Please Don't Paint Our Planet Pink!

"Please Don't Paint Our Planet Pink!: A Story for Children and their Adults" is a new children's book by Gregg Kleiner about global warming. The idea is simple. Imagine if you could see CO2? In the book, it is imagined to be pink. The imagining takes the form of a quirky father, one imagines him to be an inventor of some sort, coming up with the idea of making goggles that would allow you to see CO2 as a pink gas. This is all described by the man's patient but clearly all suffering son, who eventually dons the prototype goggles and sees for himself.

I read this to Huxley, age 5, and he loved it. He kept asking questions, and saying things like, "Is that true? Really?" I knew he would enjoy the book for its witty chatter and excellent illustrations, but frankly I did not expect him to be enthralled. He is fairly laid back when it comes to matters of science, nature, and for that matter, mathematics. He tends to absorb, then, later makes up song about it or comes up with difficult questions. His reaction was unique.

Bill McKibben's reaction was pretty strong too. He is quoted as saying, "I've often wondered what would happen if CO2 were visible. Now I know!" ... except he already knew. There would be pink everywhere. At the density of about 400ppm. More than the 350 value that gives his organization its name!

I had only one small problem with the book, and that is the description of what fossil fuels are. The majority of oil probably formed in aquatic, mainly marine, environments as the detritus of mostly small organisms and invertebrates, not dinosaurs and old trees like the book says. Coal is probably most plant matter, but boggy plants and detritus formed in low spots. And so on. Had I edited the book, I would have asked for a sentence or two to broaden the concept of where fossil fuels come from, and maybe a sentence or two to underscore the fact that the fossil fuels we use today were deposited in fits and starts of many tens of millions of years. The process of painting our planet pink over just several decades has released a huge percentage of that Carbon, mainly as CO2. It is like taking five years to fill up a glass of milk then spilling half of it on the sofa in one second. (A proper analogy for the targeted reading age for this great book.)

People often ask me for a recommendation on a book about climate change for kids. This book is great for that purpose. It fits a wide range of ages, but primarily little kids and elementary school. This is not an explainer on global warming, but rather, a great story that gives a sense of the importance of climate change without totally freaking out the audience. The illustrations by Laurel Thomson are excellent.

Of you want to do something about climate change, buy a few copies and give them to your local school's library (they probably call it a media center) or your local preschool. And your kid, of course. Or to your annoying climate denying cousin's kids. That would be good.

Gregg Kleiner also wrote Where River Turns to Sky.

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Hey, how come this book wasn't written by Daniel Pinkwater?

Oh, right — he's more into blue moose...

But seriously, this article points up a glaring omission in my list of books about global warming: no books for children and young adults.

By Christopher Winter (not verified) on 27 Feb 2015 #permalink

And here I am thinking the blog title meant a plea to Christo...

(Glad to see it's a book aimed at young people instead. We do need more of those.)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 27 Feb 2015 #permalink

We need all hands on deck wrt to #climatechange, especially our children, who didn't cause this but will have to live with the results of my generations excesses and emissions. This is why I wrote this book: to inspire kids to start seeing CO2 and then take action. Soon. Thanks for reading.

By Gregg Kleiner (not verified) on 27 Feb 2015 #permalink

Gregg, how in the name of Harry Potter would the kids rose tinted glasses enalble them to see past their own breath, which would have 100 times the optical density of the surrounding air?

Good idea and if only we could. Because Co2 is literally "invisible" to us it does I think impact on our mindset. If we could see the changing level, maybe, just maybe, it would make a difference.

I think there may be a place for adult graphics / simulations / videoclips of something like this too.

By Astrostevo (not verified) on 28 Feb 2015 #permalink

Russell, obviously the hippocampus blocks out one's own CO2, like it blocks out constantly noticing your heartbeat, swallowing, or breathing. Jeesh.

The title sounds more like anti-feminist "Men's Rights Activst" Screed... why not have the color have been an ominous dark grey instead of young girls' favorite color?

By Candice H. Bro… (not verified) on 01 Mar 2015 #permalink

Candice, maybe the author will comment, but my assumption was that "Pink" rhymes with "Planet" and "Paint." The book certainly isn't an MRA screed!

Ms. Elliott:

The author is using alliteration. He might have tried that with "gray" but it would have been much more difficult to come up with a good title. I wracked my brain and the best I could come up with is "Gadzooks, don't glaze our globe gray." That has an odd ring to it and uses odd words. What child (or adult, for that matter) knows "gadzooks"?

Back when the Internet was young, there was a nonsense verse going around:

Planet Claire has pink air
And all the trees are red.
No one ever dies there;
No one has a head.

I just learned this comes from a 1979 single by the B-52s. Planet Claire is also a musical based on B-52s songs. It involves a woman transported to a parallel Earth. So, far-fetched though it may be, there is some basis for using pink in the context of transforming our Earth by means of CO2. Plus, it makes a title that simply sounds better.

