Gayla Marty: Suggested Environmental Books

Gayla Marty in Tunisia

When Gayla Marty was interviewed for the Minnesota Women’s Press in 2013, she was working full time at the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development. She had written a book titled “Memory of Trees.” Now, she’s working as a writer and editor out of her home studio.

“I’ve got another book in progress about a year in Tunisia and its lasting impact on my life and relationship with cooking and food,” Marty says. “I am reading and cooking a lot, I have been volunteering, and I am able to respond better to support my mom and stepdad an hour away.”
Marty says she’s been able to remain optimistic about the climate crisis because of the work on youth activists and Indigenous leaders around the world, from Greta Thunberg to the water protectors fighting Line 3.

“I feel both frustrated and optimistic. We should be so much further along and so much more in solidarity around this issue. When I cleared out some files recently, I found articles I had saved from the 1980s that blew me away because of how far ahead we seemed compared to now,” she says. “I’ve been encouraged by some great books.”

She recommends:

  • “The Hidden Life of Trees,” by Peter Wohlleben
  • “Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire,” by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker
  • “The Overstory,” a novel by Richard Powers
  • The Maddaddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood
  • “White Birch, Red Hawthorn,” by local author Nora Murphy
  • “The World is On Fire,” lyrical essays by Joni Tevis
  • “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal,” by Naomi Klein

Though these books are only the tip of the iceberg, Marty says this reflection of broad consciousness about environmental priority gives her hope.

“This world is a wonder. It is worth saving. We need to focus on escaping our own destructive habits, not escaping this habitat in which we were created and evolved. Democracy may have been created for this very task, and it, too, is worth saving,” Marty says. “We have to advocate through our elected representatives, not just focus on shopping better.”

Marty says the best way to fight the climate crisis, as Naomi Klein has said, is by connecting with the natural world so you can fight from a place of love, not just fear.

“If there is one action step I can urge anyone to take, it is to identify the tree nearest to the place you sleep. Learn its name. Pick up one of its leaves and press it, it could be in a book you read or use, or anything heavy and flat, so you can keep it nearby and touch it,” she says. “Try to look at the tree each day and record changes you see. For me, it’s a tree in my neighbor’s yard, a red oak, whose leaves I can hear when the wind blows, whose acorns I hear when they drop on our roof in August. But your tree may be farther from where you live. Find it. Pay attention. Everything stems from that love.”