At the age of 16, Greta Thunberg has already accomplished what many only dream of their entire lives. She’s drawn attention to the ever-worsening climate crisis, galvanized youth around solving that problem, and struck fear and urgency in the hearts of world leaders who have for so long let it slide.
Greta is becoming a household name and given rise to what literati are calling “the Greta Thunberg effect,” a growing demand for youth-oriented books that explain the importance of conservation and environmental stewardship.
If our children are the world leaders of tomorrow, this generation will be prepared to defend our planet’s more critical ecosystems when they take charge.
According to the Guardian and data from Nielsen Book Research, there are twice as many children’s books confronting the climate crisis and global warming than there were just one year ago. Likewise, those books are flying off the shelves twice as fast.
Among the most popular titles:
- A Wild Child’s Guide to Endangered Animals highlights the plight of 43 endangered species from around the world, including rare and well-known animals living in freshwater, oceans, forests, mountains, tundras, deserts, grasslands, and wetlands.
- Where the River Runs Gold approaches the climate crisis from the point of view of two children on a brave and thought-provoking journey.
- Kids Fight Plastic presents “50 missions to help save the oceans,” turning the reader into a #2minutesuperhero.
- Earth Heroes offers twenty inspirational stories celebrating the pioneering work of a selection of Earth Heroes from all around the globe, from Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough to Yin Yuzhen and Isatou Ceesay.
- A Planet Full of Plastic explains where plastic comes from, why it doesn’t biodegrade, and why that’s dangerous for animals and humans alike.
- Evie and the Animals tells the story of 11-year-old Evie, who has a hidden talent that can let her hear the thoughts of an elephant, and make friends with a dog and a sparrow. Her dad says this talent is very dangerous, but will that stop her from using it to save the planet?
- There’s a Rang-Tan in my Bedroom, once a moving animated video by Greenpeace about habitat destruction and extinction, now a book.
“I absolutely would say there has been a Greta Thunberg effect,” says Rachel Kellehar, head of nonfiction for Nosy Crow, the publisher of Earth Heroes, which features Thunberg on the cover. “She has galvanized the appetite of young people for change, and that has galvanized our appetite, as publishers, for stories that empower our readers to make those changes.”
While the Greta Thunberg effect shows no sign of slowing any time soon, Greta herself has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The winner of the prize will be announced in November.
“We feel it’s important to get that message out as soon as possible, and that is partly driven by the Greta effect,” Kellehar says. “Whether or not she wins the Nobel peace prize, October will be a key moment to reach out and say Greta’s doing this amazing thing, but also lots of other people you’ve never heard of all around the world are doing amazing things. From young girls in Indonesia who have got plastic bags banned, to an engineer in India who is creating artificial glaciers, this is a book about people who are finding different ways to confront climate change head on, wherever it is affecting them.”
Typically seen as a calm and collected Swedish teenager, Greta has become the face of a global youth-oriented movement larger and more active than any other in recent history. As the face of this movement, she is not without her detractors. She speaks truth to power, and not all those in power appreciate what she has to say.
“I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future,” read the pamphlets a 15-year-old Greta distributed while skipping school to sit in front of the Riksdag in Stockholm.
It’s no wonder that adults soon started to pay attention. Children did, too, many who followed Greta’s call for an international school walk-out to raise awareness of climate issues.
With the help of social media, and a community of supporters, Greta’s words have only amplified since then.
“Time is much shorter than we think,” she posted to Instagram during one of the walk-outs. “Failure means disaster. The grown-ups have failed us. And since most of them, including the press and the politicians, keep ignoring the situation, we must take action into our own hands. Starting today. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed.”
Her words are spreading far and wide, and the Greta Thunberg effect is taking hold. The only question is, what will it prompt next?
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.