New Book—”Sea Change: An Atlas of Islands in a Rising Ocean”

Sea Change: An Atlas of Islands in a Rising Ocean is forthcoming from the University of California Press (Spring 2023). [Looking forward to reading it since I read this description: “This immersive portal to islands around the world highlights the impacts of sea level rise and shimmers with hopeful solutions to combat it.”]

Description: Atlases are being redrawn as islands are disappearing. What does an island see when the sea rises? Sea Change: An Atlas of Islands in a Rising Ocean weaves together essays, maps, art, and poetry to show us—and make us see—island nations in a warming world. Low-lying islands are least responsible for global warming, but they are suffering the brunt of it. This transportive atlas reorients our vantage point to place islands at the center of the story, highlighting Indigenous and Black voices and the work of communities taking action for local and global climate justice. At once serious and playful, well-researched and lavishly designed, Sea Change is a stunning exploration of the climate and our world’s coastlines. Full of immersive storytelling, scientific expertise, and rallying cries from island populations that shout with hope—“We are not drowning! We are fighting!”—this atlas will galvanize readers in the fight against climate change and the choices we all face.

The author explains: The idea for Sea Change came from my many years of work as an environmental journalist and from my training in literature. In December 2009 I attended the annual global climate conference, known formally as the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As I covered the UNFCCC in the years after, I noticed the stark difference between the perceptions generated by international press, and what actually happened. While the headlines tend to focus on US and China, they often leave out what representatives from individual nations share about how the climate crisis has already been affecting nations around the world.

As an environmental journalist, I had been grappling with how to translate science to a general audience. The idea for Sea Change came to me shortly after: a multi-media approach featuring the voices of those most affected by climate change. The book offers a new environmental humanities approach to climate change.

Sea Change revises the colonial history of the atlas genre by centering the voices of islanders—predominantly Indigenous and Black Caribbean—who are most impacted and already taking action to address the effects of sea level rise. Their art and writings poems, testimony, essays, op-eds and their cosmologies are included throughout. The atlas also takes an interdisciplinary approach by weaving together environmental studies and environmental humanities, geography and cartography, and creative non-fiction. [. . .]

Christina Gerhardt is Associate Professor at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Senior Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and former Barron Professor of Environment and the Humanities at Princeton University. Her environmental journalism has been published by, The Nation, The Progressive, and the Washington Monthly.

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