This month at the Rebel Library we’re taking a look at some cold hard truths. Amitav Ghosh explores our catastrophic failure of imagination in the face of climate injustice, Lucy Jones lays bare the consequences of our disconnection to nature, and Thoreau reflects on modern society from a small house in the woods. Our failures are brought home by Christina Gerhardt as she documents disappearing lands, and Jemma Wadham reveals the heartbreaking story of the melting cryosphere. How can we do better? Jonathon Porritt drives home the need for urgent action, Mim Skinner explores if community living is the answer and Clive Gifford provides crucial guidance for younger readers. Enjoy!
The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh
In this searing indictment — that’s also an empowering call to action — award-winning novelist and essayist Amitav Ghosh analyzes modern culture, history and politics to show how popular narratives have failed to wrestle with the reality of our collective climate crisis. The breadth of research is astounding but so too is Ghosh’s ability to diagnose the grave inadequacies of modern culture and offer some pathways forward. A book I return to again and again, The Great Derangement is haunting and harrowing, as Ghosh tells us some hard truths. But it’s also an inspiring challenge to writers, urging us to find new ways to tell the most important story on earth.
— Melissa Jean Gismondi
Losing Eden by Lucy Jones
Part of Lucy Jones’ genius lies in her instinctive, incisive grasp of our animal natures, and in this luminous exploration of Homo Sapiens’ physical and mental needs, she charts how much of civilization has become dislocated from the natural world. Our minds and bodies need the lavish abundance of the wild, Jones argues. And if we don’t protect it, we jeopardize the very ecosystems that sustain us.
– Liz Jensen
Walden by Henry Thoreau
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” In 1845, freethinker and bankrupt schoolteacher Henry David Thoreau moved from Concord out into the middle of the woods, settling on the banks of Walden Pond on land owned by philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau built himself a small hut—a kind of precursor to the Tiny House movement—and cultivated the land for a living while writing and pondering life in the woods. The result became a classic of American literature: an extended reflection on nature, solitude, water, wildlife, economy, hiking and vegetarianism. Thoreau’s interpretation of life in an ant colony and his observations of pine needles are unforgettable – and alone earn him his place as one of the father figures of nature writing genre. At the same time, his book is a critique of the society he came from.
– Maja Lucas.
Sea Change: An Atlas of Islands in a Rising Ocean by Christina Gerhardt
This book takes a relatively simple question: which are the islands endangered by changing sea levels? And expands it into a rich tapestry of art and poetry, culture and story. The result is not only a powerful and inspiring read, it’s also a beautiful book. The pages are decorated with elegant maps that show the extent of sea level rise on these islands in heart wrenching detail. But this is only part of the message. According to the IPCC, these low-lying lands are a harbinger to the future that awaits coastal areas the world over. Amsterdam, Shanghai, New York, Mumbai, Lagos and Florida are just a small selection of the countless cities that will suffer the devastating effects of higher seas and a chaotic climate in years to come, unless we act now.
The clarion call of the book is twofold: it aims to share the unique culture of these lands with the rest of the world, while at the same time raising awareness of their struggle by highlighting their incredible resilience and strength. In the words of the islanders themselves: ‘We are not drowning! We are fighting!’
– Philip Webb Gregg
Ice Rivers by Jemma Wadham
The story of one woman’s passion for glaciers. High up in the Alps, Andes and Himalaya, the glaciers are retreating. In Antarctica, thinning ice sheets are releasing meltwater into sensitive food webs, perhaps unlocking huge quantities of methane stored beneath them. The potential consequences for humanity are catastrophic.
Professor Jemma Wadham, one of the world’s leading glaciologists, guides us around the globe and the importance of ice to ecosystems and human life becomes clear. This is a memoir like no other: an eyewitness account from the frontline of the climate crisis and a love letter to glaciers.
Hope in Hell: A Decade to Confront the Climate Emergency by Jonathon Porritt
The message in this book is one of hope. Porritt, and many other experts believe that this decade will be crucial if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Porritt argues that there is reason to be hopeful because we already have the knowledge and solutions required to address climate change in ways that could halve global emissions by 2030.
