Science writer Jamie Bastedo says he wants to breathe “hope and optimism” back into the fight against climate change with his book Protectors of the Planet.
A biologist, nature enthusiast and former Yellowknifer, Bastedo is publishing a book that profiles activists, scientists and leaders across Canada.
Voices include Inuit leader and author Sheila Watt-Cloutier in Nunavik, whose work has shed light on how the warming climate is impacting Inuit communities, and Cornelia Oberlander of Vancouver, who narrowly escaped Nazi Germany as a teenager and has since become a pioneer in the engineering of green cities.
Also included are Elizabeth May, former leader of the federal Green Party, and Sophia Mathur, a teenage activist from Sudbury, Ontario, who has been dubbed “Canada’s Greta Thunberg.”
“I discovered some very cheerful, optimistic, happy, people who are doing things, and they’re very fulfilled by moving in very positive directions,” Bastedo says. “They embody what I call ‘the power of one.’”
The book’s subtitle involves the phrase “environmental trailblazers,” which Bastedo says he crafted carefully.
“When you start saying ‘eco-heroes’ or ‘eco-warriors,’ it puts them up on this lofty pedestal where people feel that maybe they can’t do or attain similar kinds of positive things,” he explains.
“‘Trailblazer’ implies they’re making new paths through challenging terrain, whether it’s political or emotional or just the very act of moving through a forest literally or figuratively, but they’re encouraging us to follow and they’re showing us the way.”
In the age of Covid-19, climate change, and rampant injustice, hope can be somewhat elusive, Bastedo says. Even as he wrote the book, reports suggesting the extinction of millions of species within the next few decades were being released.
“We get this daily dose of downers in the news, doom-scrolling on the internet, and you usually can slip into a disaster fatigue,” he says. “It’s not the most hopeful time on the planet, I don’t think.”
Bastedo chose to combat that by focusing on “trailblazing tips” about steps people can take to make a difference.
“Elizabeth May says hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up,” Bastedo says. “These people are all very optimistic, very hopeful, and they all have their sleeves rolled up. We can all be everyday environmentalists.”
Virtual book launch
Ecology North and the Yellowknife Book Cellar will host a virtual book launch on Thursday at 7pm with readings from the book, a Q&A with Bastedo, and virtual door prizes.
Dawn Tremblay, executive director of Ecology North, said the book’s optimism was a highlight for her.
“In this time of Christmas, in this time of pandemic, in this time of climate change and climate action and climate disaster messaging, hope is really important,” she said. “It’s really inspiring to read stories of other people because it makes us see how change is possible.”
The North has led by example in the fight for climate justice, Tremblay said.
“I think it’s also very empowering because we’re not that far removed from certain people,” she said. “If you’re motivated and start acting, it’s very easy to get connected to the right people and be able to do amazing things in the North.
“I think we have opportunities within the climate justice movement to have our voices heard in ways that there are not in more populated areas, or in areas that are less connected the way we are.”
Bastedo hopes his book serves as a call to action.
“I’m going to be a grandfather in a few months,” he says. “When you have kids or grandkids, one’s sense of the future just gets catapulted forward beyond one’s own life.
“As I say in the book: may you discover excellent adventure, deep inspiration, practical advice, and rekindled hope for the future, as I have.”
The virtual launch event for Protectors of the Planet is free and open to the public. It will be held over Zoom.
Those interested in receiving a link can reach Jessie Bowser at Ecology North at (867) 873-6019.