Jane Sahi
EVERYDAY STORIES OF CLIMATE CHANGE by By Gemma Sou, Adeeba Nuraina Risha and Gina Ziervogel Illustrated by Cat Sims Eklavya, 2023, 38 pp., INR 100.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

It is challenging for anyone to grasp the gravity of the impact of the climate crisis on our planet. It is even more challenging to share these concerns with children and students without it becoming overwhelming or depressing. In recent years many books have come out that analyse the causes and effects of global warming or look at the devastating effects of fast changing habitats of the animal world. What is special about this book is that the facts of the climate crisis are presented through the daily lives of people across the world who have directly suffered from its effects. The data is given faces, situations and people’s everyday struggles!
The characters in the book are fictionalized but based on the encounters of the three authors’ experiences in five countries across the world—Bangladesh, South Africa, Bolivia, Puerto Rico and the island of Barbuda in the Caribbean. The three academics who have documented the impact of climate change on people’s lives have succeeded in sharing their work in a form that is lively and accessible to students. They write that comics allow the researcher to give voices, identities, and personalities to people in a way that traditional media and articles rarely capture. This visual presentation of stories, images, quotes and dialogues is designed to engage the student with complex issues that neither minimize injustice and suffering nor paralyse us into not responding.
As many have pointed out, the impact of climate change is most keenly felt by those already marginalized and disprivileged. Each story presents a vulnerable family’s struggle to adapt or recover from the impact of the disasters of drought, hurricanes and salinization of fresh water sources. The stories focus both on the immediate effects of disaster on the secondary and long-term effects of trauma, displacement, break-up of families, unemployment and pollution. In addition, the text shows the way that the situation can be exploited by market forces for commercial gain.
Two dominant themes come across: on the one hand the resilience and determination to survive of people affected and on the other, the willful neglect of governments or those in power to support people in constructive ways. In four of the five stories it is women who play a critical role in trying to change their situation. They are shown reaching out to others in solidarity and articulating their demands for justice. The media and non-governmental organizations are also shown as potential agents for change.
At the end of the book, background information is given about the process that went into creating this resource and also about the broader issues of climate change and possible responses to this enormous challenge. A number of the questions are posed to the reader in such a way to foster a deeper awareness and sense of responsibility for what is happening and what could change.
Everyday Stories of Climate Change is described as a teachers’ resource and potentially could be invaluable as a prompt for critical discussion and action in the school context. A different framing of the book could have made it more ‘reader friendly’. For example, the five stories are set within a single lesson on climate change in an Australian high school classroom. They are presented one after the other giving the students (or the reader) little time to digest or reflect on the specific issues of that narrative. At one point when students ask some relevant question they are told to ‘hold their thoughts’ and wait until the end of the class. At the end of one story the teacher comments on the students’ responses by saying, ‘These are all brilliant points that we’ll discuss at the end of the class.’ But then she quickly moves on to yet another story.
There is only a very brief introduction to each of the stories and sometimes more information could have been woven into the text to make the context more understandable. However, the lively and detailed illustrations do provide an inviting entry point to imagine and empathize with people in difficult circumstances. Underlying the book is the message that this is everyone’s shared responsibility.