79 pages 2 hours read

Alan Gratz

Two Degrees

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2022

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Human Connection and the Natural World

The connection between humanity and the natural world is one of the primary themes of Two Degrees. Gratz uses multiple methods to convey his message that humans need to work both with each other and with the natural ecosystem to effectively combat the effects of climate change. In the opening chapters, Akira Kristiansen shows this connection directly through her relationship with the “Monarchs,” the giant sequoias that grow on the mountaintop behind her house. She reveres the trees, and, like her father, she sees them as a symbol of nature’s resilience. However, they become a symbol of how everything is at risk in the human-disrupted biosphere. The sequoias have stood for thousands of years, through many climactic fluctuations, fires, earthquakes, and other disasters, but they are killed in a matter of minutes by the unnatural Morris megafire. This fragility is similarly conveyed when Owen destroys the pond, the ancient permafrost crumbling beneath his feet. As he watches the water drain out, he is directly faced with the ways that humans can negatively impact the world around them. These contrasting scenes show that while some climate change losses seem impossible to stop without massive effort, others can be avoided by individuals treading carefully in fragile environments.