PSU professor’s book shows you how to be a climate activist

By The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

We can’t all be Greta Thunberg, but we can become climate activists in our own right — and a new book written by PSU chemistry professor John Perona and published by our student-run publishing house Ooligan Press can help you join the fight for climate action.

In From Knowledge to Power: The Comprehensive Handbook for Climate Science and Advocacy, Perona gives readers a deep dive into science and policy aimed at making the efforts of layperson advocates much more effective. 

The idea for the book came out of Perona’s advocacy efforts as he volunteered with Citizens’ Climate Lobby and other groups in Oregon and hosted a community seminar series at McMenamins a few years ago.

“I basically taught it as an upper-level undergrad class and people ate it up,” Perona said. “There was this hunger for detailed education that wasn’t being met. A lot of books for layperson advocates are pretty surface-level but if we want to make a difference on policies, we better know enough to get into the details.”

Perona says action is the antidote to despair and the book offers actionable tips on how to engage with scientific leaders, government officials, community leaders and individuals.

“By being well-versed and well-educated in climate science and climate policy details, advocates can gain persuasive ability and confidence, which translates to personal empowerment to take the case to people with decision-making power.”

On working with Ooligan

Perona, who joined PSU’s faculty in 2011, has published plenty of technical articles in his field of environmental biochemistry, but never wrote a book. He started writing in 2019 and pitched it to 10 or 12 publishers, including Ooligan Press, which is entirely run by graduate students in PSU’s book publishing program.

He ended up choosing Ooligan because of the attention he knew they could give his book over a large academic publisher. From the summer of 2019 until the book launch just last month, student project teams worked with him closely to bring the book to life — from developmental edits and figuring out how best to organize the material to fact-checking, cover designs, line drawings and ultimately marketing. Students came and went on the project as they graduated but he says they all exceeded his expectations. 

“I’m really happy with the final volume,” he said. “It looks sharp and professional.”

From Knowledge to Power is available at Powell’s and Amazon. If you’re taking Perona’s Climate Science/Policy course or the sophomore inquiry class Global Environmental Change in winter term, you’ll get to read it for class.

About the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences: We’re Portland State’s largest and most diverse college, with 24 departments spanning the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.




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