Most conversations on climate change are beset with a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. Saving the planet is a tall order. Where does one even begin? What can ordinary folks do about it? Shouldn’t our governments be taking care of this? Isn’t it too late already? In the face of impending doom, isn’t ignorance bliss?
In her first short story collection, We the Sea Turtles, Michelle Kadarusman looks at the consequences of climate change through the perspectives of those who stand to lose the most – children.
The young people featured in her nine short stories are all affected in some way by changes in their natural environment. They are either climate refugees – uprooted by floods, tsunamis, or wildfires – or sensitive children connected to the natural world or struggling with eco-anxiety and the seeming indifference of the adults around them.
Though the author takes a hard look at the realities of climate change, the narratives are never bleak or despairing. These aren’t tales of helpless hand-wringing and suffering. Instead, these are stories of personal empowerment and the actions we can take right now to protect our planet.
The young protagonists in this collection learn and grow through their struggles, often by reaching out to caring adults. Kadarusman’s message of hope and taking action – however small – makes these stories relevant for our times and essential reading for the young.
Kadarusman sets her stories on islands across the world – in Canada, the United States, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Denmark – and brings these lush locations and their flora and fauna to life with her evocative writing. Her deep love for nature shines through. Whether you’re with Angus, dirt biking in the crackling Australian heat, or with Edi, watching a pair of Komodo dragons tear into their prey in Indonesia, you can feel the blast of hot air and hear the sound of crunching bones.
The appearance of a sea turtle at a significant point in the emotional journeys of these children also connects these nine stories. In the epilogue, an ancient sea turtle speaks directly and appeals to humans to stop choking the oceans and save the blue waters. Sea turtles, which have been around since the age of the dinosaurs and are now endangered, become symbolic in these stories of what we stand to lose and what we need to save.