Book of the Month: Ship Breaker

Note:  This is the third 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.ship breaker

This month’s read was the book Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi.  Set in the future, Ship  Breaker takes place in a world that has been besieged by the impacts of climate change. New Orleans I and New Orleans II are underwater and frequent intense storms (called city killers) are a part of daily life.  Oil is scarce and there is a huge segregation between the classes.  The main character, Nailer, works as part of crew  scavenging for copper wiring on grounded oil tankers- a dangerous and dirty job, but the only real job available for his social class.  Nailer’s life changes when he rescues a girl from the highest social class from a ship wreck and they travel up the Gulf Coast in search of people who will take her to safety.

One thing lacking in this book was a very deep discussion of the science and climate themes.  One educator suggested this could be made up by asking students to come up with their own ways to incorporate the science into the book.  We thought that the book would work well as read aloud book in eighth grade science, although one teacher said she would read it in her fifth grade class.  Important themes include; sea level rise, extreme weather, segregation between the classes, climate change as as an issue of the elite, how we recycle and reuse things, and the idea of science and engineering as creative processes.

Activities and supplementary information that may be useful in tandem with this book

When The Ship Comes In To Brownsville, Rip It Up; NPR Story on modern Ship Breaking in Texas.

Aerial Photography and Mapping Lesson Plan: Images of Katrina

Changing Planet: Rising Sea Level

Extreme Weather 101

The next book club meeting to discuss Empty by Suzanne Weyn will be in August(TBD).  To learn more about the book club join the ICEE forum.

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