The discourse on climate change and what it means to live in a sustainable world seems to center on the male perspective, but why?
Climate disasters disproportionately affect women, especially women who are members of minority populations. Globally, women live in poverty at higher rates than men, thus preventing them from “buying” their way out of climate disasters. The United Nations estimates reflect that nearly 80% of displaced individuals affected by climate change are women.
Additionally, the female role as caregiver is at an increased risk in areas of drought and flooding. Whether it be mothers afflicted by Hurricane Katrina or grandmothers near Lake Chad who now have to walk miles farther to get water for their families, global womanhood will have to adapt if no actions to prevent climate disasters occur.
Literature on climate change from women is long overdue. Though women write prolifically on this topic, their point-of-view often goes unnoticed, which is why we have compiled this list of various readings to highlight their work. Educating yourself is the first step to change. Pick your desired length, favorite type of literature, and read on to see what these women have to say.
Trace by Lauret Savoy
“I have never read a more beautiful, smart, and vulnerable accounting of how we are shaped by memory in place.” —Terry Tempest Williams
Lauret Savoy’s background as an Earth historian and educator led her to write this collection of essays about the lessons the topography of America holds. Just as our bodies carry memories, the American landscape does, too. Savoy explores the relationship between “human stories of migration, silence, and displacement, as epic as the continent they survey, with uplifted mountains, braided streams, and eroded canyons.”
As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
This is an astonishing work of Indigenous intellectualism and activism—by far the most provocative, defiant, visionary, and generous of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s impressive corpus to date. —Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation), University of British Columbia
In this book, Simpson discusses the Indigenous fight for their land, waterways, and justice for their people. She argues that the way North American Indigenous people have been treated through the centuries is no longer acceptable. Simpson offers solutions that break down the “colonial state, including heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalist exploitation.”
Cities and Canopies: Trees in Indian Cities by Harini Nagendra and Seema Mundoli
In this unique novella, co-authors Nagendra and Mundoli discover the different types of trees around Indian cities and uncover their origins. They discuss how these trees became part of the nature-barren city landscape and question how it has shaped the growth of their city and country. “They are our roots: their trunks our pillars, their bark our texture, and their branches our shade. Trees are nature’s own museums.” In this book, the interconnectedness of our land and identity is emphasized in a never-seen-before way.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
“A timely and necessary read…powerful and endlessly smart, it’s a crucial work of fiction for people of all ages.” —Quill & Quire
In this dystopian fiction, the world has been destroyed by the impacts of global warming, and humans are unable to dream. Well, not all humans. The bone marrow of North American Indigenous peoples is the key to getting the dream state back. Take the journey with Frenchie and his friends as they hide from the marrow thieves.
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
“Kingsolver is a gifted magician of words” —Times
Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior won both USA Today’s and the Washington Post’s “Best Book of the Year” in 2012. “Flight Behavior is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present-day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths.” This novel follows a young mother in Tennessee through her inexplicable experiences that mobilize politicians, climate scientists, and others. The suspense will leave you holding onto the edge of your seat.
The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun
TW: This novel discusses sexual assault in the context of dark tourism.
“Yun Ko-eun presents a dystopian feminist ecothriller that takes on climate change, sexual assault, greed and dark tourism. This is a unique, mysterious and engrossing novel.” —Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine
In this Korean, feminist eco-thriller, a young woman travels to an island decimated by the effects of climate change to assess the least profitable time of the year for the travel agency where she works. Upon her arrival, she discovers something much darker. This novel begins a dialogue on the relationship between “climate activism, dark tourism, and the #MeToo movement.”
Short Stories and Poetry
Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry by Camille T. Dungy
“Just as nature is too often defined as wilderness when, in fact, nature is everywhere we are, our nature poetry is too often defined by Anglo-American perspectives, even though poets of all backgrounds write about the living world. . . . Dungy enlarges our understanding of the nexus between nature and culture, and she introduces a “new way of thinking about nature writing and writing by black Americans.” —Booklist
This premiere collection of works gives credence to the fact that African American poetry is nature writing. There are over 180 poems from 93 poets, including Rita Dove, Phillis Wheatley, and many more, all who bring to light an important aspect of nature readings. These works will undoubtedly allow you to gain insight into the importance of nature in literature for African Americans throughout the last 400 years.
All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis Edited by Ayanna Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson
“Women of all backgrounds—artists, writers, scientists, policy makers, and others—are at the forefront of climate action, and with this exquisite anthology, marine biologist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and editor-in-chief of Project Drawdown, Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, bring their voices together.” —Literary Hub
In this collection of essays and poems written by women of diverse backgrounds, All We Can Save highlights the “renaissance blooming in the climate movement: leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration.” This hopeful read offers solutions, big and small, to the global environmental challenges we face.
Mothers of Invention podcast
If these books interest you, but reading doesn’t necessarily pique interest, check out this insanely amazing podcast that features former Irish President Mary Robinson, comedian Maeve Higgins, and producer Thimali Kodikara. In each episode, they discuss their feminist approach to environmental problems and other aspects of womanhood to combat climate change. Find them on nearly every podcast streaming service, including Spotify.
Audiobooks on Hoopla
So you like books over podcasts, but you don’t want to read. Don’t fear, if you have a library card, you’re in luck! If not, most counties allow you to register online and they will give you a card number by text. Then, check out the app Hoopla. By simply entering your library information, you will have access to thousands of audiobooks, including some of these titles listed above for free. And, it will return the books for you, so don’t fret over late fees.