By Sam Killmeyer
It’s February, and we’re coming up on Valentine’s Day. This year, I’m celebrating with a brand new book from American Girl’s nonfiction book line – Love The Earth: Understanding Climate Change, Speaking Up For Solutions, And Living An Earth-Friendly Life by Mel Hammond.
This book, intended for kids eight and up, is an approachable book about climate change and climate activism. Every page features beautiful illustrations and demonstrates, as the blurb on the back cover states, that “fighting climate change doesn’t have to be scary, it can be a lot of fun too!” The book also features several real girls, like Alexandria Villaseñor, a fourteen-year-old climate activist and founder of the climate-strike organization Earth Uprising.
One of the things that sets this book about climate change apart is its focus on the need for systemic solutions. I was able to interview the author, Mel Hammond, and she said:
Overall, we wanted Love the Earth to go much further than encouraging kids to take shorter showers and invest in a reusable water bottle. (That’s where a lot of climate change books stop.) This book is about speaking up for longer-lasting solutions that honor the rights of all people to live on a healthy planet.
After a brief overview of what climate change is and what is causing it (including a section on how natural gas is not “clean” energy), the readers take a fun quiz to that matches their skills and interest with specific climate actions, categorized into four types of “earth lovers”:
- Loud and Proud Leader – girls who love leading protests, talking to elected officials, and helping others get involved.
- Savvy Scientist – girls who are looking for ways to solve problems with technology and engineering.
- Hands-On Helper – girls who roll up their sleeves and get the job done.
- Eager Educator – girls spreading the word about climate change.
Kids’ Unique Role In Solving The Climate Crisis
This book is a celebration of the unique role that youths play in solving the climate crisis. One section, “Convincing A Skeptic” provides talking points for how to speak with someone who doesn’t believe in climate change. Kids are uniquely positioned to change adults’, particularly their parents’, minds about climate change. In fact, according to Scientific America, when children talk to their parents about climate change, “fathers and conservative parents showed the biggest change in attitudes, and daughters were more effective than sons in shifting their parents’ views.”
This section also lets readers know that there are large, powerful companies making money off of fossil fuels:
Some people still don’t believe in climate change. They want everyone to keep using coal, oil, and natural gas so companies can keep making money.
There’s even an illustration of a man wearing a white coat over a green sweater with a gas pump on it and money stuffed into his pockets. It’s a direct and succinct way to explain to kids why some adults perpetuate climate denial, while also helping them to talk to loved ones in their life who are climate skeptics.
Turning Fear Into Fuel
Many climate activists of all ages start their journey with fear, sadness, or anger. This book doesn’t shy away from the grief kids feel when they learn of what is being lost through the climate crisis. The section, “Turn Fear Into Fuel,” asks girls to write down their climate change fears and then use them as a catalyst to find solutions. When asked about this section, Hammond says:
This book makes space for girls to process their fears and sadness about our changing planet. We’re upfront about the consequences of a changing planet and encourage readers to write down their climate change fears.
Most of the book, though, is meant to be uplifting, inspiring, and solution-focused. It is so much easier to start your climate activism journey—and stick with it—when you’re having fun. (And that goes for adults, too.) That’s why we packed the last few pages of the book with activities, challenges, and party ideas to make climate action something to look forward to.
Throughout the book, I was reminded how a movement built on love, community, and care is better able to sustain itself than one built on fear and anger. Sometimes what you need is a bright, colorfully illustrated children’s book to get you back to what really matters – community, the planet, and a just, liveable future – and reminds you that climate activism can be fun!
Youth Activists In Colorado To Follow
- Maya Beauvineau – a Colorado 350 intern who is organizing her schoolmates to oppose a massive frack site planned next to their school. Read her statement about her involvement in climate strikes and her goal to ban fracking in Boulder County.
- Esperanza Soledad Garcia – youth leader with Earth Guardians who helped lead the Earth Day Live events this fall and was a leader during the 2019 climate strikes. She is also part of IIYC Denver, has presented in high schools throughout the Denver area, and has delivered powerful spoken word poetry at many CO youth climate strikes. Learn more about her here.
- Phoebe Dominguez – a 13-year-old climate activist who is starting up the 350 Youth Action Committee and is also a leading member of 350 Colorado’s Renewable Energy Committee. She has been striking for the climate at the State Capitol and has helped plan online rallies focused on the equitable transition from fossil fuels. Learn more about her here.
350 Colorado Youth Action Committee
The 350 CO Youth Action Committee (YAC) meets on the third Monday of every month at 7:00 PM. If you are 24 or younger (or know someone who is!) and want to join a team of energized climate activists, sign up to join YAC today! The goals of the committee are:
- Build a strong coalition of youth who want to be a part of climate action in Colorado
- Give youth a say in their future in this state
- Organize strikes, educational events, webinars, etc.
Youth Activists Featured In Love The Earth
- Lexine D. an eleven-year-old Alaskan native suing the state of Alaska for putting their health, safety, and traditions at risk by encouraging oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Meet the Youth Plaintiffs)
- Alexandria Villaseñor, a fourteen-year-old climate activist and founder of the climate-strike organization Earth Uprising.
- Rashma K., a thirteen-year-old from San Jose California who created a computer model to help predict when a forest fire is likely to break out.
- Havana Chapman-Edwards, a nine-year-old who is passionate about fighting for the black and brown girls around the world who face the most climate challenges.
- Caroline C., a thirteen-year-old who came in second in a contest for young scientists with a train she designed that runs on magnets instead of fossil fuels.
- Jocelyn C., Danny C., and Sofia R., fifth graders who got their school to switch to reusable utensils.
Further Climate Education Resources
Mel Hammond suggested the following resources for youth who want to learn more:
- Project Drawdown is one of the world’s leading resources on climate solutions, and they offer concrete recommendations for how we should move forward to protect the planet.
- What Is Climate Change by Gail Herman is a great book for kids about climate change science and politics.
- For Greta lovers, I recommend We Are All Greta: Be Inspired to Save the World by Valentina Giannella.
Asthma Ally is a ten-minute documentary about the impact of air pollution on kids in Black and Latinx communities. It does a great job of connecting racism with climate change; the interviews really stuck with me.
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