Book News

All We Can Save Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, Edited by Anana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K Wilkinson (One World, 2021;

Reviewed by Cynthia Ellis

Strong women have been part of our organization’s history.  They have played important roles, as supporting and major figures.  They have lent their talents to our issues throughout our years of efforts.

In our recent past we have co-hosted events—focused on the availability of clean water—which revolved around and attracted numbers of women.

Some of us will remember sitting in a large circle, at a meeting that was an outgrowth of those conferences, in which attendees opened up about the stresses of being environmentally active and of the strain of the hard work, both by staffers in organizations and by volunteers.

We were moved to see one of our allies, widely noted for her preparedness and her cogent comments, striving to express the toll taken by the work.  Tears slid down her cheeks and dripped from her chin as she gulped out the words, “I’m just SO tired!”    

That friend will certainly recognize other kindred persons, dealing with similar emotions, in the book All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis. In it anyone can find an abundance of exactly those three elements, in a variety that avoids both the saccharine and the bitter.   

Editors Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson have tapped the resources of 41 essayists, 17 poets, and one illustrator; they have chosen wisely.  The occupations listed in biographies of those contributors are truly wide-ranging. They include:  

Reporter, author, activist, attorney, biologist, entrepreneur, organizational leader, poet, policy expert, performer, climate scientist, artist, journalist, Guggenheim fellow, regenerative farmer, National Climate Advisor, teacher, social science researcher, environmental engineer, landscape architect, healer, seed-saver, mother, organizer, cartoonist, audio producer, chief of staff for the White House Domestic Climate Policy Office, former EPA regional administrator, teenage climate activist, and ecologist. 

There are also women with tribal connections to the Creek and Ojibwe nations…and to West Virginia.  Mary Anne Hitt is national director of campaigns at Sierra Club; she lives here, and is a member of WVHC.    

Hitt’s “Beyond Coal” essay is in the “Advocate” section.  Other divisions are Root, Reframe, Reshape, Persist, Feel, Nourish, and Rise.  There is almost too much to recommend to describe.  There are reminders of the past; some focus on indigenous rights and environmental racism.  There are tips for being a climate justice activist, and tips for How to Take Care of Yourself, and introductions to the ideas of “plant reciprocity” and “seed dispersal mutualism.” 

Essay titles are diverse; such as “Why It’s So Urgent,” “Ode to Dirt,” and “Dear Fossil Fuel Executives.”

Quotes are forceful.  Here are a few.

  • “The message from the school strikes is that a great many young people are ready for this kind of deep change.”
  • “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” 
  • “Where can we live and where must we leave?” 
  • “More than 90 percent of our time is now spent indoors…” 

And the poems!  They sing! 

Last month’s Voice featured a review of “Organizing to Win.”  Perhaps that reviewer and other opponents of the Rockwool factory in Jefferson County could find strength and solace in the essays in “All We Can Save.”  

As for those of us in the Water & Women circle…after a while in that gathering, we knew it was time to end, and to accept hugs, to dry tears…and to get up and fight some more.