Based in Devon, environmental journalist Anna Turns specialises in writing about climate change, marine issues, food, farming and our connection to nature. With 20 years’ experience working in the media, her solutions-focused approach showcases progress, innovations and changemakers.
In 2017 she founded her own environmental campaign, Plastic Clever Salcombe, which focuses on reducing single-use plastics and empowering children to make change. Then in 2020, she joined the Integrity Council for Provenance, which aims to combat greenwashing and create standards that better enable transparency.
Below, Anna shares her book recommendations for making a positive change to our climate.
Forget Me Not: Finding the Forgotten Species of Climate-change Britain by Sophie Pavelle (Bloomsbury Wildlife)
Science communicator Sophie Pavelle has trawled the country looking for ten rare native animals and plants that could be gone by 2050 due to the climate crisis. Travelling by bike, kayak, on foot or by train, she shares her wildlife encounters and talks to experts along the way about everything from seagrass restoration to the plight of the bilberry bumblebee. With a hopeful yet urgent call to action, this book inspires readers to get outdoors into nature and explore the British wildlife on your doorstep.
Wild Summer: Life in the Heat by Sean Taylor and Alex Morss, illustrated by Cinyee Chiu (Frances Lincoln)
Children learn best through play and through stories… so in the midst of escalating heat waves and droughts, never has a title been more apt. But don’t worry, this picture book for five to seven-year-olds is far from doom and gloom. Through the eyes of a little girl who walks down a wild path towards the sea while chatting to her grandfather, we discover how animals and plants are adapting to extreme temperatures. It’s the perfect introduction to the science behind summertime, with plenty of extra info and ideas for curious kids on the back pages too.
How to Save our Planet by Professor Mark Maslin (Penguin)
Climate science is complex and greenwash can be hard to decipher. UCL’s Professor Mark Maslin distils information into simple, engaging facts and figures that you can trust. More than just stats though, he unpicks the human history that has influenced the environmental problems we face today and sets out solutions. According to him, individuals are the “powerbase for change” and we all have a sphere of influence we can employ, while corporations are “a major weapon” in the fight to mitigate climate catastrophe and have the potential to trigger enormous positive transformations in society. With easy-to-grasp and rigorously-researched bitesize statements, this is a go-to guide for anyone curious about how to create change.
Going Zero: Our Family’s Journey to Zero Waste and a Greener Lifestyle by Kate Hughes (Canbury Press)
Kate Hughes’s story begins with a beanbag. When she stood on one and broke it, thousands of tiny polystyrene balls spilt all over her garden. While clearing them up, she vowed to reassess her relationship with the modern disposable society and rethink her consumption. Now, she doesn’t send anything to landfill but her journey to zero waste isn’t always straight-forward. There are compromises and conflicts. Of course, plastic-free perfectionism is almost impossible but switching to a low-impact attitude is feasible and Kate sets out her top ten ways to do just that in a way that doesn’t lay on the guilt.
Be the Ultimate Friend of the Earth by Lucy Siegle (Michael O’Mara)
Ever wondered whether your smartphone results in more emissions than your kettle? Did you know that cows actually burp more of the greenhouse gas methane than they fart? Boost your climate and nature IQ with this fun Q&A format from broadcaster and journalist Lucy Siegle who believes we all need three things in order to become a greater ally to the planet: context, confidence and connection. Be the ultimate friend of the earth is certainly a conversation starter.
Zero Altitude: How I Learned to Fly Less and Travel More by Helen Coffey (Flint Books)
Part travel memoir and part climate-change investigation, travel editor Helen Coffey’s book shows her on a mission to slow down. She travels by train, car, boat and bike to meet some of the activists at the forefront of the growing flight-free movement. Apparently the Swedish term ‘flygskam’ that was thrust into the limelight by Greta Thunberg is more about hope than shame of flying. Rather than limiting her possibilities, Helen’s zero altitude journey has transformed the way she travels. Her discovery that keeping both feet on the ground can result in much more worthwhile adventures below the clouds, is just as much about personal discovery as it is about reducing carbon footprints.
Buy Better, Consume Less: Create Real Environmental Change by Sian Conway-Wood (Icon Books)
So much advice involves don’t do this or stop doing that – by contrast, this is an uplifting guide full of practical tips and ethical solutions compiled by the founder of Twitter’s #EthicalHour, the world’s largest support network for people wanting to live more sustainably. Interestingly, Sian encourages readers to push back against the capitalist narrative that change relies on individuals. She empowers us to think collectively as citizens rather than consumers without being duped by greenwash, while using our voices to take a stand and shift more eco-responsibility back on to those in positions of corporate power.
The Wild Craft: Mindful, Nature-inspired Projects for you and your Home by Catarina Seixas (Hardie Grant)
Split into the four seasons, the rustic pages of this enticing book epitomise ‘craftivism’, the ‘at-home’ form of activism that uses crafts to back away from consumerism. The 28 featured projects focus on enhancing your nature connection through recipes and instructions for slow sewing and DIY ‘makes’, eco-friendly gardening or wholesome cooking. Learn how to make your own plant fertiliser, bake beautiful rye botanical cookies or assemble a new drying rack for homegrown herbs.
Turn the Tide on Climate Anxiety: Sustainable Action for your Mental Health and the Planet by Megan Kennedy-Woodard and Dr Patrick Kennedy-Williams (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)
Despair and disempowerment can lead to inaction and possibly burnout, so if you ever find yourself actively avoiding the news headlines, feeling guilty about your carbon footprint or losing sleep over the climate crisis, take time out to read this. Written by two psychologists, this book reveals how current environmental issues can trigger different reactions in us, and what we can do about that. We might not be able to single-handedly change the planet, but we can build our own resilience, and enable our children and friends to validate the emotions they feel around this issue too. The core message is that climate anxiety can be alleviated through sustainable and collective climate action – various sections help identify your why (climate-related values), what (goals that you’d love to achieve) and how (actions that can be implemented) so you can build your own sustainable action plan and celebrate your successes, too.
Words and images by Anna Turns.
Comment below if you have read any of Anna’s recommended books or have any other suggestions for environmental reads.