Climate crisis spurs action at ‘green’ Frankfurt book fair

Agence France-Presse . Frankfurt am Main | Published: 00:00, Oct 18,2019

 
 

Visitors walk past a placard featuring Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh on the opening day of the Frankfurt book fair 2019 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on October 16, 2019. — AFP photo

From children’s books about reducing plastic to tips for zero-waste cooking, the climate crisis is dominating this year’s Frankfurt book fair.

Here’s a look at how the world’s biggest publishing event is galvanising readers young and old into environmental action, on and off the page.

At the age of just 23, Luisa Neubauer is Germany’s best-known climate activist after becoming a central figure in the Fridays for Future strikes started by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. 

At the Frankfurt fair, the fast-talking university student famed for her no-nonsense attitude and meticulous research will go head-to-head with a local politician in a debate about coal mines, and present her own book about the climate emergency.

‘When you look at what’s happening with our planetary system, of course that’s scary. The question is what do you do about it,’ Neubauer said in a video recorded for the fair.

‘Maybe we do need some kind of rebellion or revolution.’

That teens around the world are ringing the alarm about global warming has not escaped the attention of younger children -- or of publishers who have rushed to bring out a slew of environmental titles aimed at younger readers.

Sales of climate-focused books for children almost doubled in the UK and India over the first nine months of 2019 compared with a year earlier, according to Nielsen Book Research, while in Germany too sales were ‘noticeably up’, GfK Entertainment said. 

‘Children have seen the images of starving polar bears and felt the effects of the recent summer heatwaves,’ Ralf Schweikart, a leading German critic of children’s literature, told AFP. 

‘Books can help them find answers to these emerging questions.’ 

For parents wary of scaring their offspring with bedtime stories about impending climate doom, Schweikart recommends choosing one of the many new titles that take a more local and hands-on approach, often with DIY activities to keep young minds engaged.

In ‘Plastic? Try going without!’ by Dela Kienle, ice-cream lovers are encouraged to opt for a cone instead of a cup, and to occasionally throw a party without balloons. 

Adults too can reduce their carbon footprints with the help of a plethora of new non-fiction titles at the fair.

On a table filled with vegan and no-waste cookbooks, ‘mindful’ chefs are invited to toss broccoli stems into a salad, turn apple peel into crisps and cover leftovers with beeswax wraps instead of clingfilm.

For those wanting to go further, the fair offers workshops on upcycling and even on how to achieve a zero-waste Christmas -- complete with newspaper decorations and gifts wrapped in old jeans.

Not to be outdone, organisers of the world’s largest publishing event say they too have taken steps to bolster the fair’s eco credentials.

The sprawling convention centre in central Frankfurt that houses the fair and will host some 280,000 book lovers this week already partly runs on renewable energy. 

But from next year, it will switch over entirely to green energy, saving 19,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

The stalls assembled for the more than 7,500 exhibitors are now reused year after year, and book fair director Juergen Boos told local media that organisers were encouraging waste reduction and even ‘offering edible straws’.

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