Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is touring America this month to fight for climate justice and a living planet. October is also Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday month. While still a teenager, Thunberg is one of the young activists leading movements around the world and in their own communities to save the planet for future generations. President Roosevelt established 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, four national game preserves, five national parks, and 18 national monuments on more than 230 million acres of public land. In honor of them both, I offer a selection of new and classic audiobooks about our precious globe and its natural inhabitants.
Despite being stung while rolling down a grassy hill at the age of five, I’ve always liked bees. Their industriousness, geometric homes, dancing communication, and yes, the honey. British naturalist Brigit Strawbridge Howard’s similar delight in these pollinating wonders is on ample display in her new book DANCING WITH BEES, for which she won an Earphones Award. She offers listeners a terrific blend of science and personal adventure on her rediscovery of the natural world.
Science writer Jennifer Ackerman’s graceful performance of her recent memoir BIRDS BY THE SHORE enhances an already engaging blend of reportage and personal reminiscence. This update and reissue of her 1995 lyrical bestseller describes a year spent along the Delaware shore, where she observes all the creatures — including we humans — that live and interact with the tides and weather.
Anyone who co-habits with a cat or dog knows that their furry companion has thoughts and emotions, but how about wild creatures that don’t deign to live with us? As a ten year old in my life might say, Well, duh, of course they do! The second in German ecologist Peter Wohlleben’s trilogy about the mysteries of nature, THE INNER LIFE OF ANIMALS, offers all the proof a listener needs. Read by Mike Grady in an Earphones Award performance, the book offers a charming mix of funny tales and scientific observations of an inspiring range of fellow animals. Horses, pigs, deer, bees, and birds all receive starring roles in a volume that inspires as it educates.
Wohlleben’s first book in the trilogy, THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES, also read by Mike Grady, is a perfect listen before your next walk in the autumn woods. As you stroll, consider this — they’re all talking to each other. Or to put it more scientifically, trees and other plants communicate via root-born chemicals to send nutrients, danger signals, and much more to each other. It’s an amazing story and a lesson. Without interfering humans, a forest community creates and manages its own ecosystem.
Now that we’re swooning with admiration for the plants and animals around us, let’s consider losing everything to the looming disaster that is climate change. Elizabeth Kolbert’s updated FIELD NOTES FROM A CATASTROPHE expands her 2006 classic with new data and three more chapters. Hope Davis’s clear, calm reading makes listening to this fascinating, terrifying book deceptively easy. And that is good, for listen we must.
Photo of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota by Gary Anderson, National Park Service