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The expanded view: Best books and documentaries on climate change for COP26

  • Written by  Geographical
  • Published in Climate
The expanded view: Best books and documentaries on climate change for COP26
09 Nov
2021
The expanded view on climate change

The climate and environmental crises are now entwined with our daily lives, but there’s always more to discover, be it the science behind physical changes or the impacts on people and environments far across the globe. We’ve curated a small selection of our favourite books and documentaries, charting the history and future of the challenges we face.

BOOKS

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THE UNINHABITABLE EARTH: A STORY OF THE FUTURE by David Wallace Wells (2019)

Hailed as one of the most effective books when it comes to shaking us from the slumber of climate complacency, Wallace-Wells’ 2019 book is an alarming clarion call for concerted action. By vividly painting a picture of a world in climatic turmoil, the book helped to awaken readers to the immediacy of climate change.


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ENGLISH PASTORAL: AN INHERITANCE by James Rebanks (2020)

Farmer James Rebanks has watched food production become supercharged by mechanised and industrialised processes. Told through a series of powerful vignettes of life on his family farm, Rebanks provides a lyrical elegy for sustainable rural living, and a manifesto for a new landscape in politics and agriculture.


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ALL WE CAN SAVE: TRUTH, COURAGE AND SOLUTIONS FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K Wilkinson (2020)

Women and girls face greater risk of displacement or death from the impacts of climate change and there is even a link between climate change and gender-based violence. All We Can Save is a collection of provocative and illuminating essays from more than 60 women who are at the forefront of the climate movement.


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THE GREAT DERANGEMENT: CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE UNTHINKABLE by Amitav Ghosh (2016)

A fiction writer whose long body of work has often tackled climate change, Ghosh takes on a more analytical tone in his first non-fiction work, arguing that the blind pursuit of economic growth is a derangement in need of fundamental reform.


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ON FIRE: THE (BURNING) CASE FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL by Naomi Klein (2019)

In her most recent book, Klein collects essays published over the last ten years – a period she dubs a ‘lost decade’, when those in power failed to decarbonise the global economy. Two years on from its initial publication – with climate change now a daily, lived reality, and with world governments deepening their climate commitments – Klein’s book is a prescient insight.


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THE WATER WILL COME: RISING SEAS, SINKING CITIES, AND THE REMAKING OF THE CIVILIZED WORLD by Jeff Goodell (2017)

Goodell explores the ways in which sea level rise will reshape our world by taking a number of trips to cities such as Lagos, Rotterdam and Venice, all of which are at risk of vanishing if the rise in sea level follows current projections.

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DOCUMENTARIES

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KISS THE GROUND (2020)

It’s rare to find an optimistic commentary on the climate crisis, but Kiss the Ground adopts a buoyant voice when exploring the power of the world’s soils to draw in carbon from the air. The film begins by examining how tilling and pesticides have led to soil erosion, tracing the damage done to ecology, health and climate. The solution is found through regenerative farming – a field receiving more and more attention as people wake up to the importance of soils. The film as a whole is a well-grounded take on the future of land-use.


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HONEYLAND (2020)

The tale of a North Macedonian beekeeper eking out a living for her family in a home without electricity, may seem an unlikely parable for climate change, but it works. Hatidze, the protagonist, adheres to tradition in the way she nourishes and cares for her bees. When new, noisy neighbours arrive, they too want to begin life as beekeepers but they eschew the old sustainable ways. There is a price to pay, and it unfolds in tender cinematic beauty.


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CHASING CORAL (2017)

It can be difficult to really understand what climate breakdown looks like. In 2017, Chasing Coral brought the very real impacts of climate change into sharp focus. Time-lapse footage of the world’s corals succumbing to ocean acidification and temperature rise is as real as it gets. In 2021, the documentary is still as impactful and thought-provoking.


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REBUILDING PARADISE

Wildfires – once a natural regulator of ecosystems, now an increasing phenomenon thrown out of rhythm by climate change – are so frequent that many barely consider the aftermath. But while it’s one thing to deal with the financial and structural reparations, it’s something totally different to repair the broken spirit of a community. In Rebuilding Paradise, we follow the journey of the citizens of Paradise, California, as they attempt to rekindle their lives from the ashes of the devastating 2018 wildfires.


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ICE ON FIRE (2019)

Dramatically titled, Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2019 documentary focuses on the melting polar ice caps of the Arctic. The narrative structure explores the planetary impact of melting ice, but intelligently intersperses the tragic plot with solutions. DiCaprio explores renewable energy technologies, carbon sequestration and circular, sustainable economies to put forward a vision for a cleaner future. The film draws expertise from a pool of scientists working at the cutting edge of climate research, and enlivens their work with neatly presented animations that clarify the scale of the challenge ahead.


SHORTER EDUCATIONAL FILMS

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CLIMATE EMERGENCY: FEEDBACK LOOPS (2021)

Featuring interviews with the Dalai Lama and Greta Thunberg, this Richard Gere-narrated series of short documentaries focuses on the climate feedback loops that complicate scientists’ attempts to produce climate models. More than just emissions are at work as the climate crisis progresses: rising temperatures are setting in motion the Earth’s own natural warming mechanisms – chain reactions, beyond human control. The series of films focuses on the climate tipping points that will soon be reached in our forests, permafrost, atmospheric, and polar environments. A comprehensive overview of an under-appreciated phenomenon.


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TREELINE: THE SECRET LIFE OF TREES (2019)

Patagonia’s Treeline prompts a reassessment of nature. We follow a group of adventurers, scientists and religious leaders as they explore the birch forests of Japan, the red cedars of British Columbia and the bristlecones of Nevada. We encounter scientists generating data at the forefront of tree research, along with traditional healers who have an ancient spiritual connection to their forest homes. A meditative snapshot of trees’ influence on our planet, and on our lives.


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THE LOST FOREST (2020)

How might natural habitats develop without human interference? The Lost Forest follows a team of international scientists and explorers on an extraordinary mission in Mozambique to reach an elevated, mountaintop forest that it seems no human has reached before. Finding a panoply of new species, the film becomes a clarion call to protect the shards of undisturbed habitat that remain on planet Earth. 

Sign up for the Geographical COP26 newsletter!
Geo November 2021 cover v3 copyCOP26 is set to be the most important climate conference since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. With live reporting from Glasgow every day of the conference and plenty of extra analysis, get all the COP content you need from Geographical.

 

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