Sixteen-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg is crossing the Atlantic on a sailboat on her voyage to the United Nations Climate Change Conference later this year. Attention for climate action and for her book, NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE—soon to be an audiobook, perhaps—are part of her mission. Here are audiobooks about the natural world that inspire us to tend the earth and its creatures and to stay informed about the changes in our environment.
British naturalist David Attenborough’s warm and knowledgeable voice, familiar from many nature documentaries, leads listeners through the epic history of LIFE ON EARTH. Edward O. Wilson’s succinct GENESIS: The Deep Origin of Societies is nicely presented by narrator Jonathan Hogan. And in a fresh recording of Rachel Carson’s classic, SILENT SPRING, narrator Susie Berneis mirrors Carson’s own emotions: “passionate, saddened, uplifted, and furious at the history and impact of synthetic pesticides on every aspect of nature and our lives.”
If you’re well versed in the basics, explore recent titles that sound more alarm bells. Our reviewer, Jonathan Smith, calls LOSING EARTH by Nathaniel Rich “an important, infuriating, enlightening, engaging, and engrossing audiobook.” Author David Wallace-Wells narrates his impressively researched work on climate change, THE UNINHABITABLE EARTH, providing statistics and probable outcomes of the catastrophic effects already in progress as a result of global warming. Narrator Joyce Bean get an Earphones Award nod for her performance of CHOKED: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution. Air pollution may be one of the most evident changes to our environment.
A few of our recommendations give specific calls to action, such as PROTECTING POLLINATORS: How to Save the Creatures That Feed Our World. In Jim Robbins’s work on the science and biology of birds, THE WONDER OF BIRDS, narrator Danny Campbell engages listeners in the author’s enthusiasm. In Bren Smith’s memoir, EAT LIKE A FISH, listeners get a sense of how his own advocacy developed. Smith narrates his own audiobook that includes a PDF of recipes with some of his sea crops.
Throughout this month, we’ve celebrated some of the independent audio publishers who have expanded audiobook options. Chelsea Green Publishing focuses on books and audiobooks for sustainable living. WATER IN PLAIN SIGHT: Hope For a Thirsty World and GODS, WASPS AND STRANGLERS: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees are two we’re recommending. Also newly in the audio publishing world is Princeton University Press, bringing some of their scholarly titles to listeners, including THE LIVES OF BEES by Thomas D. Seeley and narrated by veteran William Hope.
To complete our macro-micro looks at audiobooks about our environment, I’ll just add two more: In ORIGINS: How Earth’s History Shaped Human History, read by John Sackville, author Lewis Dartnell takes us through geologic history. Carl Sagan’s COSMOS is a 1980 classic, but it was released in on audio in 2017 with a crowd-pleasing narrator ensemble that includes LeVar Burton.
In my corner in Maine, summer is drawing to a close. From my porch, I can watch eagles and hummingbirds and watch my garden grow, but also the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than the global average, and the sea level is visibly rising. I’m blessed to live in a beautiful place, but want to stay informed about the changes in our environment and advocate for climate action. The listening choices here have lots to offer!