“Can you tell me what you yourself are doing to help solve the problem?”
– Unnamed, student, aged 16
Talking about the weather used to be small talk, now it’s the hottest topic on Earth. We can’t survive without Earth’s atmosphere, yet most of the time we ignore it. We treat our atmosphere as a rubbish dump for our greenhouse gas emissions. Slowly but surely, what we are doing is changing Earth’s climate. Atmospheric cuts through the many voices raised around climate change to tell the story of our atmosphere, what is putting our climate at risk and what we can do about it. This could be the most important book you read in your life.
Have you found yourself discussing the weather lately? If you’re a Melbournite like myself, this is a daily occurrence! We are experiencing an unusual spring weather pattern and it has everyone talking! Climate change is one of the topics you hear about all the time now but with varying and contradicting opinions. Reading Atmospheric by Carole Wilkinson was a timely reminder after last week’s reading of Tim Winton’s Island Home. It really highlighted just how lucky we are to call Australia home. You can imagine my surprise and disappointment to learn that Australians are responsible for creating more emissions than countries with three times our population!
I am almost ashamed to admit that that wasn’t the most shocking thing I learnt! Prior to reading Atmospheric, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what climate change was. While I was right – on a fairly superficial level – I was surprised to learn just how little I actually knew. It was shocking, fascinating and extremely educational; there are so many factors at play that I didn’t know about and I love how much I learnt! Atmospheric is going to be an extremely important book in the coming years; it is an extraordinary collection of manageable and easy-to-understand facts about how the modern world is changing the natural world we live in.
To celebrate this amazing book (and my 100th post on thebookkatblog), I jumped at the opportunity to interview the author – Carole Wilkinson – to find out why she wrote about this extremely important topic…
* * * * *
At what point in your life did you have that moment where you decided to make a difference? Was it a light bulb moment or was it a developing notion that something needed to change?
It was a gradual thing. I started conserving energy at some time back in the 80s. I was also on the committee to set up the first recycling collection in the area where I live. We put solar panels on the house as soon as we could afford it. But by 2007, I was very unhappy with the lack of climate action by the government. I decided I needed to do something more political. That’s when I joined my local climate action group, Yarra Climate Action Now. Then I started taking part in protests and writing to politicians.
You were asked to write a book on climate change – would you have eventually written a book on this topic if you weren’t asked to? Would you have ever written for adults instead?
I think so, but it never got to that stage. My publisher, Maryann Ballantyne from Black Dog Books, knew I was interested in the topic when she first suggested it. She knew I’d say yes.
There are heaps of books for adults, but they tend to be longer and more daunting (I know, I’ve read them!). They tend to assume you already have some knowledge before you start reading. I don’t think many young people will read those books. I found that some of the books left me with more questions than answers. I hadn’t found anything for young people that explained everything clearly, that assumed no knowledge. I wanted to tell the whole story, to make it clear why we have to use less electricity (because it’s made by burning coal). I wanted them to get to the end of the book and feel that they “got” climate change.
However there’s no reason why adults can’t read Atmospheric if they want a relatively quick read to help them understand the topic.
Do you think it is up to the younger generations to teach their elders about climate change?
There will be some situations where kids know more than the adults in their lives, others where it’s the other way around. It’s up to everyone who is informed about climate change to teach those who aren’t.
Why should parents buy this book for their children?
So they understand what climate change is, how it’s affected our atmosphere and what needs to be done to fix it. Also to feel empowered to do something about it.
Progress is an ambiguous concept: the more advanced the technology becomes, the greater effect it has on the natural world around us. Where do you think the balance is?
I don’t entirely agree with that. Renewable energy (solar and wind power) is an example of newer technology which has virtually no impact on the world, as opposed to previous electricity generation technologies such as nuclear, which though it is clean in its production leaves deadly waste that lasts for thousands of years; and coal power, which is responsible for most of the greenhouse gases humans have ever created.
I don’t think the problem is progress, I think it’s more the trend to make everything disposable or obsolete in a couple of years. The real problem is the need and greed for ever growing profit. I think we are currently way past the option of maintaining a balance between affecting Earth and its atmosphere and not affecting it.
A huge thank you to Carole for taking the time to answer my questions and for putting together such an incredible resource in Atmospheric!
Australian Youth Climate Coalition – http://www.aycc.org.au/
Conservation Volunteers – http://www.conservationvolunteers.com.au/
Yarra Action Climate Now – http://ycan.org.au/
AUTHOR: Carole Wilkinson
PUBLISHER: Walker Books Australia
PUB DATE: 1 October 2015
Thank you to Walker Books for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!