Book review by Nancy Corson Carter
ALL WE CAN SAVE: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K. Wilkinson (New York: One World, 2020)
“Can you imagine all of us trusting each other, working together for our common home?” Thus the authors address us in BEGIN, their introduction to this extraordinary anthology of essays and poems intermixed with art by women and girls.
Still, the authors assert, women and girls around the world are blooming in a climate movement “faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration” (xix)—qualities even more courageous with Covid-19 exploding just as this book emerged. We can take heart from this inspiring gathering of diverse women engaged in climate action in the United States. They include scientists, human rights attorneys, leaders of national environmental groups like Earthjustice and NRDC, developers of the Green New Deal, Indigenous rights advocates, social science researchers, landscape architects, as well as farmers of regenerative agriculture, Sunrise leaders, and others. All offer hope for “drawdown,” a future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. (See the 6-page appendix listing Climate Solutions already on hand.)
Here’s a selection of essay notes (skipping fine poems woven in):
Calling In by Xiye Bastida
A young woman born and raised in a small town near Mexico City, descendant of the Otomi-Toltec people, tells of her ancestral philosophy: “Take care of the Earth because she takes care of you.”
Collards are Just as Good as Kale by Heather McTeer Toney from Mississippi. “Everywhere I turned I was surrounded by the interweaving of nature with Black culture, poverty, and the rural South…. Yet our voices are constantly ignored on matter concerning climate impacts and environmental protections” (76). Pregnancy with her first child led her to concentrate on saving lives and ensuring a planet safe for kids into the future. Strengthened by her faith’s requirement to “tend and keep God’s creation” she writes “My faith keeps me focused” (80).
Harnessing Cultural Power by Favianna Rodriguez, award-winning artist, president of Center for Cultural Power: “We need our storytellers to image a future where together we thrive with nature.” “We aren’t seeing diverse stories about climate because those who control the cultural engine in the United States are overwhelmingly White men,” so we need to “Pass the mic to artists and culture-makers of color” (122).
Loving a Vanishing World by Emily N. Johnston: On a beach in the British Columbia Gulf Islands, she grieves that the wondrously intelligent 73 remaining Southern Resident orcas there probably cannot survive. “No matter that we feel fear, grief, and anger,…In any moment, we can choose to show up. … We have beautiful work to do before we die”(260-1).
A Letter to Adults by Alexandria Villaseñor, a climate activist at age 15. “The climate crisis is the largest challenge humans have ever faced. We young people are doing everything we can, so please join us. We need your help. Welcome to the uprising!” (327)
“The Literature of Ecology” and Women’s Studies courses. Since retirement to North Carolina in 2003, she has facilitated the Earth Care Committee at The Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill. She helped lead “Hope Workshops on the Climate Change Crisis” with NCIPL. She’s continued to write and speak widely about Earth and Spirit issues. Her most recent book is A GREEN BOUGH: POEMS FOR RENEWAL (2019); it witnesses to her quest to hold in tension the opposites of a celebration of the natural world, and in a time of great destruction, a call for its repair.