Reading About Sustainability @TrishTalksBooks

Does anyone share my climate change confusion? Do you have questions about sustainability and what we can do to act for change?

I’ve always been aware of environmental concerns, and sometimes I drive my family a bit up the wall. I wash and reuse plastic bags endlessly and clothespin them to our kitchen cupboard handles to dry. I once had a Ziploc that I’d written the date on for the freezer, and one day realized I’d had it for 10 years, no lie. I don’t even think that’s healthy, as it had probably lost 50% of its plastic with the washing over and over. I fret about using the car too much, and debate endlessly in the store aisles if I should buy something that has too much packaging.

And that’s just the minutiae of life. I’ve never been involved in the bigger picture: fighting for watershed protections, learning about non-renewable resources and advocating at a policy level. I feel helpless about that. What can one person do?

I’ve been thinking hard about my actions with regard to sustainability. It’s not an easy conversation to have with oneself. Once you open your eyes to the reality of climate change you can’t unsee it. There are heat domes, the torrential floods, the weirdly long summer we had this past year. For the first time in 15 years in our current home, my second crop of figs ripened in October. I picked tomatoes and cucumbers at the end of the fall, and it weirded me out. The glaciers in British Columbia are melting.

But here’s the rub. Even then, with all of the evidence, do I really believe, in my core, that everything is going to get worse? There is the evidence that I see around me, which is not just one event but a pattern of change. There is also scientific evidence, but in the cold light of self-examination, I realize I don’t actually have a good handle on that.

I’m a recently retired physician, and in my free time, I started a Bookstagram account (@trishtalksbooks) and this blog. And I also joined an organization called the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). They have a wider voice, and they also do some very real on the ground action. I volunteered at a climate change fair, giving information to the public about healthy climate solutions, and I actually held a sign at a small protest against the increased use of fossil fuels. Me! I’d never have done that in the past.

Despite my beginner forays into climate action, I still have a mild daily sense of environmental dread. I’ve had increasing environmental anxiety about my own choices, and I’ve seen that in others too. It’s like having a mild eco anxiety headache that I try to alleviate with endless environmentally responsible choices. Unfortunately, that’s not a good cure: you can never be environmentally perfect enough to eliminate the guilt that everything you’re doing is harmful. Then sometimes, I just want to throw my hands in the air and give up. Clearly, there must be a middle path.

It has been challenging to come up with a concrete way that I can begin to move from contemplation to action in dealing with climate change issues in my own life. I had to examine the question of what I love doing and what I know how to do in order to figure out my own first step to engage in climate action.

So: I like reading, and I like writing about books. And I have a knowledge gap. As readers, we’re excellent at using books to educate ourselves. I’ve had the privilege to chat with some sustainability champions lately, and they’ve offered some book suggestions to help me along.

The Project

I’m going to read one book per month in 2023 about climate change or sustainability, and for each book I’ll discuss:
  • The author, because I’d like to profile the folks doing the work and compiling the information. A lot of the authors are showcasing their own research!
  • Why I wanted to read the book.
  • The questions that it answered for me.
  • Some practical takeaways and directions for further learning.
I’ll open it up to you as well. If you have a book that educated you about climate change/sustainability and you want to highlight it, leave me a comment here, or reach out on Instagram. I’ll try to share it on my IG stories.

I need to start somewhere. I’ll still wash my plastics and tote my reusable coffee cup and spork everywhere I go, but this is something different. A step down the middle path. I hope you’ll join me on this sustainable reading journey.


January 2023: Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis, by Britt Wray (Knopf Canada 2022)