Climate Women

“Climate Women” series is mainly for myself to learn and be inspired by women climate leaders while simultaneously getting back to a regular oil painting practice. The women featured are authors in the book All We Can Save, which is part of a larger All We Can Save Project. Reading this book and painting these women while listening to their voices on podcasts and TED Talks has become a meditation and learning practice for me. As I seek to embody intersections of art, feminism, climate activism, and Earth and space science, I find strength, motivation, and hope in their power and wisdom. 
Guest Blog by Kathryn Williamson

Art, Feminism, Climate Activism
Visit : Kathryn Williamson

I believe all of these women are showing up the way I feel called to show up, living into the calling to be and become in this moment, to be fully alive on this Earth and in this Universe. Some of these women are scientists, some artists, and journalists. Some of the essays by Indigenous women have most affected me. I mourn how late I am arriving to this perspective, how much I didn’t inherit from my culture – wisdom, respect, connection, and love. Too often I am driven by the ethos of efficiency, productivity, ignoring or pretending like I don’t have needs or emotions or a spirit that needs to be nurtured. Stopping the grind to do these paintings is my own little resistance, my own commitment to my own healing of my mind, body, and spirit to reconnect with the pulse of this world, my listening to those whose voices need to be heard, amplified, and echoed throughout the world.

On my good days, I can point to the climate actions I have taken and feel that I can count myself among these women. My perspective of humanity, place and time is a perspective I cherish, and that I believe is amplified by my work as an astronomy educator. Pondering deep time and vast space is common for astronomers. This perspective has only amplified my love of Earth and Earthlings, how amazing we are for being here. Carl Sagan’s quote, “we are a way for the Universe to know itself” captures this. It also keeps me connected to something bigger than us on Earth. It makes me feel better – whatever happens with the climate and Earthlings in the future, nothing will change the validity of this quote. 
I believe that healing the climate is connected with healing ourselves, which includes listening to our creativity and the small seeds of yearning we have. Listening, learning, encouraging each other in community. Even though I haven’t met these women, I feel in community with them. I want to grow from the wisdom they provide, I want to meditate on their words and feel affected by them. And the process of painting helps me do that. 
Note: This is very much a work in progress. More image of paintings coming soon, pending approval by authors.

Claire oil Portrait
This is Claire Datnow, a former teacher and novelist who writes eco-adventure young adult books, whom I met at the Environmental Education Association of Alabama (EEAA) meeting this past February. Claire helped me learn more about the power of writing and storytelling. I know all too well how “the science alone is not enough” in helping people understand or act on climate change. Stories, with relatable characters and meaningful plots, can help us to understand climate at a personal level. Stories can provide us a roadmap for solutions and a vision for a better future. I realized I wanted to paint Claire as part of my “Climate Women” series, and I asked her to send me some reference photos. 
I finished the painting just in time for the June EEAA Board meeting. I called Claire the day before and said I’d like to buy one of her books, too, “The Grey Whale’s Lament,” and asked her to bring a copy. Since this is the second book in her Four Elements Trilogy, Claire said she’d also bring the first book, “Red Flag Warning.” When we saw each other in person at the Oak Mountain Interpretive Center, a perfect place to walk among the trees and breathe in the fresh humidity at the beginning of the southern summer, Claire signed her books for me. I showed her and her husband, Boris, the painting. She exclaimed, “Wow, no one’s ever painted my portrait before!” and, “I’m not quite sure it looks like me,” but Boris said he can see the resemblance. 
Since then, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading “Red Flag Warning." The characters are so endearing; I feel like I’m right there with them as they navigate fire from habitat destruction and excessive heat, deal with burns and injuries, bond with the animals in their region, and ultimately band together to inspire real change. I’m so glad to know Claire’s books are being used in classrooms, as I think they can inspire youth to see themselves as leaders in addressing the climate crisis. Her websites provide links to purchase her books and teacher guides for educators looking to implement related lesson plans. I highly recommend checking them out! 

The Forgiveness of Whales

Guest Blog By T.K. Thorne
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It is my honor to introduce T.K. Thorne as my guest blogger. She wrote this fascinating piece about whales, which immediately caught my attention. T.K’s blog resonates with me as I have recently published The Gray Whales Lament: An Eco Adventure (Book 2 of The Four Elements Cli-Fi Trilogy).

