10 must-read books and must-listen podcasts on the environment and climate change

Book and podcast recommendations from GreenUP and the Peterborough Public Library

"Braiding Sweetgrass" and "Big Lonely Doug" both offer remarkable insights into how we value nature as something we want for resources and as something we appreciate as a complex interconnected gift. Both books are available from the Peterborough Public Library. (Photo: Leif Einarson)
"Braiding Sweetgrass" and "Big Lonely Doug" both offer remarkable insights into how we value nature as something we want for resources and as something we appreciate as a complex interconnected gift. Both books are available from the Peterborough Public Library. (Photo: Leif Einarson)

I love stories. In times of disruption and change, sharing stories can help us find togetherness, comfort, and stability.

Studies show that reading and listening to stories does more than simply activate the part of your brain that is associated with language processing.

Stories also activate the same parts of your brain that are triggered by your senses when you experience events in real life.

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In other words, stories can take you on a trip outside your home, around the world, and even into someone else’s shoes and feelings and perspectives.

The following list features great books and podcasts on climate change for a variety of interests and ages. These recommendations come from the team at GreenUP and from the lovely librarians at the Peterborough Public Library.

Be well, and enjoy.

 

1. “Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution” by Peter Kalmus

“I liked Being the Change because it was positive, where so many books I’ve read about climate change are just doom and gloom, and rightly so,” observes Patricia K. of the Peterborough Public Library.

“This book gives you practical things you can do in your own life to help avert climate change. And it was readable.”

“Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution” is available from the Peterborough Public Library.

 

2. “Plants Have So Much to Give Us, All We Have to Do Is Ask: Anishinaabe Botanical Teachings” by Mary Siisip Geniusz

“I heard about this book through a gardening group,” says Jenn McCallum, coordinator of water programs at GreenUP.

“Plants Have So Much to Give Us shares a wealth of botanical information useful to healers, educators, and gardeners, all in the context of the Anishinaabe culture.”

“Plants Have So Much to Give Us, All We Have to Do Is Ask: Anishinaabe Botanical Teachings” is available from the University of Minnesota Press and Amazon.

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3. “Big Lonely Doug: the Story of Canada’s Last Great Trees” by Harley Rustad

This book comes recommended by not one but two librarians at the Peterborough Public Library.

“One of the things that was a huge eye opener for me when I read Big Lonely Doug was how much B.C.’s economy still relies on the lumber industry,” shares Karen C. of the Peterborough Public Library. “I also had no idea that trees in a forest actually have a kind of relationship with each other and can communicate via a sort of underground fungal network to warn each other about threats, like drought, disease, and insect attacks.”

“Rustad presents both the value of the forestry industry to British Columbia and the need to preserve old growth forests to maintain the unique ecology of the island,” says Karen Bisschop, adult programming and outreach librarian. “His depiction of the real people involved in forestry, the environmental movement, and eco-tourism prevents the book from becoming a manifesto or a summary of facts.”

“Big Lonely Doug: the Story of Canada’s Last Great Trees” is available from the Peterborough Public Library.

 

4. “Migrations” by Charlotte McConaghy

“Imagine a world where climate change has rendered almost every animal on the planet extinct,” says Laura Gardner, collection development librarian, of this fictional work. “Imagine a world where only domestic species can now be raised for food.”

“During the midst of the sixth mass extinction, ornithologist Franny Stone travels to Greenland to track one of the last species on earth, the arctic tern,” shares Gardner. “She manages to convince the captain of a ship to take her on the journey south to follow the migration as a way to find rare fishing grounds. It’s a harrowing and heartbreaking journey for them all, a story of what once was; a reflection of the past, a reflection of loss.”

“Migrations” is available from the Peterborough Public Library.

