Gary Braasch, photographer and co-author with Lynne Cherry of the award-winning How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate (2008) died unexpectedly while snorkeling in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It is a profound loss—and a reminder of how a single person can recognize the enormity of the challenge of climate change and do something of global significance about it, all the while maintaining a calm and joyful spirit.
As Lynne recalls, twenty years ago Gary took it upon himself to do all in his power to alert the world to the global climate crisis. His extraordinary photographs reached people’s hearts and minds. He thought that if people could see with their own eyes how climate change was transforming ecosystems they would be motivated to take action to reduce CO2.
He and Lynne had young people in mind as they worked together on How We Know because they knew that adults tend to follow the lead of young people on this issue. A League of Conservation Voters study showed that children are a primary source of information about environmental issues for adults, and the largest force upon adults to lead a more sustainable life-style. A study by corporate giant Unilever found, “when kids lead, adults follow.”
Gary and Lynne’s book published by Dawn Publications garnered 16 awards and many laudatory reviews. The Dawn staff recalls with fondness our time working with him on the book.
You can catch his spirit as well as the extent and quality of his life work in this video of Gary in his own words.
Even though Gary and Lynne knew all too well how dire climate change is, they strove to write a book that would not scare children but help them to see possibilities for change. The reviewer for “Embracing the Child,” for example, recognized this:
A groundbreaking new book for children explains the science behind the headlines, shows how young people are participating in gathering the scientific data, and tells what can be done to avert a crisis. The authors of How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate report on such a groundswell of activity by scientists and concerned people-including many children-that what could be a fearful or depressing book is, instead, an empowering book.
The reviewer for Alaska Wellness wrote:
Although this book is intended for the 9 to 12 year old group, I also found it to be a refreshing, easy to understand (yet not overly simplified) view on what’s really going on… This is not a doom and gloom book, but one that encourages a balanced view of what is actually happening on our planet in terms of changing climate patterns. I appreciated that the authors ended on a positive note, emphasizing success stories of what is possible. As they note, “…every voice matters…together, many voices can make a big difference.” I found this to be a helpful, encouraging book for students of all ages.
Andrew Revkin wrote in School Library Journal:
The more people understand from an early age that science advances in stutter steps through testing, failure, and argument, the less likely they’ll be to interpret some of the persistent disputes over important facets of global warming to mean society can simply sit back and wait for a magical solution.
Debbie Glade wrote in LA Parent:
Young curious minds get more than just an introduction to the science of climates and global warming when they read this sophisticated 66-page book… I love that this book encourages students to think like scientists, and perhaps even inspires them to become scientists in the future. It sure got me thinking about saving planet earth.