I have two confessions to make.
Firstly, I never set out to write an eco-thriller.
Secondly, when I began to write my first novel, I wasn’t remotely concerned about the environment.
What I wanted to write was a story that picked up on the themes of the moment. And ten years ago, when I first put pen to paper, those themes happened to be greed and the burgeoning green movement. “Greed and green”, I thought. It had a nice ring to it.
I also wanted to ensure that the story was as real as possible, so I researched the living daylights out of the environment, quantum physics, the airline industry and what it is that drives mankind. The result: The Human Race, which was published in 2009. And since then I have never looked back. The sequel, to be published in 2012, is also a book of our time. It will address terrorism, politics, the financial crisis (greed again!) and of course, the environment.
The environment never really went away, did it?
During my writing journey, something happened to me. I became incredibly concerned about the environment, but not in a “tree hugging, abandon my way of life” way. No, it was worse than that. I – like many of my friends, family and colleagues – became riddled with green guilt. I couldn’t justify how I led my life, knowing that my everyday actions were unsustainable and that along with 6.94 billion others, I was adding to the problem. But I wasn’t willing to stop. I couldn’t stop. I was hooked on my lifestyle, my job and my ambitions. And that’s where the guilt came in.
Other people I knew felt the same, but they shrugged their shoulders, accepted they couldn’t change a damn thing and got on with their lives. Not me. My green guilt stuck, perhaps because I live closer to it than most. On top of my novel-writing, I also blog and every week I spend hours trying to make sense of where mankind’s overindulgence will lead the environment.
Along the way I have learnt a lot. I have realised that emissions are out of control; that our consumption is unsustainable; that we humans just cannot stop ourselves; that we are hardwired to consume. We continue to consume more and more and we are polluting everything: the seas, the land and even space.
Many people are actively searching for solutions to these environmental problems. And if we find a solution, it is sure to be technology-based. It is unlikely to be nuclear but it could be fusion power or renewable energy. It might be something that hasn’t yet been discovered. We are trying all sorts of wacky ideas. Because that’s what we do best: we innovate and adapt, and we are very good at it.
But will big ideas be enough?
One thing I know for sure is that I am now hardwired to consider the environment. We now have the knowledge that our actions are damaging. Fifty years ago we didn’t have that luxury. Perhaps this knowledge is, in itself, something of a solution to our problems.
At the very least it’s a starting-point, isn’t it?