Books that Celebrate Nature for Earth Day
By Sarah Lundy, Zoe Doyle, Ana Matute and Amy Wright
With Earth Day taking place on Friday 22 April, the perfect way to celebrate is to pick up a book that celebrates nature. We have chosen four books that show the beauty and importance of nature to help commemorate this annual event.
Listening to Whales by Alexandra Morton
As someone who had a childhood obsession with orcas, I can think of no better way to celebrate Earth Day than to learn about the beautiful creatures we share the planet with. Alexandra Morton’s novel is part memoir, part natural history and spans her career in whale and dolphin research. After studying the language and behaviour of captive orcas in California, Morton moved to the wild Broughton Archipelago in British Columbia so that she could study the fish-eating northern resident population of orca.
Morton’s love and reverence for the wildlife around her shines throughout and the book perfectly evokes the misty and shrouded inlets of British Columbia and the diverse wildlife that lives there, particularly the charismatic orca. Morton also explores the devastating impact of salmon farming to the ecosystem in the region, something she continues to do to this day as she lobbies the government to stop this practice. This book was valuable in teaching me so much about the complex social behaviour of orcas and how destructive and cruel human practices such as captivity and commercial aquaculture are antithetical to living in harmony with our environment.
Walking the Invisible by Michael Stewart
When I think of the beauty of nature, I think of rolling hills and fresh country air. In Walking the Invisible, Michael Stewart perfectly encapsulates the beauty of Yorkshire, specifically the Yorkshire that inspired the works of the Brontës. Part memoir, part biography and part walking guide, this book will transport you to the wild moors that the Brontës so beautifully shared in their works. With stories of their inspiration, as well as the modern comparisons, there is no better reminder of the power and beauty of nature than this treacherous and magnificent landscape.
Going beyond Yorkshire, Stewart also explores the paths that may have inspired the sisters’ stories, for example the walk from Yorkshire to Liverpool that Mr Earnshaw took in Wuthering Heights. It goes a long way to explaining why we are still so fascinated with these moors, and why so many people take a pilgrimage to Haworth to visit the home of the Brontës. The descriptions lift off the page and make you feel as if you are standing on the windswept moors, breathing in their history.
The Vortex by José Eustasio Rivera
Nature can be a place to contemplate and fear as sometimes it is unknown. Colombia is surrounded by nature in almost every city, and the south is part of the Amazonian rainforest, with nothing but green and wildlife. Thus, Colombian literature explores that nature with the different changes the country has had in its history. The Vortex is a Colombian novel by José Eustasio Rivera that narrates the journey of Arturo Cova as he entered the rainforest after running away from a big city.
Through the story, we see many forms that the rainforest takes: sometimes as a green jail where man develops the most inhuman instincts because of what man must do to inhabit it, whilst in others nature is a captative place full of life that leaves you speechless. However, Arturo Cova will end in the rubber plantations, a scenario where enslavement and death frame the scene of Colombian history between 1879 and 1945 – going from rainforest exploitation to exploitation of man.
The Vortex is a magnificent narrative that approaches and explores the possibilities that the rainforest can have and takes you into the depths of the Amazonian rainforest.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Another book that truly captures the magic and beauty of nature is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This children’s classic tells the story of Mary Lennox who is sent to live in Yorkshire with her uncle after the death of her parents. She discovers a locked, neglected garden in the grounds of his country house and, after discovering the key and with the help of a new friend, she helps save it and bring it back to life.
The book takes you to a setting that sounds almost fantastical, yet the author is solely describing nature. Burnett explores the healing power of nature, not only in terms of helping to improve Mary’s cousin’s health, but also in how it helps the characters to repair broken relationships. The garden brings Mary, her cousin and her uncle together in a way that would not have happened otherwise. In the same way that the garden is brought back to life, the characters have a chance at a new beginning and we witness their growth almost simultaneously with the growth and development of the garden.