To honor Women’s History Month, Yale Climate Connections’s March bookshelf presents a selection of new and recent titles on how women are changing the politics and prospects for action on climate change.

Three books focus on the efforts of young women. Another four books offer the seasoned perspectives of veteran activists, organizers, and/or journalists, including Jane Fonda and Elizabeth Kolbert.

Rounding out the collection are a natural history/memoir by New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl, two cli-fi novels, an academic appraisal of “the new climate activism,” and an NGO report on the importance of gender diversity for climate innovation.

As always, the descriptions of the works listed below are drawn from copy provided by the publishers or organizations that released them. When two dates of publication are listed, the latter is for the paperback edition.


No Planet B: A Teen Vogue Guide to the Climate Crisis, edited by Lucy Diavolo (Haymarket Books 2021, 248 pages, $15.95 paperback)

As the political classes watch our world burn, a new movement of young people is rising to meet the challenge of climate catastrophe. An urgent call for climate justice from Teen Vogue, one of this generation’s leading voices, this book is a guide, a toolkit, a warning and a cause for hope. “I hope that this book embodies Teen Vogue’s motto of making young people feel seen and heard all over the world. I hope that it forces their parents, communities, loved ones, friends, and – most importantly – those in power to see that the health of our planet depends on how quickly and drastically we change our behaviors. I hope it forces them all to respond.” – From the foreword by Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, Lindsay Peoples Wagner

Girl Warriors: How 25 Young Activists Are Saving the World, by Rachel Sarah (Chicago Review Press 2021, 192 pages, $16.99 paperback)

Girl Warriors tells the stories of 25 climate leaders under age 25. These fearless girls and young women from all over the world are standing up to demand change when no one else is. They’ve led hundreds of thousands of people in climate strikes, founded non-profits, given TED talks, and sued their governments. A rousing call to action, this book will leave you feeling hopeful that we can make a difference in an age of turmoil, destruction, and uncertainty. “It gives me true hope to read about the phenomenal young women of Girl Warriors. Their fierce commitment to the future of our precious planet is as inspiring as it is vital.” – Kate Schatz, New York Times bestselling author of Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide

(Editor’s note: YCC’s March 2020 bookshelf included seven titles by or about Greta Thunberg.)

What Can I Do? From Climate Despair to Action, by Jane Fonda (Penguin Random House 2020, 352 pages, $30.00)

In the fall of 2019, frustrated with the obvious inaction of politicians and inspired by Greta Thunberg and student climate strikers, Jane Fonda moved to Washington, D.C., to lead weekly climate change demonstrations on Capitol Hill. On October 11, she launched Fire Drill Fridays, and has since led thousands of people in nonviolent civil disobedience. In What Can I Do?, Fonda weaves her deeply personal journey as an activist with conversations and speeches by leading climate scientists and inspiring community organizers. She dives deep into issues – like water, migration, and human rights – to emphasize what is at stake. More, Fonda equips us with the tools we need to join her in protest, so that everyone can work to combat the climate crisis.

(Editor’s note: 100% of the author’s net proceeds from What Can I Do? go to Greenpeace.)

Who Cares Wins: Reasons for Optimisms in Our Changing World, by Lily Cole (Rizzoli 2020, 480 pages, $35.00)

The climate crisis, mass extinctions, political polarization, extreme inequality – the world faces terrifying challenges that threaten to divide us. Yet activist and filmmaker Lily Cole argues that it is up to us to actively choose optimism, collaborate, make changes, and define what is possible: “We are the ancestors of our future. The choices we make now and the actions we take today will define and transform future generations.” Cole explores divisive issues from fast fashion to fast food and from renewable energy to gender equality, and interviews some of today’s greatest influencers. The book also features a 32-page photo insert documenting Lily’s experiences and vision, as well as the artists, activists, and others who have inspired her.

The New Climate Activism: NGO Authority and Participation in Climate Change Governance, by Jen Iris Allan (University of Toronto Press 2021, 226 pages, $32.95 paperback)

At the 2019 UN climate change conference, activists and delegates from groups representing Indigenous, youth, women, and labor rights were among those marching through the halls chanting “Climate Justice, People Power.” In The New Climate Activism, Jen Iris Allan looks at why and how these social activists came to participate in climate change governance while others remain outside of climate activism. As a result, concepts such as gender mainstreaming, just transition, and climate justice are common terms, while human rights and health remain “fringe issues” in climate change governance. The New Climate Activism explores why and how some activists brought their issues to climate change, and succeeded, while others did not.

