I often find myself at a loss for what to do about the climate crisis. Climate science indicates that we’re cooking the planet. Human civilization as we know it will probably end soon if we continue with our current course of action. So far, nothing seems sufficient to change our course. So what am I going to do about it? I’m going to review some books about the climate!
Here are a few quick reviews of some of the climate fiction and nonfiction books I’ve read in the past several months. I may do longer reviews later if there is sufficient interest. In the meantime, I wanted to write up at least a few short review in the hopes that you will be inspired to read some of these books too. I don’t have all of the answers, but I know that informing ourselves and exploring where our choices may take us can only help. The following stories vary in their degree of realism, contributions to the discourse, etc., but they all contribute something meaningful.
Climate Changed: This is an amazing book. This non-fiction graphic novel explores the author’s personal journey as he learns about the science behind global warming. Even if you don’t find his personal story or artistic flourishes compelling, this book is worth a read for the remarkably informative and moving exploration of the basic science and its implications for our present and future. This is essential material presented in a textually engaging and visually stimulating format. Basically, if you live on Planet Earth in the early 21st century, you should read this book!
This Changes Everything: This book is a remarkable exploration of global warming from a social, economic, political, and historical perspective. The author discusses the roots of the climate crisis, what we can do about it, and a bit of her own personal experiences and realizations along the way. Her ability to weave these otherwise dry and depressing facts into a compelling story is a major part of what sells the book. The only reason that I gave it 4/5 stars is because the structure suffers a bit from this approach, jumping back and forth between topics with some repetition. For new readers who are just learning this material, though, her enthusiasm and the vital importance of this information will more than make up for the meandering nature of the narrative.
The Collapse of Western Civilization: This is an excellent and thought-provoking exploration of what the future of civilization may be like as a result of global warming. It also explores how such civilizations may view our tragic inability to avert the climate crisis. The fact that the authors incorporated extensive references to real-world events, trends, data, etc. from our time really helped this story in at least two important ways. It enhanced the illusion of this being a non-fiction text from the future and also served to highlight many important real-life facts about the climate and related issues. There are a few moments where I felt like the authors themselves were the ones doing the lecturing rather than our post-apocalyptic historian. On the whole, though, this was a remarkably prescient, relevant, and enjoyable read.
Science in the Capital Series: This three-book series is a remarkable exploration of the role of science and scientific institutions in shaping American and global policy related to climate change. It explores important concepts such as the “capture” of government agencies by private industry, the increasing push for geoengineering as a “solution” to the climate crisis, and the human costs of rising sea levels. The inclusion of Buddhist characters and themes also creates an interesting comparison and contrast between ways of thinking in scientific communities and Buddhist perspectives on knowledge and life. I love the level of detail that the characters delve into when examining scientific and philosophical questions. My two main critiques are that it (a) doesn’t seem nearly critical enough of geoengineering [though this is possibly just meant to be an accurate portrayal of scientists who are convinced of its importance]; (b) seems to wrap up the major plot points in the third book almost as an afterthought. Regardless of my critiques, though, I highly recommend reading this series if you have any interest in any of its major themes: geoengineering as an alleged solution to the climate crisis; the role of scientific institutions in determining our response to climate change; and the similarities and differences between scientific perspectives and Buddhists perspectives.
Short Story Collection: If you’re interested in climate fiction (cli-fi), check out this book. As with many short story anthologies, the quality of each story and its relevance to the theme is very hit or miss. Honestly, there were times when I thought I’d give this book a lower rating. However, there are several strong stories in here that definitely should not be missed. Even the stories that fall flat as works of literature usually still raise important questions and present important visions of a world experiencing the dramatic consequences of global warming.
Last but not least, I’d like to give a shout-out to my own climate fiction. Since I’m the author, I’m providing a short synopsis rather than a review. I encourage you to Read, Rate, and Recommend these books. This helps more people to learn about my work and also encourages more conversation and action about climate change!
Change: Sarah Athraigh, an environmental activist from Southern Illinois, stumbles into the midst of a hidden war between occult factions that are grappling with the root causes and dire consequences of climate change. As she goes on the run, she soon finds herself on a journey of discovery, searching for the unusual allies and innovative ideas that will help her to make a difference for the better in a dangerous world.
Goodbye Miami: Kass, an American climate refugee, flees Miami in the wake of a hurricane that leaves most of the city underwater. After moving in with her cousin in Southern Illinois, Kass struggles to deal with her displacement. She hopes to find a way to return to the city that she loves. But thanks to global warming, that city is now underwater. What starts as a search for survival quickly evolves into a struggle for the future of Miami — and the world.