Must-have book: Buried Sunlight October 04 2014, 0 Comments

The fourth volume of the Sunlight series from Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm is out, and I consider it a must-have book for elementary classrooms. The title is Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth. It has the same wonderful illustration style as the previous titles in this series (My Light; Living Sunlight; and Ocean Sunlight). The story is vital for children to know. The basics of the carbon cycle are here, as well as a quick overview of the history of Earth and the fact that there are natural cycles of warming and cooling. The big problem is stated clearly – the RATE at which we are burning fossil fuels and changing the Earth’s climate.

The story is presented at a good level for younger elementary children, and the notes at the back give supplementary information for those who want more information. Be sure to read and discuss the notes with older children. It will help them think about the issues raised in the book.

Perhaps the importance of this story was highlighted for me by a 2014 report from the World Wildlife Fund. Its Living Planet Report tells that vertebrate wildlife numbers have been cut in half since 1970. During the same time period, the human population roughly doubled. Animals in the tropics suffered higher losses than animals in temperate areas. Conservation areas had much smaller losses, but even they showed declines. The report notes that people are using 1.5 planets worth of resources each year. This means that it would take 1.5 years to replenish the trees we cut, the fish we harvest, and for the biosphere to absorb the carbon dioxide we emit in one year. Clearly we need changes in the way we live on the Earth. Those changes can start with children, and in many cases, they must start with younger people. It is too easy for older ones of us to keep doing what we have always done and to deny that it is a problem.