Cool: Women Leaders Reversing Global Warming, by Paola Gianturco and Avery Sangster (Powerhouse Books 2021, 192 pages, $39.95)

Women are especially effective leaders when it comes to combating global warming. Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement, report that “Nations with greater female representation in positions of power have smaller climate footprints. Companies with women on their executive boards are more likely to invest in renewable energy and develop products that help solve the climate crisis.” For this book, Paola Gianturco and her granddaughter and co-author, Avery Sangster, interviewed and photographed women leaders, of organizations public and private, from around the world. COOL tells their inspiring stories in their own words and suggests actions you can take to join them on this existential journey.

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson (Penguin Random House 2020, 448 pages, $29.00)

There is a renaissance blooming in the climate movement: leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration. All We Can Save illuminates the expertise and insights of dozens of diverse women leading on climate in the United States – scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, and designers, across generations, geographies, and race – and aims to advance a more representative and solution-oriented public conversation on the climate crisis. Curated by two climate leaders and intermixing essays with poetry and art, this book is both a balm and a guide, bolstering our resolve never to give up on one another or our collective future.

Gender Diversity and Climate Innovation, by (Bloomberg NEF 2020, 39 pages, free download available here)

A proportion of 30% or more for women on corporate boards has shown a positive correlation with better climate governance and innovation in the global electric utilities, oil and gas, and mining sectors over the last four years, according to a new report by BloombergNEF and Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Gender diversity does not directly contribute to lowering emissions, but integrated oil companies with higher female representation at the board level, for example, are also more likely to have a set of decarbonization strategies and to have invested in digitalization activities. Gender Diversity and Climate Innovation examines the impact of gender diversity on climate governance, climate performance, innovation, and climate innovation.

(Editor’s note: See also the report just released by Sustainable Policy Institute, Gender Balance Index 2021.)

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, by Elizabeth Kolbert (Penguin Random House 2021, 256 pages, $28.00)

In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth. One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a ten-thousand-year exercise in defying nature. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face.

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, by Margaret Renkl (Milkweed Editions 2021, 248 pages, $16.95 paperback)

From New York Times opinion writer Margaret Renkl comes an unusual, captivating portrait of a family – and of the cycles of joy and grief that inscribe human lives within the natural world. Growing up in Alabama, Renkl was a devoted reader, an explorer of riverbeds and red-dirt roads, and a fiercely loved daughter. Ringing with rapture and heartache, Renkl’s linked essays convey the dignity of bluebirds and rat snakes, monarch butterflies and native bees. Renkl suggests that there is astonishment to be found in common things – in what seems ordinary, in what we all share. Illustrated by Billy Renkl, Late Migrations is an assured and memorable debut. (Editor’s note: A companion volume, Graceland at Last, will be published in September.)

Migrations: A Novel, by Charlotte McConaghy (Flatiron Books 2020, 272 pages, $26.99)

Franny Stone has always been the kind of woman who is able to love but unable to stay. Leaving behind everything but her research gear, she arrives in Greenland with a singular purpose: to follow the last Arctic terns in the world on what might be their final migration to Antarctica. Franny talks her way onto a fishing boat, and she and the crew set sail, traveling ever further from shore and safety. But as Franny’s history begins to unspool, it becomes clear that she is chasing more than just the birds. How much is she willing to risk for one more chance at redemption? Epic and intimate, Charlotte McConaghy’s Migrations is an ode to a disappearing world and a breathtaking page-turner about the possibility of hope against all odds.

(Editor’s note: Readers can find YCC’s interview with the author, by Amy Brady, here.)

High as the Waters Rise: A Novel, by Anja Kampmann, translated by Anne Posten (Penguin Random House 2020, 320 pages, $26.00)

One night aboard an oil drilling platform in the Atlantic, Waclaw returns to his cabin to find that his bunkmate and companion, Mátyás, has gone missing. A search of the rig confirms his fear that Mátyás has fallen into the sea. Grief–stricken, he embarks on an epic emotional and physical journey that takes him to Morocco, to Mátyás’s hometown in Hungary, and finally to the mining town of his childhood in Germany. Waclaw’s encounters along the way with other lost and yearning souls bring us closer to his origins. High as the Waters Rise is a stirring exploration of male intimacy, the nature of grief, and the cost of freedom. It’s the story of a man who stands at the margins of a society from which he has little profited, even though it depends on his labor.

(Editor’s note: Readers can find YCC’s interview with the author, by Amy Brady, here.)

Also see: 15 books about women leading the way on climate change

Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is a professor in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he has taught since 2005. Before completing his interdisciplinary...