It may seem that the news is all bad—COVID-19, hurricanes, forest fires--but by no means should we give up. Climate Preparedness Week is coming September 24-30, and the Massachusetts Library System has partnered with CREW (Communities Responding to Extreme Weather) to host free virtual programs on the intersections of climate resilience and social and racial justice. In keeping with those themes, here are some books and films about the struggle for a better future.
Former Irish President Mary Robinson is one of the world’s most prominent crusaders for fighting climate change and promoting social justice. In her book, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, she both faces the human suffering that will be caused by unchecked climate change but finds reason for hope in the cumulative efforts of grassroots activists finding local solutions to global problems. Robinson profiles activists such as Vu Thi Hien, founder of a nonprofit devoted to preserving Vietnam’s biodiversity, and Ugandan community organizer Constance Okollet, who works with village councils to reverse Uganda’s deforestation. The Guardian called Climate Justice “a manifesto of hope.”
Dismayed by the dysfunctions of human societies and a world that seems increasingly more dangerous, French filmmakers Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent traveled the world profiling people who are implementing constructive solutions to planetary and social problems for their documentary Tomorrow, available via our streaming service Kanopy. Tomorrow is a remarkable accomplishment: a film about climate change, pollution and political inequities that leaves you “with a pervasive feeling of hope.” (The New York Times).
Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Botham Jean…the list of names of people of color killed by police for no apparent reason keeps growing. But to understand the problem of police brutality more fully we need to go beyond lists of names. Arresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Oregon is a documentary that takes an in-depth look at a half century of the fight against police brutality in Portland. The film includes the stories of victims of police misconduct, interviews with families of those killed by police, and profiles members of Portland’s abolition and reform movements. The documentary both provides a searing close-up look at police violence and creates an intellectual space in which to imagine a society with alternative ways of policing. Arresting Power is also available via Kanopy.
Let’s face it: normal life has a pretty high carbon footprint. While many of us try to find some way to live more sustainably (use less plastic, conserve energy, drive less) we know it’s not enough. What would it be like to live a life that truly minimizes your carbon footprint? Journalist Doug Fine decided to find out. In Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, Fine recounts how he retrofitted a truck to run on used kitchen grease, embarked on a quest to find a reliable grease supply, and learned by trial and error how to raise his own food. Fine’s memoir is an honest and wry account of how hard it can be to live your ideals.