• Maia Carolsfeld

3 Cozy Books to Read This Fall to Deal With Eco Anxiety

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

Normally at this time of year I am blown away by how beautiful where I live is. Victoria, BC is a lovely town, and in the autumn the leaves change colours and the weather becomes crisp and cozy. It's a good time to focus on my studies for my degree. Last month, we started working on research design and implementation, and as we gear up for writing our final dissertations, I'm inspired by the diversity of work my course mates are focusing on. On days like today, when the sun shines and my news feed is more positive than not (something that I've actively curated by the way), it feels like the work we are doing around the world to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change will succeed.

Unfortunately, interspersed with these beautiful days, I know the dark ones full of ecoanxiety and climate grief lurk around the corner. Ecoanxiety can be described as a chronic fear or feelings of anxiety about the impact of climate change on people and the environment. Climate grief is a pervasive response to the climate crisis and feeling of grieving nostalgia for how our home ‘used to be’.

What can one little person do to fix climate change? Why bother when so many things are just going to go wrong anyway? Where can I even find information on what I can personally do? How can we convince businesses, governments, and societies at large to make meaningful changes to reach worldwide goals of carbon reduction? In the face of some of these questions and feelings of doubt, it’s hard to remember the positive changes that people around the world are working towards.

If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Linked above are a couple of websites that explore those feelings in depth.

Something that has helped me get out of the cycle of eco-anxiety is reading. As we go into the cozier time of year here in the Northern Hemisphere (and go into beach reading season in the Southern Hemisphere!), I want to share 3 book recommendations. Each of these books I have read in the last year, and each one is a cozy, easy to read, uplifting addition to your autumn reading list. And if you have read them all already - amazing! Let me know in the comments below what you thought of them, or tag me @EcoThinkProductions on Instagram or Twitter with your thoughts!

Just a quick reminder, if you can support a local bookstore when purchasing these books, or go to your local library to request them - all the better! If online purchasing is the only option available to you, I recommend Better World Books, every time you purchase a book they donate one to a person in need.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This first book is beautifully written, and brings us along on Kimmerer’s journey as both a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in the United States. Kimmerer is a professor of Environmental Biology in Syracuse, New York. The way she writes is just beautiful, I remember reading it and feeling like I was just over her shoulder, joining her each step as we explored the importance of marrying both Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge.

Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
Braiding Sweetgrass

I love this book because of its beauty, but also because of its real portrayal of how western science is often held up as more valuable than indigenous knowledge, and why that is a problematic issue we should all be aware of. The book doesn’t leave the reader feeling downtrodden however, instead we feel inspired and more connected to the nature around us through Kimmerer’s own wisdom and willingness to share her experience.

If you are feeling disconnected from the natural world, or are feeling bogged down by over focusing on western science and the sometimes dismal picture it can portray, I highly recommend giving this book a read. I greatly enjoyed reading it with my morning cup of tea on my comfy sofa on the weekends.

If you want to learn more about Robin Wall Kimmerer, check out her biography at the SUNY college of Environmental Science and Forestry.

How Bad are Bananas? By Mike Berners-Lee

A fascinating exploration of the carbon footprint of nearly everything you can think of, this is a great book to read if you are short on time and patience, but want to learn about carbon emissions in a way that directly relates to what you do everyday. Mike Berners-lee discusses everything from the bananas we eat to air travel, from driving an old car to buying a new more efficient car. Done with humour and down-to-earth science, this is an unpretentious, non-judgmental look at carbon footprints.

The Carbon Footprint of Nearly Everything
How Bad Are Bananas?

Each section is short and to the point - you could read it on the toilet if you needed to, or on a short bus commute. The cool thing about this book is that each section lays out the magnitude of the action, so when you read it you not only learn about how a carbon footprint of an action is decided, but you also come away with some ideas about what key activities you can focus on reducing or replacing in order to reduce your own carbon footprint. Not only will you learn that average North American consumption of toilet paper equates to 730 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emitted per 1.6 pounds of toilet paper, or that an average pair of shoes costs 11.5 kg of CO2e, but you’ll also chuckle at the more interesting comparisons between these activities. For example: a minute using a cell phone has a carbon footprint about equal to a very large gulp of beer.

Drawdown Edited by Paul Hawken

This is a great book that also exists as a free website at drawdown.org. If you enjoy beautiful coffee table size books that you can flip through casually curled up on a comfy chair, I recommend getting a physical copy. This book was recommended to me as part of my reading list for a course last year, and I’ve revisited it once a month at least since.

I love Drawdown because it lays out the top 100 methods that already exist and are currently being implemented to help reverse global warming and manage climate change around the world. Each entry is given a 2-4 page spread, detailing the project, how it helps to avoid, mitigate, or adapt to carbon emissions in the atmosphere, and any co-benefits of doing those things.

The Carbon Footprint of Nearly Everything
How Bad Are Bananas?

The solutions are ranked based on the total amount of GHGs they can avoid or remove from the atmosphere by 2050 on a global basis. The most poignant section in my opinion is where they speak of educating girls and women, which is expected to reduce 59.6 gigatons of CO2 by 2050. Drawdown summarizes the work of incredible women doing work to increase girl’s education, which in turn helps those girls gain empowerment at home, work and in society.

Other solutions include anything from #2 and #22 on and off-shore wind turbines, #54 for walkable cities, to green roofs at #73. And although the breadth of topics addressed in the book may at first sound intimidating, they are written in such a way that cuts through any jargon or patronizing tone. I highly recommend giving this book a read anytime you need a shot of anxiety-busting hope and inspiration.

What are you planning to read this season? I know I will continue to return to these books over the months, both to refer to and for the comfort they provide. I hope that if you do choose to read these recommendations that they help you to deal with any ecoanxiety or climate grief you may be feeling in the moment. Also, please recommend any other uplifting reads you've come across that I should check out!

Another two books that I am very excited to read soon: Commanding Hope by Thomas Homer-Dixon, and All We Can Save, an anthology edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson. When I finish them, I’ll post a summary on this blog for you - make sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss it!

Update 14/10/2020: The Drawdown project just published their new Drawdown Review: Climate Solutions for a New Decade. It's free to download on drawdown.org.

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