Tomorrow is Earth Day, so today is a perfect day for introducing a book about…
Climate Warriors: Fourteen Scientists and Fourteen Ways We Can Save Our Planet
by Laura Gehl
72 pages; ages 9-14
Millbrook Press (Lerner), 2023
“Sometimes, when something is big and frightening, we don’t want to think about it,” writes Laura Gehl. And right now, the biggest and scariest problem we’ve got is climate change. It’s a huge problem, so overwhelming that we might wonder what can we even do to solve it?
As with every problem, the best place to begin is with understanding what it is. So Laura takes the first chapter to explain what climate change is, how humans are causing it, and what we can do about it. Then she introduces fourteen scientists who are studying – and fighting – climate change. A forester, a conservation biologist, a scientist working with artificial intelligence. An economist, a materials scientist, a psychologist, and eight more.
Chapter by chapter, Laura shows what scientists and climate activists are doing to understand – and communicate their findings about – climate change. In each chapter, the featured “climate warrior” offers recommendations: making cities more walkable, planting trees, creating better public transportation systems, finding substitutes for meat, protecting forests and coastal ecosystems… the list is long.
Each chapter ends with one or more things kids (and their families) can do to combat climate change. Here’s the thing: as crazy as it sounds, individual efforts add up. So if you do something, and get your family and friends to join you, you’re making a positive change. Laura ends her book with a chapter that adds a short list of specific ways you can be a climate warrior.
Reduce your use of plastics, Laura says. “Switch to reusable containers instead of plastic bags … and encourage your family to use refillable water bottles and soap dispensers.” Plant a garden. Compost food scraps and leaves. Share things like bicycles and books. Eat less meat. Last on the list – and possibly most important – use your voice to share climate-friendly actions. Included in back matter is a quick guide for writing a letter to your Congressperson, Governor, or even the President. There’s also a list of helpful books and websites.
I caught up with Laura Gehl a few days ago and she graciously answered a couple questions.
Me: What do you do to avoid feeling overwhelmed and helpless in the face of such
a huge problem like climate change?
Laura: One of the scientists I wrote about in Climate Warriors, David Rolnick, told me that he fights climate change using artificial intelligence because that’s what he’s good at. He said that everyone can help fight climate change using their own specific skills and talents. This conversation really resonated with me, because writing is what I happen to be good at. In all aspects of my life, the best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed and helpless is to dig into whatever is making me feel that way. So writing about climate change, specifically the hopeful side and how scientists, kids, and everyone else can work together to help slow it down, was the best possible way to feel empowered instead of powerless. Taking a reusable water bottle when I go for a hike, instead of single-use plastic, is a small way to help slow climate change…but the impact of this book, if it inspires lots of kids, could be much bigger.
Me: I love how you set up each chapter with an explanation of what that climate warrior does, along with recommendations from their work. You follow this up with an entire section
about how kids can be climate warriors. These features really make this book feel like a toolbox for hope.
Laura: Climate change is such a huge, complicated topic, and I am a scientist at heart. So I wanted to include a lot of science in this book, which I believe is needed in order to really understand the problem, as well as the possibilities for slowing it down. On the other hand, I wanted the book to feel accessible for kids and not like they were being bombarded by too many tricky concepts—from hydrology to economics to materials science! I experimented with different formats, and both my critique partners and my editors really helped me hone in on a format that would feel kid-friendly and empowering. My personal favorite part is that I talk about what each scientist was like as a kid. I hope that this will really bring home to readers that each of these scientists was once in their shoes…liking music or sports or playing outside, trying to figure out what they might want to do as a job one day…and spark the idea that they too could grow up to be a huge part of finding new ways to combat climate change!
Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.