Monday, June 26, 2023

Q&A with Yolanda Ridge




Yolanda Ridge is the author of Evolution Under Pressure: How We Change Nature and How Nature Changes Us, a new book for older kids. Her other books include CRISPR: A Powerful Way to Change DNA. She lives in Rossland, British Columbia.


Q: What inspired you to write Evolution Under Pressure?


A: While writing my first nonfiction book, CRISPR: A Powerful Way to Change DNA, I found an article on rhinos being born without horns as a result of poaching. It didn’t fit into the topic of gene editing but I felt like it was a big issue that needed more attention.


Luckily, my editor agreed and helped shape the final result which blends genetics, evolution, and the need for humans to take more responsibility for the impact we have on both the environment and our fellow creatures.


Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I find research the most challenging and time-consuming part of the process! When you're trying to link a lot of complex issues together, you need to access a lot of resources and learn more than what actually makes it into the book.


The one thing that really surprised me was how much animals are adapting to urban life. There are subspecies of mosquitoes that have evolved to live in the subways of New York and the London Underground. I wanted to include them in Evolution Under Pressure but writing about mosquitoes made me too itchy!  

Q: What do you think Dane Thibeault's illustrations add to the book?


A: From the very beginning, my editor and I imaged the book full of colorful natural images. The rhino on the cover brings a smile to my face every time I see it. I also think images like the tree of life help readers visualize how humans fit into the bigger picture of evolution and the interconnection between all living things. It was an honor to work with Dane!

Q: Your website says about this book, "The good news is there’s hope: by learning to see how everything is connected, we can weigh the consequences of our choices and help shape a world that works for plants, animals, and humans alike." Can you say more about that, and about what you hope readers take away from the book?


A: Humans will always have a big impact on the natural world. We’ve done a lot of damage by not thinking about the environmental consequences of our actions but I didn’t want that to be the take home message.


Instead, I wanted to empower readers to make changes going forward. There are a lot of things we can do—some big, some small—but understanding the role we play in our extensive ecological network is key. Everything we do makes a difference to every living thing in the planetary ecosystem—including us!  

Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have a book coming out next year, What Poo Can Do: How Animals are Fighting the Climate Crisis, so I’ve been working with my publisher and designer on copyedits and image captions.


I’m also writing a book about how microbes like bacteria, yeast and fungus can help us clean up the planet through things like decomposing plastic and providing alternative forms of power. I’m learning a lot from that book—and doing lots of research!

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Readers who are interested in this topic should check out this great reading list: 


Annick Press also has a great Educator Guide:


Thanks for your interest!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Yolanda Ridge.

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