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Five Great Books About Climate Change

Apr/16/2023 / by Pratika Yashaswi

Uplifting South Asian perspectives on the crisis of our times

Book against a wave backdrop
Book against a wave backdrop. Shutterstock

There is enough bad news out there. Floods, earthquakes, forest fires, locusts. It’s eerily like the picture of the Biblical apocalypse, with the super-rich preparing their own Noah’s arks in anticipation of the disasters waiting to happen. It’s true, that the first victims of climate change will be the poor and the unhoused, mostly island dwellers and farmers.

If you’re reading this, you likely do not fall into those groups. The way climate news is reported, and the undeniable grievousness of the facts often engender a sense of distance from its effects. It is as if it is some distant event that won’t affect us directly. Then there’s the climate anxiety and ecological grief that makes us look away. It makes us feel helpless and despondent about the future.

We need to take charge of our future, to embrace it with a sense of hope and bravery, For that, we need perspective, and a sense of connection with nature.

Rebecca Solnit, author of the classic “Hope in the Dark,” writes, “I believe, by both being well grounded in the facts, and working towards achieving a decent future – and by acknowledging there are grounds for fear, anxiety, and depression in both the looming possibilities and in institutional inaction.”

We’ve put together five books by South Asian authors that reflect upon what is possible in this era of change. With a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and even academese, here are five books to give you a sense of hope and an appreciation for our Earth’s resilience and beauty.

Who Really Feeds the World? The Failure of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology – Vandana Shiva

Source: Amazon

In “Who Really Feeds the World?,” Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva challenges the belief that industrial agriculture and genetic modification can solve our food crisis. As an author and the activist behind Navdanya, Shiva posits that these very forces have contributed to global hunger. Drawing on her three-decade-long experience and achievements in the field, she advocates for agricultural justice and true sustainability.

Shiva proposes agroecology — understanding the interconnected systems that produce food — as a life-affirming alternative to the industrial model. With clarity and eloquence, she unravels the intricate web of people and processes that sustain the world’s food supply. Her insightful exploration delves into topics such as diversity, the needs of small-scale farmers, seed preservation, local food systems, and the vital role women play in global food production.

Superpowers on the Shore – Sejal Mehta

Source: Amazon

Mumbai is a trove of enigmatic, intertidal species. These include solar-powered slugs, elusive octopuses, venomous jellyfish, and spear-wielding conus sea snails. As diverse and swarming as the city of Mumbai itself, these creatures wield astonishing powers, such as bioluminescence, advanced acoustics, camouflage, and shape-shifting.

In this book, Sejal Mehta, a consultant editor at Marine Life of Mumbai, invites readers to study lesser-known creatures in the intertidal zone. This zone is the narrow stretch of ocean shore between high and low tide levels, oscillating between land and ocean.

Although it occupies a minuscule portion of the Earth, the intertidal zone has long been a crucial gateway for lifeforms straddling these two worlds. So, Mehta’s prose inspires a fascination for marine life, and a sense of connection to the sea around us. To go with the book, you might want to spend some time scrolling on Marine Life of Mumbai’s Instagram page.

South Asian Stories of Climate Resilience – A. K. Enamul Haque, Pranab Mukhopadhyay, Mani Nepal & Md Rumi Shammin

Source: Springer

Vulnerable South Asian communities are not just hapless victims of the decisions of the powers that be. In fact, they are more like warriors, with steely fortitude, ingenuity, and plenty of courage to match – all qualities honed over years of living with natural disasters.

South Asia, a region vulnerable to climate impacts, has endured nature’s fury for decades. So it is a testing ground for approaches that blend traditional wisdom with scientific knowledge, spawning initiatives facilitated by multilevel partnerships. These involve local communities, non-profit organizations, academic and research institutions, as well as local, national, and international governing bodies.

This engaging, highly readable and open-source academic book showcases the work of 59 scholars. Most are from the region, who share their stories, research findings, and ingenious grassroots solutions from seven South Asian countries. 

Their stories are fascinating, inspiring, and, most importantly, fill you with hope.

Utopias of the Third Kind – Vandana Singh

Source: Amazon

Vandana Singh, chair of the Department of Physics and Earth Science at Framingham State University in Massachusetts, is arguably the earliest (and foremost) South Asia’s sci-fi and fantasy writers. Consequently, her fiction and non-fiction combines the wisdom of her Indian heritage and the stark realities of quantum science.

Standing out in the collection of stories and essays in Utopias of the Third Kind are two particularly exciting pieces. “Arctic Sky” tells of a young climate activist who discovers her own courage in a Russian prison. The  title piece, “Utopias of the Third Kind,” provides a first look at actual utopias across the world that are responding to our looming dystopian nightmare. Indeed, for lovers of speculative fiction, Vandana Singh’s writing is a treat!

Want to read more speculative fiction by women? Check out our list here.

The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move – Sonia Shah


Investigative journalist Sonia Shah’s book provides an unexpected take on one effect of climate change: migration. Today’s news is inundated with stories of people and wildlife on the move, fleeing warming oceans and parched lands.

People have lots of perspectives on it. At one end, countries like Canada, support it wholeheartedly; at the other, there is fomenting right-wing anti-immigration sentiment.

Shah highlights that migration has been an ancient, life-saving response to environmental change — a biological necessity akin to breathing. Climate shifts prompted early human migrations out of Africa, and falling sea levels enabled passage across the Bering Sea. Unencumbered by barriers, migration allowed our ancestors to populate the planet. It also created and spread the biological, cultural, and social diversity essential for ecosystems and societies. In essence, she argues, migration is not the crisis, it is the solution.

“The Next Great Migration” traces the history of misinformation from the 18th century to present-day anti-immigration policies. It argues for a future in which migration is embraced as a source of hope, rather than fear.