Summer Reading 2019: Stories We Need to Know About our Changing Planet Lyla Hinkle

July 31st, 2019

Low Carbon Economy

A note from CEO Bob Hinkle: I started Metrus when my daughter Lyla was 8 years old and a lot of things have changed since then (in both life and in the world of energy efficiency). She’ll be a freshman this year at Denison University so we thought we’d assign her some summer reading before she heads off to college.

For some people, the extreme temperatures that have struck various parts of the globe may simply seem like a good excuse to head to the beach. However, for those who have been paying attention to recent reports on climate change, these extreme heat waves are yet another sign that if we do not change our ways we’ll soon face much bigger challenges than being uncomfortable during a heat wave.

Whether you’re well-versed on the impacts of climate change or not (especially if you’re not), I’d recommend adding Elizabeth Rush’s Rising and Climate Justice by Mary Robinson to your summer reading list. In language that is both powerful and easy to understand, these authors detail how climate change impacts the most vulnerable members of society and also present solutions (at a local and global level) to help save our planet before we reach a point of no return.

In Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Rush utilizes the power of language through personal and scientific anecdotes to help readers, whose lives may be removed from the effects of climate change, understand and feel empathy towards communities that are deeply affected by our changing planet. Whether it be in Jacob’s Point, RI, Isle de Jean Charles, LA, Staten Island, NY, or San Francisco, CA, Rush puts readers on the front lines of climate change battles in these coastal communities. In heartfelt, poetic language, Rush also describes the tragedy that occurs when a “once-in-500 years” storm tears apart your home, your family and your community and highlights that in American society, “people of color are often the most vulnerable to climate change, [but] these communities also tend to receive disproportionately low funding for adaptation, resiliency, and relocation.” Rising weaves together the stories of people and places affected by climate change to give a sense of urgency to the situations of people whose voices often fall on deaf ears.

Mary Robinson’s Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future stresses many of the same themes as Rush’s Rising while also providing concrete steps people can take to help prevent further damage being inflicted on our planet. In Climate Justice, Robinson, the former president of Ireland, explains how people in underdeveloped communities are often the first to notice changes in their environment. Robinson also advocates putting people in local communities to work in emerging fields such as renewable energy as a solution for job loss in fossil fuel industries and other traditional areas of the economy. Through the subjects in her book, Robinson helps to prove that climate change is much more of a human rights issue than a policy issue and that we need to listen to the voices of those who are doubly marginalized, by both life circumstances beyond their control and by the effects of climate change in their communities. Robinson sums up her thesis by saying; “All of us—governments, both powerful and small, prosperous and impoverished; cities, communities, business leaders, and individuals—bear responsibility. The threat to our planet may be dire, but the potential opportunity is also historic—the chance to stop an existential threat, to conquer poverty and inequality, and to empower those who have been left behind and neglected.”

As someone who grew up in a household where talk of energy efficiency was as common as talk about a recent Red Sox or Patriots game (my dad is a die-hard Boston sports fan), I have a general understanding of the negative consequences of our changing climate. However, having never taken it upon myself to actually research these topics, reading these books has opened my eyes to the urgent need to act now and the importance of doing what we can to support the people who are already suffering from rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and the cost of living in coastal communities and beyond.