Hidden Shelf
Jul 26, 2021
8 min read

The Heat is On

Like many of you, I’m sweltering through a historic heatwave plaguing the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains. By July 4th, my hometown in Montana  has already had more 90+ degree days than we used to have all summer. As the heat dries out forests, wildland fires will follow. We know the pattern. 

This lengthy hot spell is another reminder of the ongoing shift in our planet’s atmospheric equilibrium. A changing climate is not going to disrupt Earth’s life systems. It already is. Call it global warming, climate change, or perhaps global weirding. Weather events have gotten more extreme, in lockstep with increasing accumulations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Stuff’s happening that modern human societies have not experienced. As a wildlife biologist, I take the scientific consensus seriously. Along with habitat destruction, pollution, and human exploitation of plants and animals, climate change is now a leading threat to life on Earth.

Fortunately, there is much we can do to reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately, we’ve made little progress. Why? Far too many don’t see the need to change behavior. Seeing the need begins with education and informed common interest. 

The good news! Around the world, legions of critically thinking young people are demanding action by those in charge. “Rescue the diminished planet you’re leaving behind,” they shout. Their aspirations and activism inspire me. I want to nourish that. 

In an Aha! moment, I conceived of writing novels for young readers—stories with ecological subtexts. The first, Legend Keepers: The Chosen One, features an orphaned mountain goat with a weighty destiny—to save her band of goats as their home grows inhabitable. The story’s told through the eyes and lives of mountain goats and other charismatic animals of the alpine zone. There, at the highest altitudes—and also the planet’s highest latitudes—the climate is warming fastest. Melting glaciers and sea ice are unequivocal signs of the trend. What’s not as apparent are the hardships afflicting plants and animals. They can adapt behaviorally and genetically only so fast. And for many, not fast enough. 

These out-of-sight, out-of-mind species need an ardent following, including children. Perhaps especially children. The Legend Keepers series seeks to reach middle-grade readers with engaging stories that immerse them in the natural world. 

Legend Keepers: The Chosen One is a story of hope, perseverance, friendships, and finding one’s purpose. Release date is August 24, 2021.


Written by Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith is a wildlife biologist who holds a PhD in Zoology. During his career with the federal government, he studied and managed most large mammal species that roam the western United States. In Legend Keepers, his first novel, he draws upon his experiences and fascination with wild animals to stir the imaginations of young readers and immerse them in the natural world.
Bruce and his wife, Diana, live in southwest Montana not far from mountain goats.

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