Retiring as a police captain in Birmingham, Al., T.K. Thorne turned to crime with a trilogy of murder, magic, and mayhem in the “Magic City Stories” (House of Rose, House of Stone, and House of Iron) where a rookie policewoman discovers she is a witch. A deep dive into the past produced award-winning historical novels about famous, unnamed women briefly mentioned in the Bible (Noah’s Wife and Angels at the Gate) and two nonfiction works of civil rights (Last Chance for Justice and Behind the Magic Curtain: Secrets, Spies, and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham’s Civil Rights Days).

Until recently, scientists thought humans were the only species with the specialty brain neurons responsible for higher cognitive functions like self-awareness, a sense of compassion, and language.
They were wrong.
Fifteen million years before humans, whales began evolving these special glial cells, and now a strange phenomenon is occurring off the Baja coast of Mexico.
Humans have been slaughtering Pacific whales there for a long time, first with harpoons, now with sonar from Navy ships. Whales live a long time, up to a hundred years. Some whales alive today still bear the scars of harpoons. Many scientists believe that it is implausible to think the whales do not remember this or associate humans with death and anguish.
Yet, in the same area where humans hunted them nearly to extinction, then tortured them with sonar, whales are approaching humans and initiating contact. A  
N.Y. Times article detailed the experiences of the reporter and the stories of locals who tell about mother whales approaching their boats, sometimes swimming under it and lifting it, then setting it gently down. Almost all the stories involve the whale surfacing, rolling onto its side to watch the humans–reminiscent of the surreal moment in the movie, Cast Away, when a whale rises from the night sea to regard Tom Hanks with an eye cupped with starlight, an eerie intelligence, and a gentleness that moves us, for we know the massive creature could kill the castaway with a nudge or a flick of a tail fluke.
These real grey whales off Baja swim close enough that people invariably reach out to touch them, and they allow it. One person, reflecting on the experience said, “I have never felt more beheld.” It seems reasonable—given the position the whales place themselves in—that they seek the contact. In many cases, a mother whale will allow her calf to do the same. There is no food involved in these exchanges, only a brief interlude of inter-species contact and rudimentary communication:  
I come as friend.
Where will humans be in another hundred years? I suspect we will be technologically advanced, but emotionally pretty much the same, even in a thousand years or ten thousand.
But what about a million years? Ten million? Can we evolve (if we survive) to a more sane, more rational, more loving species with a broader sense of our place in the universe and in life itself? Is it possible that these creatures with 15 million years of intelligent evolution on us, might regard us as a young species, children who don’t really know better,  and grant us leeway for our mistakes? Grant us . . . forgiveness?
We have a need for that forgiveness, not only from our treatment of whales, but of each other. We have enslaved, tortured, raped, and slaughtered each other. We have recklessly used the resources of our planet.
Yet I read about humans risking their lives to free whales trapped in nets.
People offering aid to neighbors. . . to strangers.
Teachers, nurses, and soldiers whose daily life is one of giving.
We have much need for forgiveness, yes, but we are capable of great acts of cooperation, of kindness, love, and sacrifice. Perhaps that is what the whales see in us when they watch us use our clever hands to free them from heavy rope nets, nets that we have left carelessly in their domain, as children leave their toys strewn across the floor.
Even whales have enemies, and they do not hesitate to defend themselves when attacked and even take the battle to the enemy. Humpbacks have been observed  defending not only their own against attacks of orcas, but other mammals, other whales, sea lions, fur seals or walruses. Interestingly, they only attack mammal-eating killer whales, not orcas that primarily feed on fish.
Perhaps they understand that—like the orcas—all humans are not the same.
Perhaps they are waiting for us to become our best selves, believing, or hoping we will evolve into worthy fellow creatures on this blue-and-cream jewel that is our world.
T.K. Thorne writes about what moves her, following a flight path of curiosity, reflection, and imagination.

Eco-Fiction: Crafting Nature-Inspired Narratives

Eco-Fiction: Crafting Nature-Inspired Narratives

AWC presentation Whale
I invite you to embark on a journey to explore Eco-fiction as a writer. When I began my Eco Fiction Adventure series, I did not expected it to be so challenging yet so rewarding. Your journey will reveal a genre that offers inspiration and a clear purpose to authors. It provides a unique avenue for writers to delve into critical ecological issues through the power of storytelling and intertwines imagination with science and advocacy that inspires hope and action.
I started with “The Lone Tree: An Eco Adventure,” more than two decades ago— and more recently Cli-fi (Climate fiction) trilogy—for upper elementary and MG. Along the way I encountered inspiring students, wondrous endangered animals, and outstanding scientist-conservationist dedicated to saving them.
Eco-fiction, in essence, is fiction that revolves around ecological themes and environmental issues. What sets Eco-fiction apart is its deep connection to the natural world and its exploration of humanity’s relationship to it.
Eco-fiction also includes “cli-fi” (climate offers the writer to choice c from a wide range of narratives styles—from realism, magic realism, to dystopian visions of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by climate change or utopian tales of harmony between humans and nature.
What are the rewards of writing Eco-Fiction and Cli-Fi or Climate Fiction? Through vivid imagery and thought-provoking narratives, this genre helps readers gain insight into the impact of human activity on our planet and inspire them take action to protect and live in harmony with the natural world.
Wildflower Garden

