Today, on Earth Day, I’ll be taking my kids out to pick up trash around the neighborhood — something I remember doing with my friends and family growing up in rural Vermont. Every year, after the snow melted and all the accumulated garbage started appearing along with the crocuses, we would have our “green-up day” and go along the roads and in the woods picking up the trash we found. In my memories, we could trade in our full bags for donuts at the general store, which was a pretty magical experience.
In the spirit of Earth Day, I’ve found some conservation-themed audiobooks that celebrate protecting the magic of the earth — and the ocean — for everyone from four-year-olds to your David Attenborough-loving mom.
I have to admit, I have a soft spot for seabirds, so THE SEABIRDS CRY: The Lives and Loves of the Planet’s Great Ocean Voyagers seems like the perfect way to learn more about the often overlooked but essential creatures who live their lives on top of the ocean. This audiobook shares the natural history of ten species of seabirds, and how humans have impacted them.
Unsurprisingly, I have passed a love of the ocean on to my two- and four-year-old kids. Listening to LIFE IN THE OCEAN: The Story of the Oceanographer Sylvia Earle, we’ve learned about the oceanographer and marine biologist who has spent more than 7,000 hours underwater, and lived in an underwater lab for two weeks.
For those listeners who love Michael Pollan’s work and audiobooks about ways you can help the environment while also enjoying delicious food, give THE THIRD PLATE a try. Chef Dan Barber writes about ensuring a sustainable future for food production, and his voice may be familiar to you from This American Life’s annual Thanksgiving special.
If you’re looking for more information on climate change, start with Hope Davis’s narration of Elizabeth Kolbert’s FIELD NOTES FROM A CATASTROPHE: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. It’s full of detailed explanations for how climate change is impacting our world. Former Vice President Al Gore has also returned with an audiobook about how humans have contributed to climate change, AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: Truth to Power. If you have teens in your life, I recommend EYES WIDE OPEN: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines. It’s a straightforward and digestible audiobook about the environment, and has some excellent advice on reading critically to determine the accuracy — and the financial and political motivations — behind the stories you hear in the news.
Fiction fans, never fear — eco-fiction audiobooks will get you in the Earth Day mood. Jeff Vandermeer’s ANNIHILATION came out last month on the big screen, but I think the audiobook is even creepier, with the landscape evolving rapidly in mysterious ways, leading to monsters and mysteries along the Florida coastline. If you like it, there’s a whole trilogy to listen to.
I loved listening to T.C. Boyle’s WHEN THE KILLING’S DONE after spending a summer out on a seabird island studying terns and puffins (I warned you about my seabird bias). Boyle’s audiobook pits wildlife biologists and animal rights activists against one another, with everyone hyper focused on knowing exactly what is best for a little island off the coast of California, and perfectly encapsulating everyone’s hubris. Anthony Heald’s compelling voices for each character will suck you right in.
How about a peek into an eerily believable future? In Kim Stanley Robinson’s NEW YORK 2140, performed by an excellent cast of narrators, sea levels have risen 50 feet, New York City’s sky scrapers have become islands, and the streets are canals.
Okay, off to help clean up the neighborhood with a gaggle of kids and a bag of donuts. Happy Earth Day, and happy listening!