By Christopher Winter (not verified) on 01 Mar 2015 #permalink

Well, it could just as easily have been "puce" then... and avoided the rather obvious to girls slur on their favorite color... as in a book written by a man, featuring a boy and his father, seeing pink as the color of distruction. Put yourself into the dainty little shoes of a five year old girl... she's not going to have quite the same openness to the message when it starts with telling her to identify the color that she associates with positive attributes of her sex/gender as being dangerous to the planet.

By Candice H. Bro… (not verified) on 01 Mar 2015 #permalink

Why is the dainty shoe wearing five year old girl assuming that pink is her gender's color? Have her mom and dad been gender policing her?

My five year old's favorite color is pink. Winter coat has a pink lining, collar, and sleeves, shoes are pink, all kind of other things are pink. My son never got the memo that only girls like pink.

My contention is that PINK is the colour of the stuff they're trying to get rid of in Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat". It's a literary precedent

Also, "pinks" are the coats worn during a traditional British-style fox hunt (though they're actually scarlet in color.)

So there's a link (tenuous, to be sure) with ecological disruption.

By Christopher Winter (not verified) on 02 Mar 2015 #permalink

@Candice H. Brown Elliott :

The title sounds more like anti-feminist “Men’s Rights Activst” Screed… why not have the color have been an ominous dark grey instead of young girls’ favorite color?

Says who that pink is young girls fave colour? That's a sexist stereotype and not always or necessarily true.

Purple doesn't rhyme with very much and the alliteration argument has already been noted by others and makes poetic sense.

Puce what the deuce? (Spruce moose?) .. Hmm.

By Astrostevo (not verified) on 03 Mar 2015 #permalink

Thanks for all these comments about color. Yes, alliteration was part of why I chose the color, but then I could have just as easily selected purple, or peach, or pomegranate. If you read the book, you'll see there is a faint sub-story that runs through the pages that subtly addresses gender stereotyping, which wouldn't work without the pink. Some have asked me why I chose pink, when that's the color known so widely for cancer prevention. Well, I believe climate change is the cancer we've afflicted our Planet with, so perhaps pink rings right on that front, too. Maybe we need a huge pink cancer ribbon all the way around the earth.

By Gregg Kleiner (not verified) on 03 Mar 2015 #permalink

For the record, I'm pretty sure that Candice H. Brown Elliott was being funny/sarcastic.

One of my teenage daughter's first words was Blue. It's still her favorite color. I guess she didn't get the memo on proper innate gender preferences.

I like that blue was her first word, and still her favorite color. I can see blue held in a toddler's mouth. Thanks for sharing that.

By Gregg Kleiner (not verified) on 09 Mar 2015 #permalink

In reply to by Moebius (not verified)

GL: For the record, I’m pretty sure that Candice H. Brown Elliott was being funny/sarcastic.

Hmm... I'm inclined to doubt this. But she is intelligent and accomplished: dual degrees in physics & psychology, 86 patents, founder & CEO of a hi-tech company (Nouvoyance, Inc. in Cupertino), Visiting Fellow at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. So perhaps you're right.

By Christopher Winter (not verified) on 09 Mar 2015 #permalink

Fantastic! I think the idea of giving colour to carbon dioxide is a great allegory for the problems that arise in our world. Often, we tend not to take notice of or address an issue that we 'cannot see.' i.e. one that does not concern us. However, once we are made aware, or 'see' the problem, we are often left stunned if stupefied, certainly my reaction if I were to wake up one morning to a world saturated in pink gas! Brilliant way to briefly put the situation of climate change and global warming into perspective for young children. How in-depth does the book go in terms of scientific explanations of climate change? And how much prior knowledge on the topic would you say is required for a child to truly appreciate the book?

By Robynne Britz … (not verified) on 31 Mar 2015 #permalink

Love the idea of involving children in the informed responsibility we as humans , living citizens of the planet we call home, have towards our role in climate change. Using the analogy of giving CO2 a colour is vivid and easy to grasp for anyone no matter the age. Brilliant and vivid.

By H van Eeden 15009085 (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Nice to have folks in South Africa weighing in. Thanks! I'm finding there is more interest in the book from outside the U.S. than inside, perhaps due to the higher levels of awareness and acceptance in Europe and elsewhere. Robynne, to answer your questions: The book is not at all heavy on the science (I didn't want to overwhelm with too much science), but offers enough that people understand we need to keep carbon in the ground instead of burning this long-stored ancient sunlight. No prior knowledge is necessary to understand the book; it works well for age 6 and up, and would be ideal for science teachers to use in class to spark a discussion. I use humor, watercolor illustrations, a dash of climate science, and a good story to get people thinking about what might happen if we could SEE CO2. And yes, if we could see all pollution in vivid colors, we would be shocked into action! Thanks again for the comments! More about the book here: http://cloudburstcreative.com/pink

By Gregg Kleiner (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink