Wednesday, October 04, 2017
De facto Banning of Children's Books on Climate Change?
There was a wonderful energy under the big tent on Hinds Plaza. Crowds of people, long lines at the checkout counter, beloved authors signing books and having their picture taken with avid youthful readers. In a time when the internet dominates and downsizers leave bookshelves on the curb for trash day, this scene happily did not compute.
This feast of reading, celebratory and uplifting in so many ways, left one unexpected aftertaste. There were books on myriad subjects, but none on the one reality that will most determine the fate of children: climate change. One author told me that publishers think the subject is too "controversial", so that it can only be talked about indirectly.
If true, it merely adds one more layer of bondage to our lives. We are, after all, essentially forced by cultural norms and economic necessity to consume fossil fuels every day, directly or indirectly, as if some sinister force had harnessed us up to collective drag civilization towards the cliff. What to tell a child, as we read by a light powered by coal, in a house kept warm by natural gas, with an internal combustion engine ready to carry the child to school the next morning? The leaders whose responsibility it is to free us of this dependency are instead running from the problem, and creating false controversy by proclaiming that the problem doesn't exist. That false controversy, along with whatever guilt we feel for being collectively complicit, then suppresses discussion of the topic, which plays into the hands of the deniers who are getting elected by letting themselves and the voters off the hook.
A google search of "childrens books on climate change" shows that not all publishers are staying away from the subject. There are, for instance, overviews of recommended books at Parent and the Guardian. Another link recommends Jason Chin's books, such as Coral Reefs, which can be read online.
The Princeton Children's Book Festival was a joyful affair. How much more joyful it would be if we could uncouple our leadership and our lives from the collective unraveling of the future.
Posted by Stephen Hiltner