Vancouver has long been an environmental leader—and not only in raising global awareness about climate change. Our town gave birth to Greenpeace, is home to David Suzuki, and was represented by an MLA who introduced North America’s first carbon tax as premier (Gordon Campbell). It also has some of the cleanest drinking water on the planet, thanks to farsighted efforts to preserve the North Shore watershed system.
Meanwhile, the city’s initiatives to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and pursue a goal of consuming 100 percent renewable energy are attracting attention around the world, including from Pope Francis and U.S. secretary of state John Kerry. And recently, SFU offered a short residency at the Harbour Centre campus to Australian scientist Tim Flannery, a best-selling author and renowned educator on global warming.
If you’re curious to learn more about environmental issues leading up to late November and early December’s UN climate-change conference in Paris, here are four recently published books worth reading. Three are by B.C. authors and the fourth is by Flannery.
A World for My Daughter: An Ecologist’s Search for Optimism (Alejandro Frid)
Frid, an adjunct professor of environmental studies at the University of Victoria, has written a book of several poignant and informative letters to his daughter, Twyla Bella, about his experiences researching wildlife and working with First Nations. He provides illuminating insights into the interactions between predators and prey in a graceful, engaging style. When ecosystems experience jarring changes as a result of climate change or human activity, Frid shows how far-reaching these effects can be on the ground or at sea. A World for My Daughter leaves readers with a greater appreciation for the fragility of the web of life, especially along the Pacific Coast.
Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis (Tim Flannery)
Here, Flannery focuses a great amount of attention on what he calls third-way technologies to suck gigatonnes of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. The book includes sections on how seaweed farming, roofing products that absorb carbon dioxide, and wood chemistry can all help preserve the future of humanity. With its startling data and clear descriptions of the extent of the ecological crisis facing humanity, Atmosphere of Hope is a wake-up call to the world and a perfect primer in advance of the upcoming UN climate talks.
Letters to My Grandchildren (David Suzuki)
This is perhaps the environmentalist and broadcaster’s most eloquent and personal book, with chapters on a wide range of subjects including fame, barriers to change, and aging and death. It’s loaded with thought-provoking comments, such as when Suzuki describes human beings as an invasive species, or how all sorts of circumstances lead human beings to behave foolishly, which is why ecosystems and the biosphere shouldn’t be recklessly placed in jeopardy. “When so-called once-in-a-hundred-years events like floods or extreme storms begin to occur every ten years or less, something is not right,” he states in the book. “The human imprint can now be found even on earthquakes and volcanoes.”
The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Towards a Greener Future (David R. Boyd)
If Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate plunged you into a state of depression, this is an ideal antidote. Boyd, an environmental lawyer and cochair of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Team, describes the astonishing progress being made in addressing many serious problems, including air quality and ozone depletion. Nowhere will you find a clearer explanation of the extraordinary growth of renewable energy and its implications for addressing climate change. He also shows how rapidly we’re seeing the rise of the circular economy (in which products are continually being recycled) and the electrification of transportation, creating hope for a brighter future.
David R. Boyd and Alejandro Frid will speak on Friday (October 23) at 10 a.m. at Studio 1398 as part of the Vancouver Writers Fest.