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New Book claims ‘the climate crisis is physically changing our brains—without us realizing it’ – THE WEIGHT OF NATURE by neuroscientist-turned-environmental journalist

December 2023
Dear Editor/Producer,
In August 2020, I was in the Bay Area when the skies turned orange from the August Complex—the largest wildfire in California’s history, started by lightning from a stray thunderstorm that sparked in the draught-ridden mountains. The experience was horrifying, mesmerizing, and haunting—I am now intrinsically fearful every time I hear thunder or smell smoke. When I read THE WEIGHT OF NATURE: How a Changing Climate Changes Our Brains (Dutton; on-sale April 9, 2024) by neuroscientist-turned-environmental journalist Clayton Page Aldern, I quickly learned that I wasn’t alone in experiencing these psychological aftereffects from a devastating weather event—and that, in fact, this is but one part of a public health crisis that has largely gone unreported: how the climate crisis is currently changing us all from the inside out.

Aldern is a highly accomplished journalist, a self-described “recovering neuroscientist” with master’s degrees from the University of Oxford in both neuroscience and public policy, and a Rhodes Scholar and Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow. Currently a senior data reporter for Grist, Aldern has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Economist, and more, and his work has been presented on the floor of the U.S. Senate. In THE WEIGHT OF NATURE, Aldern shows in three parts how we are unknowingly changing along with the environment: its effects on our cognition and behavior, its actions on our physical brain health, and its subtler influence on sensory systems, culture, and language—and how we must empathize with and react to the world as it exists now, while also collectively preparing for an ever-changing future. Aldern explains the far-reaching effects of this crisis: • As temperatures rise, opportunity falls: Our brains are sensitive machines, and research has shown that heat makes us more impulsive and less intelligent. In New York City, China, and India, a hotter day has been linked to worse test scores. Judges presiding over asylum applications are less likely to give approval when temperatures rise. Even sports are affected: baseball pitchers are more likely to intentionally hit batters when it’s hotter.

• The psychological impact of extreme weather events: A study on low-income parents in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina found that about half of the 400 participates were likely suffering from PTSD. Intergenerational trauma is real, too: Compared to girls who were spared from Superstorm Sandy, girls who experienced the storm in utero saw a 20-fold increase in anxiety later in life. Boys saw a 60-fold increased risk of ADHD.

• The connection between climate change and ALS: As temperatures rise and agricultural runoff goes unchecked, blue-green algal blooms become more common—along with dangerous neurotoxins released by the algae. Researchers have found clusters of ALS cases in communities around these blooms, where the toxins are likely airborne.

• How the solution to this crisis lays in human resilience: The knowledge of how climate change is actively affecting us can be heavy, but through education and adaptability, individuals and communities can respond to these challenges to create real change both physically and emotionally, such as creating green spaces (which provide a cooler environment and a place for mental wellbeing) and creating realistic, harm reductive strategies to better interact with the world (which can save lives from dangerous zoonotic diseases rapidly spreading in the warming temperatures.) Deeply researched, beautifully written, and urgently needed, THE WEIGHT OF NATURE is an unprecedented portrait of a global crisis we thought we understood.

This book is about more than climate anxiety: It is an exposition of subtle, profound influences on our behavior, cognition, and neurological and mental health. Aldern is available for interview, and I can share an early galley for coverage consideration.

All the best,
Hannah Poole
Associate Publicist, Dutton


In just two weeks, THE WEIGHT OF NATURE: How a Changing Climate Changes Our Brains (4/9), is on sale, one of The Next Big Idea Club’s April 2024 Must-Read Books. Neuroscientist-turned-environmental journalist Clayton Page Aldern shows that climate change isn’t just around us, but inside of us. It’s physically changing our brains and how we interact of the world—and many of us haven’t even realized it.

Please let me know if you are considering coverage for THE WEIGHT OF NATURE, or if you’d like to arrange an interview with Aldern (Talking points below!) I have finished books now and I’m happy to send one your way. 

“This is your brain on climate change…. As Aldern demonstrates throughout this distressing yet urgently necessary book, climate change is affecting the very duration of our lives. This is a unique—and uniquely disturbing—addition to the literature. A lyrical and scientifically rigorous account of the emotional and physical toll climate change is taking on the human brain.”Kirkus, starred review


The march of climate change is stunning and vicious, with rising seas, extreme weather, and oppressive heat blanketing the globe. But its effects on our very brains constitute a public-health crisis that has gone largely unreported. Based on seven years of research, THE WEIGHT OF NATURE synthesizes the emerging neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics of global warming and brain health. A masterpiece of literary journalism, this book shows readers how a changing environment is changing us today, from the inside out, and what we can do about it. For more information on the book and Aldern, you can find the press kit here.