Insights · February 24th, 2008
I’ve read a lot of books about climate change in the past few years. Two of the most stunning are essentially picture books. I think I know why they had a bigger impact on me than traditional books. When I talk with people about climate change, the ones who live close to the land all, universally, get the stakes. They seem to have a serious sadness, and a fierce determination about them. They know what’s at stake personally – this tree, that animal, this lake, that beach. There’s some variation on how much is our fault and what we should do about it, but there’s no doubt about it happening. When you know nature, and you’ve been watching the last decade or so, rapid climate change is fact. If I’m talking to people who live in cities, many of them are either serious skeptics, or appear to be imitating Chicken Little. These two picture books show us what’s at stake, with the usual power of great photography to speak volumes of words.
The first book is Storm Chaser, A Photographer’s Journey, by Jim Reed. Storm Chaser relates well to my own predictions about climate change for 2008, which include more weird weather. The book is a series of beautifully presented professional photographs of storms, and might be worth buying just for the photos. But its real strength is in the straightforward narrative about global warming and climate change. Storm Chaser is organized by season, and each season includes a discussion of storm chasing and of the beauty and mystery of that season. This discussion – and the accompanying photos – show how climate change is now a central thread for people fascinated by powerful weather. It is the elephant in the sky that can’t be ignored. The website for Storm Chaser is beautiful, by the way, although only worth visiting with a fast connection.
The second is Vanishing World, the Endangered Arctic, by Mirelle de la Lez and Frederik Granath. The photos are stunning. Unlike Storm Chaser, where the narrative is as important as the photos, Vanishing World is clearly about the pictures. Each shot is spectacular, designed, I believe, to make the reader fall in love with the arctic. To make us see the stakes. Not that the text isn’t moving…it says things like “Old ice…is a tremendous source of information for scientists. It is an archive of the earth’s climate. Dating back thousands of years. When we lose our glaciers, we lose our history.”