Book Discussion: Empty and Earth-The Operators Manual

Note:  This is the fourth in a monthly series of posts focused on integrating literacy and climate science and energy issues.  The posts are based on discussions in the “Not So Serious Climate and Energy Book Club,” last Friday.  The book club evolved out of some informal virtual discussions between a number of us involved in climate and energy education around the country and is sponsored through ICEE:  Inspiring Climate Change Education Excellence in Boulder, Colorado.  Book suggestions, (especially hopeful ones!) are welcome in the comments area below.

Our last two book club books represent two different genres- a dystopian young adult novel and a comprehensive non-fiction bookempty focusing on climate change and energy.

Empty by Suzanne Weyn, takes place in the not so distant future when oil prices are skyrocketing and extreme weather is the norm.  The main character is a scrappy, resilient young woman, with your typical high school angst, but also some pretty serious problems at home.  The novel offers some great opportunities to discuss our dependence on oil, as well as the solutions and alternatives that exist.  The book does end on a hopeful note which is nice, however it feels a bit forced and unbelievable.  A good read for middle school and maybe high school- it offers some possibilities for looking more deeply into some of the science raised.

Earth- The Operators Manual, by Richard Alley, was developed as a companion to the PBS documentary.  The book is comprehensive, but dense and might not be accessible in its entirety to most high school audiences.  That is not to say it isn’t an important book and a great read for teachers teaching about climate change.  In the book Alley provides an overview of the history of humans and energy, the evidence for climate change, and alternative energy options. In our discussion Chapter 15 and 16 were raised as important and possible pull out readings for students.  A great resource and companion to the books is a series of videos developed by Alley that are great resources for the classroom.  They can be accessed here.

At the next book club we will discuss 12 year old Pavan Raj Gowda’s book Gecko Boy, The Battle of Fracking.  I had the privilege of meeting Pavan last week at NAAEE and was extremely impressed with his maturity and interest in raising awareness around environmental issues.  The Not So Serious Climate and Energy book club will take place Thursday October 25, 2012 at 3:30 MT/4:30 CT/5:30 ET.  For more information join the ICEE forum or email Susan Buhr, Susan Buhr,


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