All We Can Save by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson book cover

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis Book Review

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis Book Review

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson is not your regular book about climate change. This inspiring and empowering anthology collects essays, poetry, and illustrations from the women who are on the forefront of the climate crisis and spotlights their experiences combating climate change. This book illuminates the contributions of these women and organizations to the greater global climate movement and also inspires readers to make a difference in the movement. 

Katharine Wilkinson, a personal role model of mine, drew me to this book because of my past experiences with her work. In her own words, Wilkinson is a “author, strategist, and teacher, working to heal the planet we call home.” I first discovered her writing in my Climate Change Communications class in Fall of 2019, a backup class to my required writing credit at George Washington University. Throughout this class, I learned that women face the harshest effects of climate change. Specifically their access to healthcare, employment, and well being are all at risk because of the climate crisis. Wilkinson’s work at Project Drawdown helps to highlight the impact empowering women through education has on climate change mitigation. From her work, I was exposed to other feminist climate warriors such as Sherilyn MacGregor, Katharine Hayhoe, Naomi Klein, and even Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. The intersection of feminism, environmental justice, and climate change amazed me, and this class truly changed the trajectory of my educational focuses and career aspirations. 

For some, like Sherri Mitchell Weh'na Ha'mu Kwasse, the issue is illuminated in terms of Indigenous rights. In her essay Indigenous Prophecy and Mother Earth, she informs readers that modern scientists and climate activists are now discovering innovative and groundbreaking climate solutions -- the same solutions that Indigenous people have been utilizing since the beginning of their time. In the book, Mitchell states, “The keepers of Indigenous knowledge carry thousands of years of data on things such as medicinal plant properties, biodiversity, migration patterns, climate changes, astronomical events, and quantum physics.” By continuing to oppress Indigenous rights, and claim their solutions as white men’s own, modern scientists are taking credit for centuries of inventive knowledge and further contributing to the issues of environmental justice and oppression. 

For others, such as Mary Anne Hitt, policy and advocacy is at the core of the climate crisis. Her experience with the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, and now with Climate Imperative highlights that changing climate policy allows women to change the world. In her essay Beyond Coal, she recounts her experience as director of Beyond Coal, a campaign by Sierra Club to eliminate fossil fuels, and promotes a full transition to renewable and sustainable energy. In her time on the campaign, over 300 coal plants were retired. As a woman from West Virginia, she understood that this was a difficult transition for governments and individuals to make because some families have built their lives on the coal industry. Her argument in her novel and behind the Beyond Coal was that coal is, “simply untenable in the twenty-first century.” Coal plants are almost always placed in low-income, minority communities where they do not have access to the healthcare they need in order to combat the effect of the coal emissions. The coal plants were uneconomic and unprofitable compared to renewable alternatives. By educating individuals and governments about the harmful effects of these plants and the economic, social, and long-term benefits they would see from retiring or transitioning the plants to renewable energy. Again, this example shows how a feminist climate leader made an extremely influential change in the climate movement, and how women can be an integral part of the movement looking forward.

The illustrations in this book, on the cover and between each chapter, are an important piece of the puzzle that Johnson and Wilkinson set out to put together for readers. Madeleine Jubilee Saito, now creative director & operations lead at The All We Can Save Project, describes comics and illustrations as “irresistible,” and her contribution to this project confirms her own statements. All of the comics in the book present in four separate panels to show one complete, relevant picture to the main idea of the chapter. This is not her first venture into the world of anthologies, as she collaborated with sixteen other poetry comics to create a book about climate change grief. The success of Warmest: A collection of comics abut climate change for the fearful & hopeful poised her for continued notoriety and advocacy in All We Can Save.

Image by Madeline Jubilee Saito, courtesy of The BTS Center

The All We Can Save Project, created in collaboration with this book, is a new way for women to get involved in climate activism. Their mission is to “nurture a welcoming, connected, and leaderful climate community, rooted in the work and wisdom of women, to grow a life-giving future.” The website highlights that although climate change disproportionately affects women, and more severely women of color, climate solutions are often oriented toward White, middle-income men. Now, as the climate movement gains traction primarily because of Black, Indigenous, and women of color, there must be a resource to empower these women and give them the tools they need to succeed in their communities around the world. All We Can Save Project promotes these projects through social media, provides open-source materials for educational purposes, and is currently launching a mentorship program to empower young leaders in the climate movement. The work of Johnson, Wilkinson, and all other women in the climate movement is awe-inspiring, and as the quote on the cover of the book states, “...fills one with, dare I say… hope?” 

The most important takeaway that I can emphasize from this book is that there are people who care. Everywhere. Doing everything that they can to educate, advocate, and illuminate the climate crisis. As a young woman who frequently thinks about the future of climate change and is looking to enter the climate and sustainability field, it is wildly inspiring to see these sixty women and their work. It gives me hope that one day I too will be a part of the solutions. Of course, the burden cannot fall only on women. It requires the work of all global citizens to recognize the problem and advocate for climate-forward solutions at all levels of the world.