progress and choice are crumbling around us, and we are out of time.

Out of Time is curated to include five key thematic sections – sequenced to take readers on a journey through various responses to climate emergency today. These sections include Emergency, Grief, Transformation, Work and Rewilding. The featured poems move through anger, confusion, violence and disarray – spheres of dystopia and decimation – to grief, desperation and lethargy, right through to modes of transformation, fable and utopia as well as rites of passage, activism and work. Finally, we land on tender (if fragile) moments of hope, where humans can be both included or excluded from the picture at will. This powerful, timely anthology engages with the power of poetry to ask questions, subvert expectations and raise reader awareness in 2021 – a year defined by responsibility, accountability and opportunity. Edited, with an insightful introduction, by Kate Simpson and featuring original work from the likes of Caroline BirdInua EllamsPascale PetitKaren McCarthy WoolfRachael AllenRaymond Antrobus and Mary Jean Chan.

Hear Kate discuss the anthology, covering themes of justice, inaction and antidotes, and climate change as the ‘narrative to end all narratives’ in this deep-diving interview with Writers Rebel in 2021, following the release of the book.

Looking for something you can’t find here? Contact our Librarian if you’re looking for something specific, or an educational book list to support teaching about climate change.

We’re always looking for contributors to our growing collection of literature to explain and explore the climate and biodiversity emergency. If you’re a writer or poet and would like to share your work or ideas, please get in touch! Contact mattroselibrary@gmail.com for prose or poetsrebelxr@gmail.com for poetry.