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No Books on a Dead Planet: a guide to approaching the climate crisis through podcasting

Climate anxiety is an all-too-common feeling, particularly for younger generations. This has been articulated well by YouTuber Leena Norms, who has been open with her audience about her existential dread surrounding the climate crisis. The magnitude of this imminent crisis is vital yet difficult to process, and so, in order to approach and interrogate her climate anxiety, Norms re-evaluated the threat of climate change through the lens of how it would impact the production and consumption of books. From there, the No Books on a Dead Planet podcast was created. 

Over the last few years, Leena Norms has documented her development into more sustainable practices, from upcycling clothes to trying to cut meat and some animal products out of her diet. Her creation of this podcast was no different. No Books on a Dead Planet takes the form of a book club podcast. Each episode follows a close analysis of a book regarding climate change in the form of a discussion between Norms and different guests. The episodes not only document an investigation into the books’ key themes and messages, but allow time for both speakers to present their individual responses and relationships to the themes, shaped by their own experiences. Through this, I find that a lot more nuance is brought to the evaluation of the material.  

It succeeds in providing a book recommendation to widen the listener’s perspective

It is important to acknowledge that the listener is not obligated to have read the book in question for each episode, and in true environmentalist fashion there is no active encouragement of the materialistic consumption of each book. For those who have read the book, I assume that the podcast allows them to further engage with or evaluate what they have read. However, for those who have not read the book, it succeeds in providing a book recommendation to widen the listener’s perspective. It also caters to those who are interested in the book in question but feel too overwhelmed to read it. Whilst trying to be encouraging, Norms recognises that engaging in climate literature first-hand can be overwhelming, and so demonstrates compassion. 

I started this podcast recently, beginning with the episode about the Parable of the Sower. The guest for this episode was Jack Edwards, a prominent YouTuber known for his love of literature. I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of this book, as it is a dystopian fiction. I had this preconceived notion that most climate change books were non-fiction and was happy to be proven wrong. I am also of the belief that dystopia, or ‘speculative fiction’, has the potential to be an incredibly useful genre for making the climate crisis more digestible. This is due to both the popularity of the genre and the dire relevance of the topic. Admittedly, neither YouTuber was as attached to this book as I would have expected. Nevertheless, they had really interesting discussions regarding what the 1993 novel was trying to achieve. 

Norms strikes a great balance between friendly discussion and giving her guests the platform to open up.

The next episode I listened to was much more to my liking. This time, Norms buddied up with YouTuber Melanie Murphy to tackle and discuss the non-fiction book This is Vegan Propaganda (And Other Lies the Meat Industry Tells You). Both women discuss the profound effects the book had on them, recounting how it exceeded their expectations with its harrowing realities. They address how author Ed Winters approaches the working conditions of people working in the meat and dairy industry, an angle of the industry that I regrettably had not considered before. Both the book and the podcast raised questions about where we draw the line when it comes to this type of cruelty. On a personal level, Norms and Murphy discuss their own relationships with food and their journeys to developing more plant-based diets, giving more nuance and compassion towards veganism discourse. Lengthy discussions ensue regarding how health and disordered eating can complicate the strive for veganism on an individual scale, which is an essential matter to address. 

One thing I noticed whilst listening to this podcast, particularly on the episode with Murphy, is that Norms strikes a great balance between friendly discussion and giving her guests the platform to open up. This act of prioritising and welcoming your guest is classic podcasting expertise that I am always eager to commend, but I think it is especially important in a podcast about climate anxiety. Having a different guest in each episode does wonders for offering more perspectives to collectively approaching the climate crisis. I am yet to read any of the books discussed on the podcast, however, it has taught me a lot about broadening my horizons and challenging my own beliefs and behaviours. From here, I feel encouraged to explore more climate podcasts and to tackle my own climate anxiety. 


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