 

5. “Our House is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet” by Jeanette Winter

Librarians at the Peterborough Public Library recommend these two children's titles: "Ours to Share" also contains a list of several useful resources, and "Our House is on Fire" is a powerful reminder that one person can make a difference. (Photo: Leif Einarson)
Librarians at the Peterborough Public Library recommend these two children’s titles: “Ours to Share” also contains a list of several useful resources, and “Our House is on Fire” is a powerful reminder that one person can make a difference. (Photo: Leif Einarson)

Laura M. at the Peterborough Public Library recommends this children’s title.

“In Our House is On Fire, readers learn the story of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist who took a stand on climate change,” shares Laura M. of the Peterborough Public Library.

“Greta’s story is a great reminder that even one person can make a difference.”

“Our House is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet” is available from the Peterborough Public Library.

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6. “Ours to Share: Coexisting in a Crowded World” by Kari Jones

Laura M. of the Peterborough Public Library also recommends this children’s title.

“This book is part of the Orca Footprints series, which presents environmental issues with well-researched facts and powerful images that help inspire kids to take action,” she says.

“Ours to Share is a timely guide to sharing the planet.”

“Ours to Share: Coexisting in a Crowded World” is available from the Peterborough Public Library.

 

7. “Green Economy Heroes” podcast by Dianne Saxe

Climate and environmental lawyer Dr. Dianne Saxe. (Photo: Saxe Facts)
Climate and environmental lawyer Dr. Dianne Saxe. (Photo: Saxe Facts)

“This podcast is stacked with hope and solutions for the future,” shares Natalie Stephenson, hub coordinator for Green Economy Peterborough at GreenUP.

“I love listening to inspirational leaders who are laying the groundwork to bring Canada into the green economy, and imagining what this amazing work could look like at the local level.”

Dianne Saxe is a respected Canadian environmental lawyer focusing on the climate crisis. She was the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario from 2015 to 2019 and is president of Saxe Facts Law Professional Corporation.

For more information including podcast subscription links, visit saxefacts.com/climate-podcast/

 

8. “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

“Braiding Sweetgrass” is a collection of reflections that feature plants and animals as our oldest teachers. In it, Robin Wall Kimmerer draws on her experiences as a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

“Braiding Sweetgrass is beautifully written,” shares Laura Keresztesi, GreenUP NeighbourPLAN program coordinator.

“One of my favourite chapters was on the Thanksgiving address. Kimmerer asks how the world might be different if we all took time each day to be thankful for what we have rather than focusing on always wanting more.”

“Braiding Sweetgrass” is available from the Peterborough Public Library.

 

9. “Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson

“Zero Waste Home offers room by room instruction on how to eliminate waste and change wasteful habits,” says Kristen LaRocque, coordinator of the GreenUP Store.

“The author delivers her insights with humility and humour and emphasizes that making changes slowly is more maintainable and therefore impactful than a drastic overhaul.”

“Zero Waste Home” is available from the Peterborough Public Library.

 

10. “Outrage and Optimism” podcast by Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac, and Paul Dickinson

"Outrage and Optimism" is a podcast created and hosted by the stubbornly optimistic people who delivered the Paris Agreement on climate change. (Photo: Leif Einarson)
“Outrage and Optimism” is a podcast created and hosted by the stubbornly optimistic people who delivered the Paris Agreement on climate change. (Photo: Leif Einarson)

Last but hopefully not least is my own recommendation. “Outrage and Optimism” is a podcast created and hosted by the stubbornly optimistic people who delivered the Paris Agreement. It features some remarkable guests, including Ellie Goulding, Jane Goodall, Greta Thunberg, Theresa May, and David Attenborough.

I enjoy podcasts because it feels like I’m welcoming the hosts and guests into my home as I listen. I love inviting hosts Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac, and Paul Dickinson into my home each week. Every time, I know I’m going to learn something new, meet a fascinating global citizen with a constructive perspective on climate action, and leave feeling informed and empowered.

For more information including podcast subscription links, visit outrageandoptimism.libsyn.com.

 

If you like these lists, please let me know at leif.einarson@greenup.on.ca and we’ll share more in the future.

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