When sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg says to adults, “Our house is on fire,” and “Our lives are in your hands,” we must listen. And act.
How? Make books to spread her mantra that climate science shows we are damaging our planet in ways that will imperil the future.
Young people around the world hear her and respond. They want to understand the ecological crisis they experience when their towns flood or burn and what should be done about it. They want to save our world and so must we. Books can help them help us all.
No one is too small to make a difference by Greta Thunberg is a slim sixty-eight page volume of the text from her speeches.
This book was given to me by a book designer friend, Lance Hidy, known for designing type, several Ansel Adams books, and the Love Our Earth / Save Our Home climate crisis poster.
No one is too small to make a difference was printed and bound in England and is being distributed through Penguin UK. It is appropriately a European effort since Greta, a teen activist from Sweden, is European and the Paris Accord is supported there. The book was printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Jeanette Winter, author-illustrator of scores of beloved books, wrote about Greta’s mission. Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet is a forty page book issued September 24th from Beach Lane Books for kids ages three to eight. Kirkus Reviews says of the book, “A compact but cogent tribute to a single voice for change that now leads a rising chorus.” You might be wondering how Ms. Winter could possibly already have a book out about this teen activist who burst into the public consciousness only a year ago. Here is that fascinating story.
And in the YA category, also issued on September 24th, is We Are All Greta: Be Inspired to Save the World by Valentina Gianella and illustrated by Manuela Marazzi, translated from the original Italian and published by Laurence King/Chronicle Books. This colorfully illustrated volume includes positive actions teens can take and a glossary of climate crisis terminology.
Aspects to consider:
children are educating their parents, getting adults to change their behavior
Greta Thunberg’s power comes in part from her gift for seeing things in black and white, an asset of her disability. She speaks in clearly stated absolutes. When scientists say that the Earth is warming due to human action, she insists that we stop. She has succeeded in educating her parents, who have reduced their carbon footprint by making significant lifestyle changes. Here are two links to books that describe how this came about in their family memoir.
Penguin will also publish versions of No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference, which will include the text of her passionate speech at the UN, in the US in November and the memoir Our House is On Fire next year.
young activists are becoming widely noticed. Authors can help them.
Greta’s example started a global movement in which more than a million kids the world over are raising awareness and educating their parents. Images of thousands of kids telling us what we should already know and care about have galvanized support. Their pleas are newsworthy in a captivating way. The vocabulary and facts they need to communicate with those in power can be provided by the books available to them.
climate change information can be scary or depressing
Human-caused disruptions to ecology can be disturbing and discouraging to kids. Young people may feel powerless to change the decline of our planet’s health, but there are useful strategies in books. By making stories solution-based, even on a small scale, they can help kids feel able to make a difference. Children are the voters of the future. And a blend of informative, non-fiction books with good fiction that makes the issues integral to a rewarding story can double the impact. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, published in 1971, has long been an icon of environmental fiction encapsulating in easy-to-understand rhyme the way that manufacturing and greed can get out of hand. The need for more books on this topic persists.
children who are involved, or know other kids who are, seek information
It is our job to be sure that young people can find accurate, age-appropriate materials. This article lists ten recently published climate change books. There should be many more.
The Yale Climate Connections site lists twelve books on climate change, but notes that six rely on references to polar bears as title characters or in other significant contexts, sometimes in ways that are facile rather than accurate. While it may be tempting to use easily recognizable symbols of the problem, a deeper look will yield more meaningful books.
Some teens take drastic action
Teens are deeply serious about the impact of ecological disasters on their future. Some are signing pacts that they won’t have children until substantive changes are made. They don’t want to bring more children into a world at risk. Obviously they see the situation as dire and are passionate about doing something to shift the tide. Adults need to respond with legislation, lifestyle changes, and by providing these teens with stories that explore this vital issue.
What can we do?
Be motivated by Greta Thunberg’s imperative that “No one is too small to make a difference”. She has spoken in Davos at the World Economic Forum and at the U.N. in New York. And…
“On Wednesday, a group of well-read, thoughtful climate activists spoke to a petulant, self-centered, and ill-informed audience. The former was a group of teens; the latter were elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives.” – Madeleine Aggeler, Teen climate activists make congress look like incompetent children.TheCut.com, September 19, 2019
Members of Congress asked the teen activists questions that revealed the adults’ lack of understanding of the perils to our ecosystem and ignorance of scientific facts. Let us take a wiser path.
Creators in the children’s book community can follow the young climate activists’ lead by using talent as a weapon for the good of our collective home. Books related to environmental issues and the natural world inform and empower young people. We are talking about our children’s future here, as well as our own.
“We live in a strange world, where children must sacrifice their own education in order to protest against the destruction of their future.
“Where the people who have contributed the least to this crisis are those who are going to be affected the most.” – Greta Thunberg, Berlin, 30th of March, 2019
footnote: Earth is our home. Although flags exist that are used to represent the Earth, I have designed my own. We are part of our environment and must behave responsibly. This flag was carried at the Climate Strike in Newburyport, MA on September 20 in support of the young activists.
About my Earth flag:
The colors blue, green, and white represent water, earth and air. White also represents hope, since existence depends on that too.
The egg shape represents organic life, especially mammalian, and suggests a womb from which each of us was born. The egg balances on its smaller end because life is both active and precarious. The external colors (air, land, and water) are echoed within the egg to indicate that all humans are comprised of water, oxygen, and elements of the earth.
The position of the egg is not in the center because humans are not central to the environment. Rather, the environment surrounds and supports us.
We all must do what we can to provide a healthy planet for these children. Books can make a difference.