While no single book can capture the magnitude and breadth of the climate crisis, All We Can Save spins the looming crisis before us into a courageous narrative of hope and possibility.
Edited by marine biologist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Project Drawdown editor-in-chief Katharine K. Wilkinson—two women who embody what it means to be climate trailblazers—All We Can Save is a captivating eco-anthology of work from 60 of the world’s most inspiring women leaders and is part of a larger project of education, engagement, and empowerment.
Rachel Carson left formidable footsteps to follow. If Carson lived today, Johnson and Wilkinson would surely have dedicated a chapter to her undersea reveries, scientific epiphanies, and fearless pursuit of justice through pen and paper. The future is female—and so was the past.
It was poignant to read All We Can Save in July of 2022, 174 years after the Seneca Falls convention that launched the women’s suffrage movement—and just one month after the Supreme Court struck down women’s reproductive rights and overturned Roe v. Wade. The anthology serves as a radical rebuttal to the assumption that brilliant women can be silenced.
All We Can Save is not merely a collection of essays, but a gallery of stories, articles, poems, illustrations, questions, and letters. Johnson and Wilkinson feature diverse topics ranging from climate communication to Indigenous prophecy to the Green New Deal—all with a justice emphasis. Naomi Klein, Joy Harjo, and Gina McCarthy are just a few of the environmentalists whose voices grace the collection.
Readers travel from New Orleans to India, glimpse inside campaigns like Beyond Coal and the Sunrise Movement, explore a lush fictional world in Kendra Pierre-Louis’ dynamic pop culture essay Wakanda Doesn’t Have Suburbs, and even cringe alongside journalist Sarah Miller as she infiltrates the world of Miami real estate by posing as a clueless prospective homebuyer.
If the women of All We Can Save have one characteristic in common, it’s courage. Each writer offers what my generation would call a “hot take”: a bold idea that righteously rocks the status quo at its core.
In one of my favorite chapters, supermodel Cameron Russel sends a striking letter directly to fossil fuel executives challenging them on climate. “You have probably experienced that intoxicating, galloping high of being commanding, clever, and clear, an effective leader, a smooth operator,” she writes. “Like me, you have likely found it easy to ignore all the things you don’t (or do) know in these moments[.]”
All We Can Save is deeply personal. Each section opens with a short hand-drawn comic, a somewhat revolutionary choice in and of itself, as if the editors refuse to conform to the haughty literary professionalism one would expect from a traditional anthology. Chapters are interwoven with quotations and unique annotations, an asterisk denoting a key statistic and a dotted line denoting a “poignant insight.” Full of pragmatism and personality, the book oscillates between a love letter to the world and a rallying cry against its destruction.
Overall, the book’s editors best capture its main takeaway. “If there is one theme that runs through the collection, it is ferocious love–for one another, for Earth, for all beings, for justice, for a life-giving future. Let’s move forward with love, not conquest; humility, not righteousness; generous curiosity, not hardened assumptions.”
Motivated by that ferocious love, and a feminist climate renaissance that would make Rachel Carson proud, All We Can Save invites leadership from its readers. “The federal government has never acted without a strong push from strong women,” writes Gina McCarthy. “You can be one of them.”
RCC Stanback Fellow – Joy Reeves – Climate Justice
Joy Reeves is a Duke University student from Frederick, Maryland, pursuing a Master of Environmental Management degree. Reeve’s environmental comic series features superwoman Heliora. She is the author of Growing Up in the Grass Roots (New Degree Press 2020).
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