As writers, we have a wonderful opportunity to use the power of storytelling to spark conversations, evoke empathy, and inspire change. By weaving environmental themes into our work, we can contribute to a broader dialogue about the urgent need for ecological stewardship and collective action. In a world grappling with unprecedented environmental challenges, Eco-fiction inspires hope and a call to action. Through our words and imaginations, we have the gift to tell narrative that envisions the future on this planet by building a more sustainable and just world.
"Let us embrace the transformative potential of Eco-fiction and harness the power of storytelling to educate and to inspire positive change. Together, we can build a brighter, greener tomorrow—one page at a time! The pen is indeed mightier than the sword, and in our hands it shines a beacon of hope for the future of our a planet."

Resources for Eco-Fiction Writers

Exploring Eco_Fiction: A Green Path for writers

For authors interested in exploring eco-fiction, there is a wealth of resources available to guide and inspire your creative journey:
Claire Datnow:
How to Become An Eco Detective books and blogs on environmental fiction and climate fiction. This online hub is dedicated to eco-fiction and offers a resources, including book recommendations, author interviews, and articles exploring the intersection of literature and the environment.
The Cli-Fi Report: Stay up to date with the latest news and developments in the world of eco-fiction through the Cli-Fi Report, a comprehensive online publication covering everything from new book releases to academic research on climate fiction. #clifi
Eco-Lit Books: Discover a curated selection of eco-fiction titles and environmental literature recommendations on Eco-Lit Books. Whether you’re looking for dystopian thrillers or lyrical nature writing, this website has something for every eco-conscious reader.
The Nature of Cities: This online platform brings together writers, artists, and activists to explore urban ecology and imagine sustainable futures for cities. Writers interested in eco-fiction set in urban environments will find a wealth of inspiration and community here
Explore these resources to deepen your understanding of eco-fiction and connect with a community of like-minded writers passionate about exploring environmental themes through literature!


Climate Fiction Adventures

Paperworks Art exhibit
(Claire and granddaughter Sonia at the Paperworks Local Exhibit)

As a writer and reader, what inspires you? What drives your curiosity? What questions are you seeking answers for? What are your passions? What do you hope readers will remember as they close the last pages of your book?
While working on
Book 3 of The Four Elements Cli-Fi Trilogy, I visited the exhibit at Paperworks Local: Extinction and Resilience, which “delves into the astonishing adaptability of Nature amidst the relentless shifts in our environment, driven by both natural forces and human actions. It casts a spotlight on the myriad life forms at the brink of extinction and also celebrates the unyielding resilience of nature and humanity alike.” The artists who created this exhibit were captivated by the natural world. This parallels exactly the underlying theme of my climate fiction!
What inspires me, no drives me, to write cli-fi—a genre you may not have heard of? That’s right, not sci-fi but cli-fi, which investigates the consequences of climate change, and imagines a hopeful future. It is a daunting topic.
My burning question—pun intended—as an environmental writer has morphed into: How can I, as a fiction writer, inspire the next generation of young people to understand what is happening to our planet, and motivate them become wise stewards of planet Earth? After all, they will soon be voters.

climate fiction tween sea level
In Book 3 of the trilogy, I plan to explore the ways in which animals and plants are already adapting to climate change, and the way in which humans are adapting, too. To prepare for the book I’ve been reading: Hurricanes Lizards and Plastic Squids, by Thor Hanson, and Braiding Sweet Grass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
I would love to hear about what inspires you to write your own stories? Contact me at:

The Gray Whale Eco Fiction

Writing for Animals

Endangered species are reminders that we are interconnected, that animals across the globe are vital threads in the tapestry of life.” World Wildlife Fund

Through stories about #endangered animals set in a changing #climate, my #eco fiction features courageous tweens and teens determined to take action to save the animals they love. Although I do not sugarcoat the truth, my stories are hopeful. They show that #endangered species can recover thanks to the efforts of dedicated conservationists, scientists, and policymakers.
Baby Orangutan