The first part of Hope in Hell summarises the science behind the state we are in, who is responsible, and what the consequences might be if we do not act now. The second part explores the knowledge and technology already available to us that we could use to mitigate these consequences. The big solution Porritt proposes is a massive ramping up of the renewables sector.
In this book Porritt authoritatively summarises our current perilous state and suggests how it must be addressed right now, through technical solutions and political activism. He says, “I’ve come to the conclusion that we have no choice: without mass civil disobedience, at this very late stage, I cannot see any other way of avoiding that threat of runaway climate change.”
Be the Ultimate Friend to the Earth: 100 Questions to Boost Your Climate and Nature IQ by Lucy Siegle
Journalist and broadcaster Lucy Siegle tackles ten big topics pertinent to our urgent quest to reach net zero. Through stories and questions, she explores what we can all do to get there.
The book includes revealing questions on recycling and reusing, the importance of flora and fauna and planet-friendly food, find out how much you really know about how our consumer habits and lifestyles are affecting the environment, and the positive changes we can make now to ensure we’re all true friends of the earth. Packed full of stories and tips that show the people, the projects and the places that are already living as if this planet was precious, this is an essential handbook for anyone looking to improve their understanding of how we can all have a positive impact on Planet Earth.
Living Together: Searching for Community in a Fractured World by Mim Skinner
Mim Skinner sets out to explore communities that have rejected individualism and nuclear family life in order to embrace a more collective way of living. As she meets those who have had the courage to imagine a better world and start living it – in countercultural hippy communes, the disability led L’Arche communities, queer safe spaces, environmental campaign groups, rehab support networks and more – she asks how each is tackling the social issues of our time and finding greener and more connected ways to be together.
Guardians of the Planet: How to be an Eco-Hero by Clive Gifford
This positive book contains everything children need to become guardians of the planet. Children can learn how to become keepers of the coasts, friends of the forests, home heroes and much more through a mix of compelling facts, creative activities and proactive tips.
Key environmental topics are clearly explained, and the easy-to-follow projects and suggestions help to put the issues in an everyday context. From reusing clothes and composting food to reducing water waste and giving wildlife a helping hand, this book will encourage children to engage with environmental problems and inspire them to take care of our planet.
Suitable for Children aged 8 to 11.
Poem of the Month
Love in a Time of Climate Change
Recycling Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet XVII
by Craig Santos Perez
I don’t love you as if you were rare earth metals,
conflict diamonds, or reserves of crude oil that cause
war. I love you as one loves the most vulnerable
species: urgently, between the habitat and its loss.
I love you as one loves the last seed saved
within a vault, gestating the heritage of our roots,
and thanks to your body, the taste that ripens
from its fruit still lives sweetly on my tongue.
I love you without knowing how or when this world
will end. I love you organically, without pesticides.
I love you like this because we’ll only survive
in the nitrogen rich compost of our embrace,
so close that your emissions of carbon are mine
so close that your sea rises with my heat.
This month’s poem features in Habitat Threshold, the latest book by Craig Santos Perez. He is a Professor at the University of Hawaiʻi, teaching creative writing, eco-poetry and Pacific literature. He is an indigenous Chamoru (Chamorro) from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam), a poet, scholar, editor, publisher, essayist, critic, book reviewer, environmentalist and political activist.
In Habitat Threshold, written following the birth of his daughter, Perez uses free verse, prose poetry, the sonnet and variations of the haiku in satirical and elegiac poems in which he mourns the loss of habitats and species and confronts his fears about the world she will inherit. Influenced by the ethics shaped by his indigenous heritage he envisions a sustainable future where the earth is considered sacred, and all beings interconnected. A future in which we cultivate love for each other, for the trees, the sea turtles, for bees.
Habitat Threshold demonstrates his ability to forge new ways to write about the climate crisis that has made his work globally renown with many awards including the USA National Book Award (2023), a gold medal Nautilus Book Award (2021), the Hawai’i Literary Arts Council Award for an Established Artist (2017) the Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship (2016) and the American Book Award (2015).
Contact our Librarian if you would like themed book lists 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for prose or email@example.com for poetry.