By Amanda Leduc
The start off our 2022 Challenge, we wanted to take a look at books that highlight the climate and climate justice, one of the most pressing issues of our time. How do we, as readers, writers, and citizens of the planet, reckon with our changing climate and the way that our actions will have an impact for generations to come? How can we listen, pay attention to our elders and to the climate and water defenders who have been sounding the alarm about climate change for decades? And how can the particular difficulties that climate change poses to BIPOC and disabled communities–who are often at the frontlines of ecological crisis and disaster–be mitigated and solved through our collective effort?
If you’re looking for somewhere to start, this month’s Challenge might be just the thing for you. From an anthology looking at climate from myriad different viewpoints, through to fictional explorations of what our future world might look like, through to an elegant, grief-stricken look at bees and the intricate nature of the planet around us, here are four books to get you thinking about, loving, and fighting for our planet–and our collective survival.
1) The Pump, by Sydney Warner Brooman
A Gothic collection of stories featuring carnivorous beavers, art-eaters, and family intrigue, for fans of Alice Munro and Shirley Jackson
The small southern Ontario town known as The Pump lies at the crossroads of this world’s violence—a tainted water supply, an apathetic municipal government, the Gothic decay of rural domesticity—and another’s.
In Brooman’s interconnected stories, no one is immune to The Pump’s sacrificial games. Lighthouse dwellers, Boy Scouts, queer church camp leaders, love-sick and sick-sick writers, nine-year-old hunters, art-eaters—each must navigate the swamp of their own morality while living on land that is always slowly (and sometimes very quickly) killing them.
2) Revery: A Year of Bees, by Jenna Butler
“I hope you’re okay in there, lovelies. I hope you’re warm.”
After five years of working with bees on her farm in northern Alberta, Jenna Butler shares with the reader the rich experience of keeping hives. Starting with a rare bright day in late November as the bees are settling in for winter, she takes us through a year in beekeeping on her small piece of the boreal forest. Weaving together her personal story with the practical aspects of running a farm she takes us into the worlds of honeybees and wild bees. She considers the twinned development of the canola and honey industries in Alberta and the impact of crop sprays; debates the impact of introduced flowers versus native flowers, the effect of colony collapse disorder and the protection of natural environments for wild bees. But this is also the story of women and bees and how beekeeping became Jenna Butler’s personal survival story.
Shortlisted for the 2021 Governor General’s Award in Nonfiction, Revery is a profound meditation on grief for our changing planet and the many ways in which we all look to survive.
In Watch Your Head, poems, stories, essays, and artwork sound the alarm on the present and future consequences of the climate emergency. Ice caps are melting, wildfires are raging, and species extinction is accelerating. Dire predictions about the climate emergency from scientists, Indigenous land and water defenders, and striking school children have mostly been ignored by the very institutions – government, education, industry, and media – with the power to do something about it.
Writers and artists confront colonization, racism, and the social inequalities that are endemic to the climate crisis. Here the imagination amplifies and humanizes the science. These works are impassioned, desperate, hopeful, healing, transformative, and radical.
4) The Annual Migration of Clouds, by Premee Mohamed
A novella set in post–climate disaster Alberta; a woman infected with a mysterious parasite must choose whether to pursue a rare opportunity far from home or stay and help rebuild her community.
The world is nothing like it once was: climate disasters have wracked the continent, causing food shortages, ending industry, and leaving little behind. Then came Cad, mysterious mind-altering fungi that invade the bodies of the now scattered citizenry. Reid, a young woman who carries this parasite, has been given a chance to get away — to move to one of the last remnants of pre-disaster society — but she can’t bring herself to abandon her mother and the community that relies on her. When she’s offered a coveted place on a dangerous and profitable mission, she jumps at the opportunity to set her family up for life, but how can Reid ask people to put their trust in her when she can’t even trust her own mind?
With keen insight and biting prose, Premee Mohamed delivers a deeply personal tale in this post-apocalyptic hopepunk novella that reflects on the meaning of community and asks what we owe to those who have lifted us up.