Category: Children's Books

Stefan Rahmstorf
Klaus Ensikat (Illustrator)

Wolken, Wind & Wetter
[Clouds, wind, and weather]

Non-Fiction

Review

​​Wolken, Wind & Wetter. Alles, was man über Wetter und Klima wissen muss (Clouds, Wind, and Weather) is an amazing nonfiction book. At the very first glance, the design alone opens up a wonderful world of images to young readers around 12 and older. Like the other books in the DVA “Kinder-Uni” (Children’s University) series, the design is extraordinarily appealing and fits well to the text.

Klaus Ensikat illustrated the book (as well as several other books in the “Kinder-Uni” series) in a realistic, documentary style, with colored, filigree pen-and-ink drawings that have a particularly poetic undertone. This poetic-realistic and—where appropriate—funny world of images is important in order to get especially young readers, who might feel overwhelmed by the material, to want to explore further. This time it is about something we are confronted with on a daily basis, but which we usually don’t worry about until we read media reports of disasters: storm tides, flooding, hurricanes, forest fires, heat waves.

Our background knowledge on how human civilization has contributed to climate change is still rudimentary, despite the fact that the subject is constantly mentioned in the media, especially following environmental disasters. We have certainly all heard of rising carbon dioxide levels in the air, of global warming and the greenhouse effect. But what news media take the time to explain the extremely complex, difficult, and sometimes seemingly chaotic connections between climatic phenomena over the course of the four billion years of the earth’s history and those influences that can be ascribed to human actions over the past two crucial centuries?

Stefan Rahmstorf, climate researcher and professor of physics of the oceans at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, can do it. And he does so in a didactically intelligent and vivid way. He begins not by explaining disasters—he does that, without sugarcoating the facts, in the final chapter—but by opening our eyes to the fascination of clouds, wind, and weather. And he manages to do it using understandable and entertaining language, alternating descriptions, explanations, and anecdotal stories. Every chapter begins with questions that we—naively amazed at the phenomena of nature—have all asked at some time in some form or another: Who’s afraid of thunderstorms? Why isn’t the Earth deep-frozen? Does the wind ever take a rest? Why are clouds fluffy? Can trees grow at the North Pole? Why is the Earth getting warmer and warmer?

Step by step we approach the answer to the question as to the responsibility of humanity in the twenty-first century in the face of the alarming global warming and if we can still prevent the climate disaster that is threatening the entire planet. The scientist does not rely on simple solutions, neither in his presentation of incalculably long periods in the history of the Earth, nor in describing the climatic phases in the relatively short history of humankind. He impressively elucidates specific projects to show the efforts of scientists around the world to unravel the complex connections.

Rahmstorf knows how to arouse curiosity even among those who have previously viewed natural phenomena more from a romantic perspective and who are unfamiliar with the objective, levelheaded view of a scientist. Precisely because the scientist—together with the illustrator—keeps reminding us of the wonderful and wondrous world of our blue planet, every attentive reader has learned the eleventh-hour message by the end of the book: The environmentally hazardous emissions of greenhouses gases must be drastically reduced by 2050, alone in Germany by 80 to 95 percent. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Siggi Seuß

By Siggi Seuß, 19.02.2013

​Siggi Seuß, freelance journalist, radio script writer and translator, has been writing reviews of books for children and young people for many years.

Translated by Allison Brown