Skip to Main Content

About The Book

A timely, revelatory first look into the impact climate change has on children—the greatest moral crisis humanity faces today—by a pediatrician in the fastest warming city in America.

Wildfires, hurricanes, and heat waves make headlines. But what is happening in Debra Hendrickson’s clinic tells another story of this strange and unsettling time. Hendrickson is a pediatrician in Reno, Nevada—the fastest warming city in the United States, where ash falls like snow during summer wildfires. In The Air They Breathe, Dr. Hendrickson recounts patients she’s seen who were harmed by worsening smoke, smog, and pollen; two boys in Arizona, stricken by record-setting heat while hiking; children who fled for their lives from Hurricane Harvey and the Tubbs Fire; and a little girl whose life was forever altered by the Zika virus outbreak in 2016.

The climate crisis is a health crisis, and it is a health crisis, first and foremost, for children. Children’s bodies are interwoven with and shaped by their surroundings. As the planet warms and their environment changes, children’s health is at risk. The youngest are especially vulnerable because their brain, lungs, and other organs are forming and growing every day, and because their physiology is so different from that of adults. Childhood has always been a risky period of life; throughout history, babies and children have met peril, from polio to famine, from cyclones to war. Yet they have never quite had to face, in quite this way, the potential loss of the future itself.

The Air They Breathe is not just about the health impacts of global warming, but something more: a soul-stirring reminder of our moral responsibility to our children, and their profound connections to this unique and irreplaceable world.

About The Author

Photograph © Tyler O'Neill

Debra Hendrickson, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician in Reno, Nevada. She is an associate clinical professor at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, where she lectures on the impact of early childhood experiences (such as poverty and trauma) on long-term health. She has an honors degree in environmental studies from Brown University and was an environmental analyst and planner in New England and Seattle for ten years before attending medical school. Dr. Hendrickson has received many awards for academic achievement and research in both environmental studies and medicine. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a member of its Council on Environmental Health and Climate Change, and a founding member of Nevada Clinicians for Climate Action. She has three children.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 10, 2024)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501197130

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

"A captivating, critical book that describes, with haunting details, how the tiniest humans are suffering the biggest from the climate crisis. Dr. Hendrickson makes a profound case that caring for the Earth is just as important to our children's lives as carseats and vaccines."
— Michaeleen Doucleff, PhD, New York Times bestselling author of Hunt, Gather, Parent

"With The Air They Breathe, pediatrician Debra Hendrickson provides a gripping and disturbing frontlines account of the tremendous harm that the climate crisis is already inflicting on our children—those who had the least role in creating the problem. Read this book and be inspired to make a difference while we still can."
— Michael E. Mann, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Earth & Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Our Fragile Moment

"Pediatricians are among the most trusted people in our society, and this fine book reminds us why: they care about the most vulnerable, in very specific and useful ways. This book imagines that caring on a scale big enough to change the world!" — Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"A must-read for every doctor, every medical school professor, every lawmaker, and every parent. Dr Hendrickson tells us not only what’s at stake because of the climate disruption we are already experiencing, but who is at stake: those we hold most dear. Dr. Hendrickson is thoughtful and persuasive about what we must do to protect our children, and how we should adapt in the years ahead." — Dominique Browning, Director and Co-Founder, Moms Clean Air Force

"The quality of the writing matches the depth of [Hendrickson's] feeling and thinking, as well as the importance and urgency of the crisis we face." — Porchlight Books

"Most importantly, Hendrickson does not focus only on the negatives. She also highlights opportunities to build a better world for current and future children, making sure that there are paths forward for everyone." — Shelf Awareness

"An affecting report on climate change’s dire effects on young people... This visceral study is not easily forgotten." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A pediatrician offers a unique perspective on the continuing dire situation regarding climate change." Kirkus Reviews

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images